A Clockwork Opera – Act I
First recorded offering of gothic symphonic rock from the Manchester band
Words: Phil Weller
A band which has been doing the rounds on the live circuit for some time now, and the embodiment of guitar Paul Cooper’s gothically inspired, symphonic rock vision, Act I gives us the first palpable taste of what the band is capable of away from the stage. While there is little in the way of kindred musical souls for the band to play alongside here in a city they lovingly refer to as ‘Cottonopolis’, they’ve used their relative uniqueness to their advantage in the past, injecting a little diversity into bills so often littered with death and black metal bands far removed from the delicate operatics of A Clockwork Opera. That uniqueness transcends onto record, with the band finding their stride across three showcase tracks.
Opener The Girl with the Glass Bones and Paper Skin is as theatrical as you’d expect, from its glitzy synth intro, swiftly followed by a tight, pounding snare drum and gritty distorted guitars, to the siren song of vocalist Vickie Harley’s enormous vocal range which steers the song on its course, this is a statement of intent from the band. Sometimes here, while Vickie’s impressive falsetto conducts the song’s rapturous ebb and flow of the song, the mix muddles a little, but the concluding Iron Maiden inspired riff which ravenously takes control sees the song really explode, producing a fine moment.
Taken from the 1818Percy Bysshe Shelley sonnet of the same name, Ozymandias is strong in its musical imagery, transporting you to a royal court with its booming synthesised brass fanfare announcing the arrival of a song about the impermanent legacy of empires and how, no matter how great may be, they are all fragile and will all fall in the end. Lyrically, the focus is on warfare, triumph and grandiosity before it all comes crashing down in the final throes. Cooper’s spindly riff work and solid chugging in the verses, which allow Harley to once more become the spellbinding storyteller, give the song its staunch, while the keyboard playing of Marco Iannello ices proceedings with a touch of class. Further complimented by some well worked lead guitar lines, everything falls into place really well on this track, the mix allowing each instrument to burst through in its own attention-demanding right while there is never a true dominating force here; it is a true collaborative effort.
The Ballad of Penny Dreadful, always a fun live song that has been entertaining the underground scene here in Manchester for some time, the bouncing acoustic number that speaks of lust and revenge is so simple in its make-up, but so effective in its execution. It rounds off a solid three track EP from a band with a refreshing musical vision and the personnel to pull it off.