REVIEW: LONELY ROBOT – “Under Stars”
Late April marks the return of prog rock/metal band Lonely Robot, and the conclusion of a trilogy of albums with ‘Under Stars.’ Until recently I was unaware of the band, or the fact that it is a solo one-man project of John Mitchell vocalist, and guitarist for Kino, and Frost*, and more. So I went into the album as a blank slate. The bio informed me that the previous albums followed themes and musings around The Astronaut, and each had its own theme. ‘Under Stars’ by and large is Mitchell’s thought around youth, and millennials today, and their dependency on technology. The result is a highly melodic, and rather enjoyable album.
Kicking off with ‘Ancient Ascendant’ (also the albums first single) this song is a good representative of the album, and how it will play out. It is very key heavy, and melodic, with heavier guitars only coming in occasionally for texture and mood. This style is carried fuller with the follow-up song ‘Icarus’ which turns out to be very catchy and includes a chorus that will easily work its way into your brain. A slight spin on the Icarus story of flying too close to the sun and crashing, rather this song (based on a sci-fi film) tells of a group of astronauts who are tasked with starting the sun up again. A suicide mission for certain, but needed to continue life on Earth. The theme of the sun and dying stars comes up repeatedly throughout the album as well.
The lyrics take a more cynical cast with ‘Authorship Of Our Lives’ and is in large part a reflection what has become an increasingly narcissistic culture, with a call for hope and change. It also has some of the best guitar work, and solos on the album, and is an early standout. Mention should also be made for session drummer Craig Blundell whose tight, drumming, while never flashy and in your face holds everything together very nicely.
Things take a much heavier turn with ‘When Gravity Fails’ and is full of crushing guitar riffs, and the fat bass work of live band member, and guest Steve Vantsis. It is easily the heaviest song on the album, and really the only time it goes into metal territory with any real gusto. Mitchell pushes his voice a bit further as well, going into a near scream at the height of the chorus. This song will positively shine in a live setting. As would the short instrumental ‘Inside This Machine’ another of the heavier pieces.
The album ends with the aptly titled ‘An Ending’ and is meant to be a bit of closure to the character and this phase of the project. has the refrain from the song ‘Lonely Robot’ itself (which features on ‘Please Come Home’), and reimagines it. It’s a quiet, slightly moody and really lovely way to end the album.
‘Under Stars’ is a fitting, and very enjoyable conclusion to this phase of Lonely Robot, and an album that anyone familiar with the first two albums should find plenty to enjoy as well. And as I was unfamiliar with the project, it stands on its own as a fine example of melodic progressive songwriting, and one that is an ideal introduction to the band and its music. Fans of modern prog should find a lot to enjoy here. Recommended.