(All Album Reviews by jlneudorf)
2010 is off to a fine start and continues with the release of Satellite, the UK band's sophomore release. Panic Room's Visionary Position came out in 2008 to much critical acclaim. Although I have not heard the debut, the new release has indeed peeked my interest.
In 2003, three members of the progressive folk band Karnataka left to form the backbone of Panic Room; Jonathan Edwards (piano, Rhodes, keyboards), Paul Davies (electric and acoustic guitars) and Gavin John Griffiths (drums). Soon to jump on board were Anne-Marie Helder (vocals, 6 and 12 string acoustic guitars, electric guitars, piano, keyboards) and Alun Vaughan (bass). Upon first hearing Satellite, it is easy to paint the band as melodic rock but further listens prove to be very rewarding. There is so much more here, more depth and variation than in your typical modern rock band, and although this is not an outright progressive rock album, progressive music fans should find plenty to like.
While the band are very good musicians it's the vocals of Anne-Marie Helder that steal the show. She has an exceptionally strong voice, sultry and emotional, and hits all the right notes. As far as the music is concerned, this is not one of those albums to listen to when you want to indulge yourself in over the top playing. The arrangements are tasteful and the songs are well performed. The music of Panic Room is melodic rock with a nod to blues, jazz and space rock with a number of progressive elements thrown into the mix.
Whether it's the catchy riffs in "Freedom to Breathe" or the fine Rhodes piano and prominent cymbal work in the rocking "Picking Up Knives" there is a lot to like here. Other notables include the sultry "I Am A Cat" complete with cat meows and bluesy lead guitar and the moving ballad "The Fall" where you can almost feel the anguish as Helder sings,
"the dimming of the light,
you play your favourite song
I Sometimes wonder now, if you knew all along
I'll be here every day, until the noise has gone
until the hurt subsides, until your peace has come"
Helder proves to be an excellent lyricist, mostly drawing on the human experience, instead of far out concepts, although a science fiction theme does crop up in the dramatic "Dark Star" where organ, spacey keyboards and crunchy riffs are the order of the day. The space vibe returns in the title track, the album's final song, and a good one it is, mixing ambient and moody atmospheres with crystal clear vocals, prominent bass and a very catchy chorus.
This is an inspired release that should be turning heads in the music world. If you appreciate female fronted bands like Heart, Magenta, and Mostly Autumn, you will surely want Satellite in your collection. Enjoy.