Pure Reason Revolution – Above Cirrus Review

It’s great to see a new album from Pure Reason Revolution just two years after their last, the up-and-down, nearly-amazing Eupnea. We were also gifted with a reissue of their brilliant The Dark Third back in 2020, so they’ve kept some momentum going upon their return from their 2011 hiatus. Now Jon Courtney and Chloë Alper return with a fresh album and one more band member – Greg Jong, who was in the band until prior to the release of The Dark Third way back in ’06. Above Cirrus is therefore this version of PRR’s first release, and after Eupnea showcased a band that sounded vital despite the near ten-year break, fans are definitely curious as to what this trio will come up with next.

An aggressive start with “Our Prism,” the album’s shortest song, clearly showcases the return of Jong, with aggressive and energetic guitars. The result, as it often is throughout Above Cirrus, brings to mind the heavier Porcupine Tree material of yore. Album highlight “Phantoms” kicks off like a catchy Muse track but it doesn’t take long for guitars to dominate the mix, and the transition two-thirds of the way through from synth-pop single to near-metal rocker is nothing short of excellent. This is a key improvement over Eupnea: the short songs are supremely rewarding, whereas two years ago they failed to hold up their end of the bargain.

Thankfully, Pure Reason Revolution manage to keep the quality high on their longer songs here as well. “Scream Sideways” is the album’s epic track, ten minutes long. It builds slowly with keys and vocal oohhs before drifting into a superb groove that builds and builds to the middle until descending into a pretty sexy, funky solo that inexplicably fades out completely with three minutes to go, only to see the song summarized in those final minutes. As far as long prog-rock songs go, it’s a ton of fun and not once does our attention wander. Album closer “Lucid” is a strong finale. Although less than seven minutes long, it feels big, audacious, grand, all that sort of stuff. The band throws all their logs on the fire on this one, and they burn beautifully, right up to the fantastic multi-part vocal harmony that ends the record.

Alper, Courtney, and Jong have all stepped up their game on Above Cirrus, with more elaborate arrangements, wonderful pacing, strong production (although a more dynamic master would be welcome during the busy song climaxes), and some great vocals. There are changeups aplenty – “Phantoms” and “Scream Sideways” in particular – and they are awesome, keeping us on our toes and anxious to hear more. Energetic tracks such as “Our Prism” and “Phantoms” are offset by more languid, wistful songs like “New Kind of Evil” and “Dead Butterfly.” There are a few odd, brief voiceovers scattered across the album, tying together some sort of narrative despite the fact that there is no unifying theme. They neither add to nor detract from the songs.

So why the 3.5, if by most accounts Above Cirrus is superior to Eupnea? Well, this is a stronger 3.5 if you will, butting its head up against the 4.0 Score Safety Meter. The shorter tracks are more effective, the longer ones equally engrossing, the performances outstanding. In a prog-only world, Above Cirrus would be one of the month’s top releases, so Pure Reason Revolution can hang their hats on that. The album is just missing maybe one more “wow” moment to push it over the threshold from really good to great. Grab this one while you wait for the new Porcupine Tree; you won’t be disappointed.

Rating: 3.5/5.0
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps MP3
Label: Inside Out Music
Websites: purereasonrevolution.bandcamp.com | purereasonrevolutionofficial.com | facebook.com/purereasonrevolution
Releases Worldwide: May 6th, 2022

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