After Tank - Mk I

5 songs
35:39 minutes
***** ***


Luxembourg can quite boast a vast array of bands, with artists from the most different genres (metal, indie pop, electro, jazz, classical,...) delivering high quality products that even get a great reputation internationally. But then, there is one sub-genre of rock music thatís practically non-existent in this tiny country: progressive rock. In the Nineties, Supperís Ready and, to a bigger extent, No Name released a couple of records that were mostly well received. The latter split apart a few years ago, with the vocalist and the keyboard player continuing more or less in the same direction with TNNE (The No Name Experience), while the remaining musicians decided to form an entirely new band called After Tank.

Their debut album Mk I was already released a year ago, but due to unfortunately circumstances, it has only been officially presented early this year. What distinguishes After Tank from their previous outfit is mostly that they do entirely without keyboards and have opted instead for two guitarists. Add to this a vocalist with a more settled voice, and you get a definitely harder rocking band than I initially expected. But donít get me wrong: After Tank donít neglect the melodic component. But instead of fairy-tale prog rock brimming with unicorns, they offer a music rooted in more down to earth topics.

The album may only contain five tracks, but apart from one shorter piece, they all have generous lengths, allowing the record to make it to thirty-six minutes. Maybe not the longest progressive rock album of all times, but its concise nature makes sure that there are no weak moments to be found. The seven-minute long opener Blackwater comes with a certain Oriental flair, and deals with the private security contractor company that helped the USA during the Gulf War. The lyrics are very understandable, are partly delivered as a spoken word performance, with especially the two guitars adding some nearly metal parts, while the rhythm section plays a militaristic beat. The middle part is more melodic to offset the otherwise quite brutal piece. Bad Shape is at four and a half minutes the albumís shortest track, and maybe something which more open-minded pop radio stations might even consider broadcasting. The guitars have a jazzy touch this time around, and the songís chorus is actually rather catchy. Up next is Streets On Fire, at nearly seven and a half minutes once again a longer track, once again with lyrics that point out what is going wrong with the world. Itís a less immediate track due to its more progressive nature, but I guarantee it will grow on you. My favourite song on the album is the nearly nine-minute-long Dr Robert which deals with the atomic bomb that happened at the end of World War Two. On this piece, After Tank manage to combine their progressive side most successfully with their accessible nature, culminating in an utterly dynamic and unforgettable chorus where especially the driving rhythms of the drummer with have you nearly headbanging. The album ends with Mad World, at a good eight minutes another generous track, which deals about how people should be aware of not falling for fake news. Itís another gem of a prog rock song that this time even hints at the Seventies with a nice multi-vocal track definitely inspired by Gentle Giant.

It should be said that After Tank seem to take most of their inspiration from the early Eighties, with parallels to early Twelfth Night and some Rush material at times. But another band I couldnít stop thinking of are the more current The Tangent who are also one of the very few progressive rock bands that combine artful rock music with current topics. In times where people apparently prefer light and fluffy fare, this act takes of course some courage. Mk I has mostly been recorded live in the studio, with some overdubs done later, and this gives it quite an immediate sound. It may not be a polished as what we are used to nowadays, but that doesnít make it a bad album. Considering that Mk I has been out already for a year, we can only hope that the quintet will not have us wait for too long to come up with a successor. How happy I would be if Luxembourg only had more progressive rock bands, especially such great ones as After Tank!

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