Lalu - The Fish who wanted to be King (2023)
Keyboardist Vivien Lalu has picked up the momentum and soon came up with a successor to Paint the Sky (2022), my review can be found here :
I wasn't very enthusiastic about this album and didn't quite understand the many rave reviews. However, I could appreciate the playing technique of the various band members and guests and of course Damian Wilson's vocals were no problem for me at all.
What about The Fish who wanted to be King, has much changed? Do I think it’s better? To question one, the answer is; No, not a lot, but there are still a number of important things. The answer to question two is; Yes, I think it's a much better album and I'm going to explain why I think so.
For example, there were quite a few guests who played along on Paint the Sky and that made for a somewhat disjointed album for me. That is no longer the case on this album and the current band plays everything themselves and does a great job. Guitarist Joop Wolters in particular often gets the chance to show how versatile and good he is. Damian Wilson sings everything now and that's a big plus too, although I like him a bit better in Arena. He sometimes forces a little more here, but of course he remains a top singer. The rhythm section, consisting of Jelly Cardarelli on drums and, hey there he is again, Joop Wolters on bass sounds nice and solid. Lalu takes care of the keyboards himself, of course, but gets some help from Matt Daniel, who also plays some parts.
What is especially different from Lalu's previous albums is the fact that there is almost no prog metal on The Fish who wanted to be King anymore and Lalu clearly makes a choice towards a more classic sounding prog. This suits me much better and that is the reason why I enjoy listening to Lalu's music much more. It is still virtuoso and the swirling solos on keys and guitar are still there, but it never flies off the rails.
There are two really long songs on it so in addition to the eleven-minute title track, there is also the fourteen-minute Amnesia 1916 on it. Lalu is not one for standard compositions and there is not really a structure to be discovered, but there is often a nice flow in the tracks and the variety stands for adventure. Isn't it patchwork then? A little, but not disturbing. For example, the bluesy piece at the end of Amnesia 1916 is wonderful with a nice guitar solo by Wolters.
In the instrumental A Reversal of Fortune the men go on a musical adventure and it bursts from the speakers, or headphones as in my case. Wolters is all over the place and proves not only to be technically very proficient but also to has a great sense of melody. It's quite jazzy here and there and you have to like that.
Forever Digital, Deoxyribonucleic Acid (what's in a name) and The Wondering Kind are all mid-length tracks and, despite their own character, have a lot in common and contain both beautiful and less appealing melodies. And there is still room for improvement for me. Sometimes a song has a wonderful melody, but it is soon followed by a new one when it could have lasted longer. And that's something which I also wrote in my review of Paint the Sky. Sometimes Lalu just wants to cram too much into a song it seems and some more resting points would provide more balance and also in prog a recognizable chorus is no shame.
Is that a London Number is the least song for me and that's partly because of the lyrics. Wilson reads addresses, as it were, and the chorus is a bit on the simple side with Ring, ring. But yes, even when Wilson recites a phone book, his voice is still bearable. And speaking of texts, not all of them are easy to follow, but that may be due to my lacking comprehension. I hear the name Dada (is the one) and understand that it is mainly about the adaptability of people and their insight into existing structures.
I wasn't in the process of expressing my judgment in a grade in 2022 and that's why Paint the Sky didn't get a score at the time. Comparatively, I think The Fish who wanted to be King is worth at least 15 points more and I'm glad I bought the CD. So based on 55 points for Paint the Sky, we can speak of a big improvement and for the next album maybe even more is possible. We will see.
Nice cover with a clear Roger Dean vibe but just not quite of the same quality.