It feels good to be back after a couple weeks of pretty much no prog at all. I guess I reached a burn out stage that I hadn’t felt in a few years, at least. Anyways, I’ve been musing over a certain album for around a month now. That album would be the new record from Drifting Sun. Released on September 20th, “Planet Junkie” is admittedly the first album from the band that I have really liked.
Drifting Sun hails from the UK. Their history goes back to the early 90s, so they have been around for quite a while. However, it seems they are more active than ever right now. The band includes Pat Sanders on keys, Mathieu Spaeter on guitars, Manu Michael on bass, and Will Jones on drums. This appears to be the first album in some time without Peter Falconer on vocals. Instead, guest vocals are provided by Marc Atkinson of Riversea (a personal favorite singer of mine), Colin Mold, and Joshua Corum of Head With Wings. You will also hear Eric Bouillette on violin, Ben Bell on the Hammond organ, Sarah Skinner on sax, and Conrad Cheng on clarinet.
Drifting Sun plays progressive rock with some degree of eclecticism. The sound reminds me of the neo-prog (I hate that term) of the 80s and 90s somewhat, but they tend to have more edge and to experiment a bit more. You will find their music to be atmospheric and even a bit theatrical at times, and they definitely know how to rock. Indeed, they have more grit than you might expect.
“Planet Junkie” is one of those albums that is difficult to sum up neatly. It feels like a rush of emotions and synth, and I love that. And just when you think you have a song figured out, the band will insert luscious sax or maybe a few f-bombs, just to mix things up: to keep you guessing. The album is well written and spirited, especially concerning its lyrical topics, whether political, religious, or personal.
I honestly do have a hard time naming favorites here. I do love the jazzy opener “Within Your Bones” with Marc on vocals. Although Marc’s voice sounds a bit more processed than I would like, the song is a humdinger with fantastic sax and guitar solos. Marc’s songs tend to be a melodic rush. I also really like “Night-Time Sorrow”, a ballad with Colin singing. If you haven’t hear Colin, he has a pretty thick English accent, and so his songs feel a little more pastoral. This particular track is kinda dark and emotional. “Diogenes” is also a great song, this time with vocals by Josh. I really like the gritty chorus, as this song shows off the edgier and more modern sound of the songs with Josh’s performances.
My favorites on the album are “To Tame a Star”, “I Will Be King”, and “Everlasting Creed”. “To Tame a Star” features Colin on vocals, and also plenty of whispering spoken word. It feels poetic and emotional, and the instrumental in the second half is pure fire. “I Will Be King” is actually an instrumental track entirely, and I love the gorgeous Hammond organ atmosphere combined with the searing guitars and thumping drums. Lastly, “Everlasting Creed” ends the album with a breath-taking vocal performance from Josh. This mini-epic is powerful on a lyrical level, but also has guts that explode in the second half. The last half does not hold back at all.
Drifting Sun has crafted a brilliant album in “Planet Junkie”. They have balanced out the three styles of their three guest vocalists, playing to their strengths while also giving the album a sense of diversity and eclecticism. This album is certainly a contender for unsung hero in 2019.