Drifting Sun – Forsaken Innocence

[Oskar, 2021]

Intro: Dimitris Kaltsas

The story of Drifting Sun begins in the early 1990s when French musicians Pat Sanders (keyboards) and Manu Sibona (bass) moved to England. The band’s love for the early neo-prog sound was captured on their first two albums (Drifting Sun – 1996 and On the Rebound – 1999), with the latter being quite promising for what was to follow. Unfortunately, the band went on a long hiatus until 2015, when Sanders gave his band another chance, gathering a new line-up for the very good Trip the Life Fantastic. Since then, the band has remained active and Safe Asylum (2016), Twilight (2017) and Planet Junkie (2019) are exceptional neo-prog albums, at a time when this particular sound is far beyond its heyday.

With this year’s Forsaken Innocence Drifting Sun returns with Sanders being accompanied by Mathieu Spaeter (guitars), John Jowitt (bass), Jimmy Pallagrosi (drums) and John Kosmidis (aka Jargon), keyboardist, singer and mastermind of Verbal Delirium on vocals (and keys on one track). Almost 30 years after the band’s formation, Drifting Sun is more ambitious and creative than ever.


 

A little touch of darkness

Neo-prog is one of the progressive rock subgenres that divides opinions. The ease with which this sound can be reproduced has resulted in several releases of the genre not really having anything to say, while the intense melodic character of numerous neo-prog bands was often not combined with inspiration. Nevertheless, neo-prog is one of the main pillars that kept progressive rock alive as a genre in its commercial low point. The main thing with Drifting Sun is that they always had something to say and therefore their records always caught the listener’s interest. With Forsaken Innocence they seem to sound better than ever.

Pat Sanders, the band’s leading figure, presents his best compositions to date in this album. A crucial reason for that was of course his choice to invite Jargon (John Kosmidis) to sing in the album, a wise choice if nothing else, as Jargon injects his unique temperament into the very essence of the compositions. The band’s darker approach to the neo-prog sound blends beautifully with Jargon’s sentimental voice. Sanders uses Fish-era Marillion as his main influence, but there aren’t any rip-offs here. This is because as a composer he brings out bits and pieces from the whole course of neo-prog, while at times he does not hesitate to add gothic rock elements, which are magnified through Jargon’s performance. Besides that, the orchestration and the production sound quite modern and the sound in general is quite rich.

The whole band is in awesome form and the performances have a character of their own, without however overshadowing the compositions. Sanders’ keys are the focal point of course, but they do not prevent Mathieu Spaeter from intervening with key and elegant guitar themes. The rhythm section of John Jowitt and Jimmy Pallagrosi adds intensity and adventure to the tracks, distancing them from the average neo-prog flat songwriting. Finally, Jargon’s voice stars in most of the songs, adding emotional depth with his distinctive vocal lines which become part of Sanders’ compositional vision.

All the tracks of the album stand very high compositionally, except perhaps the instrumental Forsaken Innocence Pt. 2, which could be a little shorter in duration, especially after the escalation at the end of the awesome Pt. 1. The opening King of the Country impresses with its flow during its 11.5 minutes. Insidious and Dementium are the innermost moments of the album and probably the best. Finally, the two smaller tracks, the melancholic New Dawn and the up tempo Hand on Heart add to the quality of the album.

Drifting Sun created the album that will make them even better known to the progressive audience, since the quality of Forsaken Innocence is such that it will be difficult not to impress, not just neo-prog fans, but also all those who want to listen to mature, adventurous and dark – but not necessarily depressing – music.

8 / 10

Kostas Barbas

 

2nd opinion

 

Pat Sanders once again surrounds himself with great musicians from all around the world in order to release Forsaken Innocence, a soundtrack in the search of our innocence. And while this release could widely be put under the neo-prog tag, that mostly is in terms of song structure philosophy. The intro, King of the Country is all guns blazing, quite fast paced and heavy maybe showing how neo-prog has evolved in 2021. Each song has something to offer with the main course coming in the two part title track that spans more than 25 minutes. Many twists and turns in terms of atmosphere, energy, emotion and instrumentation. The compositions complete each other and each musician adds his own style in the songs. Neo-prog due to its pop tendencies ends up being a bit cheesy, however Drifting Sun avoid that pit with ease and a big reason for that is Jargon and his vocals that ground the songs even when things go high energy adding much credibility to the songs. His performance in this record is above and beyond.  I’m not sure how much under the radar this release will fly but fans of the progressive sound should definitely give this a listen and it might end up in your year-end lists as well.

8.5 / 10

Lefteris Statharas