Stuckfish – Days of Innocence (2022)
How often does it happen that, despite the fact that you try to follow everything closely, you come across a band that you don't know and yet completely overwhelms you with a new album. This happened to me with the album Days of Innocence by the English band Stuckfish. This is the third album of the group founded by singer Phil Stuckey and guitarist Ade Fisher. Do you get the bandname? As already stated I totally missed the first two albums and that is a real shame. With every album the prog content increases and so we can safely call Days of Innocence a very positive continuation with 8 songs of considerable length. The debut album Calling is still a bit hesitant, but on The Watcher from 2019 you can already hear a very professional and talented group of musicians. Just listen to the beautiful Fallen Angels with a guest role for our very own Thijs van Leer. I can safely say that further development has led to a beautiful neoprog album and no, I don't hate this term. Where should we place Stuckfish? Don't expect packed epics with a tempo change every ten seconds and solos that break speed records, but very tasteful songs with delicious melodies and great vocals. What a voice Stuckey has and his imaginative lyrics are more than worth the puzzle. He creates a fantasyworld of his own. There are many bands in our beloved genre who would wish they had such a classy performer on board. But don't underestimate the other band members, especially Fisher who is a very good guitarist who alternates wonderful picking with glowing, soaring and howling solos. The keyboard work of Gary Holland Is generally supportive and mainly serves the atmosphere, but here and there a nice solo is not shunned, but his role could be even more prominent. The rhythm section is decent but lacks some frivolity and could be a bit more adventurous here and there. In particular the bass playing of Phil Morey is sometimes a bit predictable but this is not really disturbing. Adam Sayers is a talented young drummer with a lot of potential. Not entirely coincidentally, the two shorter songs, Gamechanger and Nevermore, are a bit more uptempo and a bit simpler in structure, but they do provide some punch and that is perhaps a point of attention because there could be a more variable structure within the longer songs. However, if the quality of the songs is this high, it doesn't matter that much. Opener Age of Renewal immediately sets the tone and the following title track follows the same path with many calm, atmospheric parts in which the vocals are given a lot of room and all songs contain a guitar solo, some longer than others but always tasteful. I often hear some Arena, a little less heavy but with a similar feeling and every now and then there seems to be a bit of Mystery in the choruses. Certainly no bad references. Thief in the Night starts acoustically and slowly the tension builds and the subdued guitar solo fits perfectly. Despite the fact that all tracks are good, three songs stand out that all clock in at around 7/8 minutes, Painted Smile, Yearn and the closing track Different Ways really made a big impression on me. I had to hear them a few times but really, this is brilliant prog. I would therefore say, continue on this road and keep on making songs like this, then I am sure that you will become a fixed value within our genre. At least, if that's what you aspire and I sincerely hope so.
I immediately bought their second album, The Watcher, and I am also very impressed by it. Closer Fallen Angels is simply stunning. Did I state this before? 😊
Stuckfish is now one of my personal favorites and I hope to see them live somewhere soon. Something for prog festivals in the Netherlands maybe?