Toiling somewhere in between modern day Marillion, Steven Wilson/Porcupine Tree, Anathema, Radiohead, Blackfield, Riverside, and Pink Floyd, PuzzleWood’s debut album Gates of Loki is sure to strike a chord with fans who lean to the more atmospheric, pop flavored side of the progressive rock fence.
The Russians pull the listener right in with the opening instrumental intro cut aptly titled “Intro (Gates of Loki)”, as bubbling keyboards support tasty guitar work from Anton Legatov (who nails some of those David Gilmour tones throughout the record).
Hazy acoustic & electric guitars, shimmering keys, and floating vocals seep into the alluring “Remember My Name,” a far more electric and mesmerizing tune with some cool melodies, while the slow-simmering “Obsessed” builds to a dramatic conclusion with some splendid guitar solos and inclusion of flutes at the beginning. That thick atmosphere again permeates the prog/pop of “Come Back Home,” and it’s becoming apparent just how well this band is able to layer in the clean guitar strums with some tasty electric solos and swirling synths.
The band goes for their epic statement on the 7-odd minute piece “Jerusaelem,” but as is the case throughout this album, it’s not all about complex ’70s styled prog here, instead they rely on that “light/shade” balance, here with gentle rhythms, piano, and synths slowly giving way to heavier riffs and sinewy guitar leads before the calming passages come back into play. The reflective closing song “Road Will Lead” closes things out superbly; it’s, arguably, the most experimental piece which flirts with jazz and pop, and includes an arabic oud performed by Basem Al-Ashkar.
There are some great melodies to be found on Gates of Loki; the instrumentation is crisp, clear, and concise, the band preferring to slowly build on the atmosphere and emotion rather than completely rock out and move into cliched prog rock territory. Well done.