Hailing from Santiago de Chile comes Aisles, representing the genre of neo prog since 2001 as led by brothers Germán and Sebastián Vergara. Their third album, 4:45 AM, represents a variety of songs that are for the most part vocally driven, tightly arranged, and composed with focus. Like many neo prog bands, this is not strictly for the progressive fans; lovers of pop rock, especially of the 80’s variety will certainly find much to love here just as fans of bands like Marillion and Saga will likely embrace this album.
4:45 AM comprises six vocal pieces and four instrumentals, but despite the fact that there are nearly as many instrumentals as vocal tracks, the overall feel of the album is a song-oriented, vocal driven direction. Among these, the songs “4:45 AM,” “Sorrow,” and “Melancholia” stand out as my favorites. While I’ve never been much of a Rush fan, “4:45’s” distinctively Rush meets neo prog feel caught my attention. Everything from the vocals to the drumming and guitar transitions reminded me of Rush, but extremely well executed so as not to be cheesy and always containing a certain amount of distinctiveness in the way they meld hints of jazz fusion throughout. Furthermore, the instrumental interlude is fantastic, featuring blazing guitar runs and great energy from the whole band. “Sorrow” shines with it’s catchy groove in 7, gorgeous classical guitar playing, rich tone, and smooth feel. Reminding me very much of some Riverside ballads this piece has killer atmosphere and features a powerful climax where a violin weaves powerfully through dueling vocals and soloing drums. Also noteworthy would be “Melancholia,” whose guitar riffing is the true standout factor. From the first moments of the track you’ll pick up on a powerful melding of chords, texturing and lead to make for some cool riffs. Rounding out the vocal tracks on the album are pieces like “Shallow Draft,” representing the ‘Saga’-like 80’s pop rock side of the band, a power-ballad in the form of “Back My Strength,” the quiet piece, “The Sacrifice.” While I wasn’t fond of these three pieces, those who are into more popular styles should dig them and they might even be a good way to ease your friends into some prog.
On the instrumental field of 4:45 AM there were some great things going on. “Hero” delivers lots of tasty drumming and percussion, light keys, and solid guitar playing overall. I’m hearing everything from bits of fusion to a brief shredding, spacey keys solo, to some mega Steve Vai influenced guitar runs that made me grin from ear to hear. Combine that with a sort of dark new age meets film score section in the middle and you’ve got a tastefully varied track on your hands. “Intermission” shows a very different side of the band with the instruments imitating electronics. From the guitars reproducing an arpeggiator feel to heavily processed drums and ambient leads, this is certainly a contrasting piece for this album. The instrumental that blew me out of the water, however, was “Gallarda Yarura.” This is an evocative song with bits of folk, a stunning groove in 3, fantastic atmospheric changes, and loads of subtlety in the arrangement. One of the most beautifully melodic pieces on the album, “Gallarda Yarura” is delicately crafted and makes every musical line meaningful and consciously emotive. These Chilenos know how to deliver the instrumental goods and I would like to hear more of from them in the future.
Overall, Aisles produces a solid album and shows potential for the future. I am impressed by their melodic sensitivity, which is especially clear on tracks like “Gallarda Yarura” and the title song. In the future I would like to see them take more of a focused direction and establish a firm musical identity that could be a launching point for a distinctive sound. That said, they’re going in the right direction and will surely produce more quality music in the future.