David Cross, for those who don’t know, is the ex-violinist with King Crimson. As such you know you can expect something a little different from this project rather than middle-of-the-road rock or metal. Sign of the Crow is his sixth solo album and another entry in his catalogue of progressive pieces. Joining Cross, who plays electric violin on this release, are Paul Clark on guitars, Mick Paul on bass, drummer Craig Blundell and the voice of Jinian Wilde. King Crimson lyricist Richard Palmer-James assisted with writing the lyrics on the album, something he also did with 2005’s “Closer Than Skin”.
Sign of the Crow is – to the layman such as me – traditional prog. That is, it has exuberant flurries and and edge of traditional/folk sounds to it. There are a great mixture of elements to each song and they don’t follow the verse/chorus structure. It’s altogether more organic. Some of the tracks are actually pretty heavy, such as “Sign of the Crow” itself which had quite the bassy, driving rhythm behind all the electronica. For someone who’s not a fan of this kind of music, this is the sort of track that could potentially convert, as is “Spiderboy”.
Overall the album is for those who prefer their music a little more “out there”. Brash sections intermingle with very airy and empty “widdly” solos and instrumental breaks. It is a lot about atmosphere and sensation. There’s quite the jazz feel throughout, too, with layers of music clashing rather than complementing. “Crowdsurfing” is a prime example.
For myself, one of those non-fans, this album is quite difficult to get the head around. It feels a little disjointed in places, but that’s more due to the fact that I prefer more “mainstream” music. You have to step away from this and think of each song as a soundtrack… and then suddenly those disparate pieces fit. There’s certainly nothing wrong with the mixing or production which are of the highest standard.
Fans of prog from all eras should definitely check it out. For the rest of us, it may be just a little too niche – despite there being a couple of tracks that are still worth recommending.