TOUCHSTONE
Non-Metal / Hard Rock / Progressive Metal • United Kingdom

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Touchstone are a band from Hertfordshire in the United Kingdom whose music style mixes melodic and progressive influences to create a sound that ranges between progressive rock and progressive metal. They were formed by keyboardist/vocalist Rob Cottingham in 2001.

Their first industry-standard four-track EP, Mad Hatters, was released in July 2006 and has received much critical acclaim from the music press. The band's line-up at this stage consisted of Cottingham along with Liz Clayden (female vocals), Adam Hodgson (guitars), Paul "Moo" Moorghen (bass guitar), and Simon Cook (drums). Mad Hatters was the only release by the band to feature Clayden and Cook, who were replaced by Kim 'Elkie' Seviour and Alasdair Melville respectively.

Their first full-length album Discordant Dreams was released in 2007. It received praise from well known figures such as musicians Jeff Wayne, Rick Wakeman and actor Jeremy Irons.

A second album, Wintercoast, was released in 2009 featuring
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WintercoastWintercoast
Import
Steamhammer Us 2012
Audio CD$7.31
$11.48 (used)
New LandNew Land
Alliance 1993
Audio CD$10.78
$1.81 (used)
The City SleepsThe City Sleeps
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Audio CD$7.33
$42.13 (used)
Oceans of TimeOceans of Time
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Ais 2013
Audio CD$10.46
$8.54 (used)
Discordant DreamsDiscordant Dreams
Import
Steamhammer Us 2012
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$9.01 (used)
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Alliance 1993
Audio CD$11.20
$6.48 (used)
Live In The USA...Live In The USA...
ProgRock Records 2010
Audio CD$12.89
$12.49 (used)
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EP · Import
Steamhammer Us 2012
Audio CD$7.05
$9.76 (used)
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TOUCHSTONE Discography

TOUCHSTONE albums / top albums

.. Album Cover 4.01 | 3 ratings
Discordant Dreams
Hard Rock 2007
.. Album Cover 4.28 | 8 ratings
Wintercoast
Progressive Metal 2009
.. Album Cover 3.99 | 10 ratings
The City Sleeps
Hard Rock 2011
.. Album Cover 3.34 | 4 ratings
Oceans of Time
Non-Metal 2013

TOUCHSTONE EPs & splits

.. Album Cover 3.50 | 1 ratings
Mad Hatters
Non-Metal 2006

TOUCHSTONE live albums

.. Album Cover 4.00 | 1 ratings
Live in the USA
Progressive Metal 2010

TOUCHSTONE demos, promos, fans club and other releases (no bootlegs)

TOUCHSTONE boxset & compilations

TOUCHSTONE singles (0)

TOUCHSTONE movies (DVD, Blu-Ray or VHS)

TOUCHSTONE Reviews

TOUCHSTONE Oceans of Time

Album · 2013 · Non-Metal
Cover art Buy this album from MMA partners
adg211288
Oceans of Time (2013) is the fourth full-length album by UK progressive rock/metal act Touchstone. It continues the naming pattern of their previous albums, Oceans of Time being a phrase heard previously, at least as early as Wintercoast (2009), but overall brings some changes to what I've come to expect from a Touchstone release.

Representing a mellower Touchstone compared to the band which recorded albums such as The City Sleeps (2011) and especially Wintercoast, Oceans of Time is largely devoid of the metal edge that appeared on those prior albums. There are still riffs aplenty but they are clearly rock orientated with only a casual passing reference to anything that could be considered metal whereas previously Touchstone were always on the borderline between rock and metal and in my view Wintercoast at least was as much metal as it was rock. In other words nothing on Oceans of Time is going to hit as hard as earlier songs such as Wintercoast or Zinomorph.

As well as the decrease in the metal elements, Touchstone also made some changes in the way their vocals are delivered. While female vocalist Kim Seviour has always been the lead voice since joining the band for debut album Discordant Dreams (2007) there has previously always been a fair bit of vocal interplay between her and keyboardist Rob Cottingham, an aspect that like with the metal has been almost entirely dropped on Oceans of Time. We don't even get to hear Rob until six tracks in, during Shadow's End. This is a shame because as good as Kim is, and she does sound really spectacular on this album, Rob is also an amazing singer and the two worked well together.

