I’m always glad to see bands get better over time. The recently released sophomore album from Built for the Future seems like a case in point for this. “Brave New World” released on August 24th, and fans of progressive rock with retro trappings will definitely want to take a look.
Built for the Future comes to us from San Antonio, Texas of all places. The band consists of Patric Farrell on bass, guitars, keys, drums, programming, and vocals; Kenny Bissett on lead vocals, guitars, and keys; and David Peña on guitars, synths, and atmospheres. You can probably tell right away that this will be a melodic album, to say the least.
Back in 2015, I reviewed the band’s debut album “Chasing Light”. It was a solid effort, one full of melodies and catchy choruses. The band didn’t really identify as “prog”, per se, but they definitely flirted with it. Now, many bands who try to “go prog” later often fall into the land of prog clichés, usually trying to sound progressive by unnecessarily elongating songs, wanking around with pointless instrumentals, or by creating suites and the like. With Built for the Future, the evolution is far more organic, and, indeed, brilliantly conceived.
“Brave New World” is an album of spacious progressive rock. It reminds me slightly of Lonely Robot’s take on the genre, though it admittedly doesn’t really sound all that similar. I think I get this comparison from the atmosphere of the record, one that sounds like vast landscapes, sweeping vistas, and soaring skies. Melody is the driving factor here, especially with keys, but the band’s guitar work is also direct and emotional at times. This album is certainly darker in tone that its predecessor, with less color and more ambience. It isn’t as playful as the debut, either, but definitely takes itself seriously.
This album is a sequel lyrically to the debut, as well. The lyrics revolve around our journey through life, and for this record, the journey is one into the unknown. The traveler is looking for the “City of the Sun”, that place where he can be at peace. There are plenty of introspective moments throughout, and the ending is triumphant and determined in inspiring fashion.
“Brave New World” has eight tracks, and all of them are great. For my money, the second half of the record is where it truly reveals its brilliance. The album opens with the eleven-minute title track, and it feels breezy and beautiful. I really like the chorus on that one. “Breathe”, “The Sheltering Sky”, and “Zenith” follow, and they are all solid tracks with some great synth work. They generally feel like 80s prog rock to a certain extent, which isn’t a bad thing.
The last four tracks, in my opinion, take the experience to a whole new level. “City of the Sun” is a genius track, and maybe my favorite on the album. It burns with anticipation for a few minutes, but eventually launches itself into a rollicking, atmospheric section that truly feels glorious. “Azimuth” comes next and probably has my favorite synth on the album.
The last two tracks are both epic length. “Distant Land” is 15 minutes long, but doesn’t feel like it. Parts of this track remind me of the band Lifesigns with the great bass, elongated guitars, and desperate chorus. The album ends with “Line of Sight”, a twelve-minute song that feels stark and determined. It has a great chorus and nice fade-out that leaves room for thought as the album closes.
Built for the Future have evolved, but those changes feel precise yet inspired. “Brave New World” is a striking visage of human will and expansive music, and I think it will stick with you. There is a wonderful sense of scale and emotion, plus plenty of splendid musical moments that you will want to hear again and again. This is an album that prog rock fans need to hear.
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