PUZZLEWOOD - Gates Of Loki

PuzzleWood - Gates Of Loki

10 songs
55:12 minutes
***** ***
(self-released)

Bandpage

The band name may be puzzling, but PuzzleWood is a real place, actually an ancient woodland in England which served as inspiration for Tolkienís Middle Earth. Why on Earth a Russian band would choose this name is a mystery, but I can reassure you that the Moscow based trio wonít mistreat your ears with fairy infused folk music.

Founded five years ago, PuzzleWood have kept so far a low profile, as far as I am aware. Their Facebook profile has a little over 300 followers, and it seems as if Gates Of Loki is their first longplayer. Like I mentioned in the previous paragraph, you wonít get your typical fantasy infused progressive rock, but instead a more contemporary sounding hybrid of modern progressive rock by a band that sees itself mostly inspired by Pink Floyd and King Crimson. The guys also seem to like Steven Wilson and Porcupine Tree a lot, although I sometimes seem to glimpse traces of Eighties era Rush and even the later, more melodic output by German prog rockers Sieges Even.

The album doesnít even start that promising. I usually donít mind intros as they are sometimes a useful tool to set the mood, but in this case, nearly four minutes of not much happening at all is a weird way to get the listener hooked. The first regular song, Remember My Name, is also not what I would have expected. The sound is clearly rooted in the Eighties, with a groovy bass line, a soaring guitar and melodic vocals that manage to put their mark on the product. The following Obsessed is a quieter track with some flute, but donít worry, the band never goes more fantasy prog than here. Come Back Home is yet another mellow track, and a pattern starts to be showing. From the fifth track on, the songs never run less than five minutes. Tyrant Who Fall In Love, apart from its faulty grammar, is the most rocking track on the album, a nice way to accentuate the middle of the journey, and everything following sees the trio delve into more meditative territory. In the hands of lesser artists, the record would risk to become really boring, but I can assure you that this second half is actually much more suspenseful due to the insertion of some ethnic influences that give the songs even more depth. Твой Дом (Your House) is the only track with Russian lyrics and comes with a really chilly atmosphere that transports your mind tight to the frosty taiga of their gigantic country. The six-minute-long To The Void bridges the gap between accessible prog rock and Eastern folklore, but itís the last three tracks, all of them about seven minutes long, that are the albumís tour de force. Hollow is a ballad that takes its time to build its momentum and ends up being one of the bandís catchiest tracks. Jerusalem is a downright haunting tune with some great electric piano playing whereas the concluding Road Will Lead surprises with oriental elements.

I must warn you: Gates Of Loki is not an instant pleaser, but an album that demands that you invest your time and attention. On the surface, the songs come across like modern prog rock pieces that might be a little on the tame side, but once you dig deeper, youíll find more layers that show that there is more to this than meets the eye. Gates Of Loki is available as a digital download on PuzzleWoodís Bandcamp page and can be listened to on your typical streaming platforms. Fans of forward looking modern progressive music with an intelligent twist will definitely not be disappointed.

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