I can't say I'm keen on either of these developments. Both the metallic riffs and the male/female vocal interplay were defining features of the Touchstone sound on prior albums and while the band still produced a decent bunch of songs on Oceans of Time, notable ones beings Fragments, Spirit of the Age and Shadow's End, it somehow feels bland and even a bit drawn out in places by comparison. It simply does not come across as being that memorable, or the sort of album that I expect Touchstone to make. They also rerecorded the Wintercoast song Solace; previously a mellow ballad, the new version is significantly rockier, but it loses some of its charm along the way, much the same way that the whole Touchstone sound has lost charm and appeal between albums.

Oceans of Time is still praiseworthy enough to be a positive experience, but Touchstone have fallen short of their own high standards with it. I respect an artist who sets out to do something different with a new album but throwing out most of what made you great wasn't the way to go for Touchstone, especially since they don't introduce anything new to replace those elements as such, but rather offered a stripped down and more accessible take on what they did before. I can't honestly justify any more than a three star range rating. This was quite possibly the most disappointing 2013 release I've heard. I'll always have a high regard for Touchstone based on what they did before this but such a regard does have to take a bit of a hit after an album like this one so here's hoping that Oceans of Time was just a hiccup in what has up until this point been an excellent career for the prog band and when we hear from them again they'll be back to form.

64/100

(Originally written for Heavy Metal Haven: http://metaltube.freeforums.org/touchstone-oceans-of-time-t3298.html)

TOUCHSTONE The City Sleeps

Album · 2011 · Hard Rock
Cover art Buy this album from MMA partners
Stephen
I just don't get what people hear in TOUCHSTONE's 'The City Sleeps'. This highly praised album felt completely down the average line for me and nothing's really special about a female-fronted band playing a combo of decent hard rock and symphonic touch in a prog metal corridor. The genre sounds a bit complicated and judging from the band's influences which is also quite vast, ranging from Yes, Van Halen, Dream Theater to Alter Bridge, Elton John, and Our Lady Peace, that can be interesting as well as confusing.

There are several great moments though. 'When Shadows Fall' is a nice 10 minutes track. After the long 3 minutes intro, the vocal wrapped in a very melodic fashion in the veins of Dream Theater and Genesis mix, but I'm pretty sure it's too boggy at that length and probably better at 7 minutes. 'Sleeping Giants' is a great ballad, with alternate vocal and beautiful harmonies, the keys solo is enchanting as well. 'Half Moon Meadow' is also very smooth and nice, with a building up tempo in the last 1 minute. But I do think it's an irony for a metal band to lay the strength on slow songs like these.

'Corridors' and 'Throw Them To The Sky' are plain average. 'These Walls' is a straight forward non-prog track, 'Good Boy Psycho' is quite interesting, the verse is okay, and overall a good track, but I'm not entirely sold with this song. 'Horizons' is a good melodic rock track, perhaps also a ballad, but somehow too long for such a linear song. The title track, 'The City Sleeps', which is an epic 11 minutes is also quite dull, bringing the total score to around 65%

TOUCHSTONE The City Sleeps

Album · 2011 · Hard Rock
Cover art Buy this album from MMA partners
ChaosAngel
Let's get this out of the way. The metal purists out there are going to howl about this album, saying it's "not real metal", or some other such nonsense.

There... now onto the actual review.

The City Sleeps is, quite simply, amazing. From the opening riffs of Corridors to the closing, with stops in some of the most haunting and beautiful music I have ever heard, this is definitely a ride worth taking.

To be honest, it is largely a symphonic prog album, but it has enough metal bits, in the form of riffage and solos to be included on this site.

Touchstone have, on this album, earned a solid five stars, purists be damned.

TOUCHSTONE The City Sleeps

Album · 2011 · Hard Rock
Cover art Buy this album from MMA partners
adg211288
The City Sleeps is the third album from UK prog act Touchstone. The band, although most commonly described as a progressive rock act, has many progressive metal and hard rock qualities as well, giving them a wide appeal. In a development from their previous album Wintercoast (2009) the band has acquired some strong leanings into symphonic prog territory, along with a general increase in the progressive nature of their compositions.

