Well-known singer, Daniel Tompkins kicked down doors as the vocalist for progressive music scene bands like TesseracT and Skyharbor. He has a legion of fans and has managed to reinvent himself on every release in his career. In the background, he has been working on solo material what would eventually become his debut solo album. Finding common ground with Russian producer Dmitry Stepanov, Tompkins is ready to shatter fans expectations for what they have come to expect from him, revealing new levels of artistry only hinted at. Freed from the genre rules or really any expectations, Castles (Kscope) arrives free of conventions or any other weird airs most signers fall prey to when they create a solo album.
A gorgeous digital soundscape with the DNA of Dan’s entire repertoire baked in but under the surface, Castles is a lush, warm, and oddly comforting listen. Although the range of emotions is all over the map, they contrast sharply to Daniel’s round-toned, heartfelt delivery. The words and melodies are not just a vessel to deliver these words. He is conveying feelings and deeper meanings with every not. The digital backdrop underneath the tracks creates a compelling listen that reverberates inside you. If you can get through Castles without feeling something, you might have ice-water in your veins where the plasma should be.
Dashing back and forth between sweeping balladic tracks and a little more uptempo electro-rock, Tompkins has found a new audio palette to paint with. ‘Saved’ is a good opener and table setter for the overall album. ‘Black The Sun’ has a driving beat and lovely major key, harmonized chorus. Hints of post-rock and pop dance around each other round and round. The title track has an intoxicating trip-hop beat and broods like an indie film soundtrack.
Other tracks like ‘Kiss’ and ‘Limitless’ have a bit more darkness in them. ‘Cinders’ is a simmering, shimmering pop gem. Daniel’s amazing vocals soaring high over the track, offset by an ear-worm piano riff. ‘Telegraph’ is another mood changer, downshifting seems to be Tompkins preferred mode here overall.
The rest of the album is made up of dreamy reimaginings of some of these other tracks, including three different versions of ‘Saved’. The tracks were worked over by guest contributors Acle Kahney (TesseracT), Randy Slaugh (Periphery, Architects, Devin Townsend), Paul Ortiz (Zeta, Chimpspanner) and producer Stepanov all putting a unique spin on them.
Few established artists have the boldness to step out of their comfort zone and do something truly risky and unique. Many, many years in the making, this portrait of an artist in time helps redefine what we know about him and opens up new possibilities for the future.
8 / 10