SONS OF ALPHA CENTAURI - Continuum
No one has probably ever accused British band Sons Of Alpha Centauri to be overly industrious. Since their foundation in 2001, they apparently performed live less than two dozen times, and the self-titled debut album also only came out in 2007. The next longplayer Continuum took another eleven years, and once you strip it of the three interludes, we are left with only five regular tracks that hardly make it over half an hour of music. Maybe the band decided to offer less music this time, because the debut had been criticised for being at over an hour just too long.
Sons Of Alpha Centauri are an instrumental rock band. More often than not, such bands play some kind of post rock, although in the case of SOAC, it should be noted that they can be considered an instrumental stoner rock band. Thatís a genre I would have found inconceivable some years ago, but lately have come across a few that tried their hand at it. In my opinion, instrumental music can only work in two cases. Either the musicians are crazy good at their instruments and drown the listener in one progressive outburst after another, or the musicians are more of a team and try to build up atmospheres that mesmerise the audience. Itís clear that with SOAC, we are in the latter category.
The album begins with the nearly two-minute intro Into The Abyss, which nicely build up the space related atmosphere, followed by the first proper track Jupiter which is a pounding mid-tempo post stoner space rock track driven by a heavy guitar riff, with intermittent mellower parts. Solar Storm is the albumís most upbeat piece, coming consequently with a faster rhythm. Io has a prominent bass line which somehow lends the track a certain new wave feeling. The first half of the album ends with Surfacing For Air, which feels like the counterpart to the opening intro.
The second part of Continuum contains two longer tracks separated by yet another interlude. Interstellar is nearly seven minutes long and takes its time to build up momentum. I guess thatís where the post rock influence comes in. Orbiting Jupiter is a nearly three-minute-long piano piece, played nicely enough but ultimately feeling more like padding the album to an acceptable length. The concluding Return Voyage is the albumís magnum opus at nearly eleven minutes, and shows the band also from its most varied side.
Continuum has a lot of good aspects: the songwriting is more varied than I would have expected, and I also rather like the outer space theme. But there are unfortunately some things that could have been better. As I mentioned earlier, there is just too little new material after an eleven year break, and I also could have done with a different production. The band is proud that Aaron Harris of post metal legends Isis has recorded the album, but to my ears, the sound could have been more together. The guitar could have done with a little more oomph, the drums are a bit timid in the background, and the synths might also have tried for a more in your face sound. Continuum is an album that feels nice listening to in the background, and it might even work for a soundtrack of a space exploration TV show. Nevertheless, those who like stoner rock, donít mind a certain space rock dosage and a lack of vocals, should not be deterred and lend their ears to Sons Of Alpha Centauri.