Whether Touchstone is ultimately more of a rock or a metal act remains up for debate as of The City Sleeps. If you want to consider the dividing line as how heavy the music is, then The City Sleeps is most definitely a progressive rock album, drawing on hard rock certainly but still a rock album overall. Changing the view to a perspective of technique however and things start getting quite a bit more metal. Just listen to the galloping rhythm of the riff in These Walls for a first class example of what I mean. Regardless of where you want to pigeonhole Touchstone however one thing remains constant, they’re absolutely at the top of their game.

Being a part of the female fronted prog scene that seems to have been gaining some popularity in recent years, Touchstone has one of the best lead singers around in Kim Seviour. Her delivery is melodic and emotive and a true asset to the band. But as good as Kim is I want to give special mention in this review to Touchstone’s second vocalist Rob Cottingham (also keyboardist). Rob doesn’t sing as much Kim does, but when he does his vocals are most definitely of the same calibre as Kim’s. His lines during the gentler parts of the epic When Shadows Fall showcase him at his very best and when both singers duet they complement each other perfectly.

When Shadows Fall is one of two epics on the album, the other being the title track. These two make up some of the very best that the album has to offer, but as with Wintercoast there isn’t a bad track on here, although overall now that I’ve given the album time to sink in I have to say that The City Sleeps doesn’t manage to quite match Wintercoast overall, although it does contain some of the group’s best tracks yet and is a very worthy follow-up to the aforementioned Wintercoast. Despite not topping their previous album, I’m very pleased with Touchstone’s development as a band on The City Sleeps and if this is anything to go by, then Touchstone has a bright and successful career ahead of them. The album comes high recommended.

(Originally written for Heavy Metal Haven (http://metaltube.freeforums.org), scored at 9.0/10)

TOUCHSTONE The City Sleeps

Album · 2011 · Hard Rock
Cover art Buy this album from MMA partners
Time Signature
When shadows fall...

Genre: progressive metal/rock

Touchstone is definitely one of the most sensational acts on the modern progressive rock scene these days. Wintercoast was massively progressive and expressive, yet incredibly catchy and full of intelligent mass appeal. The follow-up album "The City Sleeps" is, fortunately, characterized by the exact same qualities that made its predecessor such a great album.

On "The City Sleeps" Touchstone explore further their quite unique metal- and hardrock-infused brand of progressive rock. The album starts out with the quite massive sounding 'Corridors' whose initial eastern touches gives it a dark and exotic feel, while the rest of the tune is rich in melodic and haunting guitar figures and pumping hard rocking bass patterns and grand keyboard effects. The following track, the massively epic 'When Shadows Fall', retains the darkness, but takes the listener on an even grander journey through lots of moods and sounds - from grandiose, almost symphonic passages over retro-prog sections and mellow passages to all out chucking guitar-centered hardrock figures. And this particular track, along with the equally massive and epic title track, is pretty much indicative of the overall sound and variation of this album.

Being the rock dude I am, I really appreciate how Touchstone incorporate hardrock and all out metal riffage into their brand of progressive rock, as in the balls out rocker 'These Walls' or 'Good Boy Psycho', which is more of a progressive metal track, and juxtapose them with more mellow and melodic tunes, like the top class prog ballad 'Half Moon Meadow'. And we are not only talking juxtaposition of tracks; most of the individual tunes on this album contain both ripping metal riffage and soft sections as well as more retro prog parts (and often the different elements co-occur on top of each other).

There seems to be somewhat of a Genesis-influence on this album (the keyboards particularly seem inspired by Duke, while 'When Shadows Fall' reminds me of 'Dance on a Volcano' from A Trick of the Tail. And, I quite like that. I like the idea of Genesis-style elements co-occurring with all out metal attacks. It's this blend of elements from across the progressive rock and metal scenes that makes Touchstone's sound so appealing (to me at least).

The musicianship is top notch as is the song writing, and Kim Sevoir's silken voice fits into the picture like a glove. Fans of progressive music can look forward to Genesis-like keys, odd time signatures, epic songs, complex song structures and so on, and fans of metal can loo forward to hardrocking riffage, pumping bass, double bass drums, guitar harmonies and so on. Essentially, this is a progressive metal album, or perhaps a metal progressive album... in any case, it should appeal to fans of progressive rock as well as fans of progressive metal.

"The City Sleeps" is simply sensational. Should you be a fand of strong potent riffage and massively epic and expressive progressive music, buy this album now or spend the rest of your life in regret.

(review originally posted at seaoftranquility.org)

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