Normally, when I get a promo that goes all out in naming influences and offering “for fans of” statements, I expect dull music that is derivative and lacking, to be blunt. Recently, I was alerted to this new Russian project called RTfact. The music is definitely a throwback in some ways, but I’m happy to say that “Life Is Good”, released on Bandcamp in August and releasing physically in September, is actually very creative and immensely enjoyable to experience.
RTfact hails from Russia, but they utilize guest singers to provide vocals. The line-up here includes Jeff Scott Soto (Sons of Apollo and Trans Siberian Orchestra), Nad Sylan (solo and Steve Hackett), and Will Champlin on vocals; guest guitarists Oz Noy, Jeff Kollman, Rafael Moreira, and Josh Smith; and Gary Meek on flute and sax. The line-up is completed with Edward Tsiselsky on keyboards, Dmitry Ilugdin on synthesizers, Eugene Sharikov on bass, and Joel Taylor on drums.
As I said, “Life Is Good” is a throwback album to the classic 70s prog rock sound. The band specifically names ELP and Gentle Giant as similar sounds, and I agree with that. The band plays synth-laden prog rock with lots of technical portions, sweeping keys, bassy grooves, not to mention the plethora of rich melodies. Vocally, you will find the vocal rounds of Gentle Giant, but not on every track. All in all, they mirror the style well.
Normally, direct influence can be the bane of a band. However, with RTfact, I feel like the influence serves as a mere foundation to the true compositional genius at play here. The band writes some truly golden melodies that Jeff and the other vocalists perform to their utmost. Even from the very opening track (which is revisited as a remix at the end), the melodies will grab your attention.
Additionally, the band writes very arresting instrumental segments. Now, you might expect every track to be basically the same due to their stated influences, and we do indeed get plenty of the off kilter grooves of Gentle Giant or the majestic keys of ELP. However, the tracks offer quite a bit of variety, sometimes being pastoral, sometimes being jazzy, and other times sounding more like classic rock. Some tracks are more playful in tone (“I Got Money in My Pocket”) and others are darker and more serious (“Gotika”). The album is only around 45 minutes long, so the variety makes this album fly by and you are left wanting more right then.
Favorite tracks here include the title track and its remix for being very clear in melody; “Gotika” for being a dark, almost steampunk experience; and “The King, the Master, and the Timekeeper” for being a fantastical, grandiose affair. All of the tracks, though, feel inspired and never lose your attention. Part of that might be the lack of “epics” on this album, which really creates a great flow from beginning to end.
Overall, I’m very impressed by this release. It is a great debut that is actually fun to hear. The vocalists are all tried and true (I’m partial to Nad Sylan, myself) and offer experienced and mature performances. Pairing this with inspired melodies and plenty of different styles and tones, and “Life is Good” is a winner. I do feel like the band needs to work on marketing somewhat, but I do hope that we get to hear a sophomore album soon.