Tilt – Hinterland – Album Review

Tilt cover

Artist: Tilt

Album Title: Hinterland

Label: Tilt Music

Date of Release: 30 June 2016

Out of the shadows of a progressive rock great, comes a brand new band that will, without any doubt at all, capture the attention of the prog rock genre. Their collective name is Tilt but individually, they number five talented musicians. At the core of Tilt is Steve Vantsis (guitar, bass, keyboards), David Stewart (drums), Robin Boult (guitar), better known as the band behind the legendary vocalist Fish. This trio is joined in Tilt by Paul Humphreys (guitarist) and vocalist PJ Dourley, with guest appearances from John Beck (It Bites) and John Mitchell (It Bites, Lonely Robot, Kino, Frost*) who also offered his studio skills by creating the final mix to this record.

And this record in question is the debut from Tilt, entitled ‘Hinterland’. As you might imagine, it has been eagerly anticipated but alongside anticipation there has had to be patience as ‘Hinterland’ has apparently been in the making for over five years. But finally, here it is the fruit of those considerable labours.

Having lived with this record for a few weeks now, I have to say that ‘Hinterland’ is a most fascinating and intriguing album. So clearly rooted in the progressive rock genre but with strong electronic sensibilities, the album isn’t however overloaded with excess and frivolity. Neither is it needlessly bloated or weighed down by unnecessary instrumental posturing. Instead, ‘Hinterland’ knows exactly what it is all about, what it wants to achieve and although it weighs in around the hour mark, does it surprisingly succinctly and with some style.

Listen carefully and each track has its own subtle but distinct identity as the members of Tilt explore their range of musical influences within the unconfined and loose structure of progressive rock. And indeed, whilst some might question whether Tilt are indeed ‘progressive’, it is the manner in which each track offers something different that leaves me in no doubt as to Tilt’s prog credentials.

But above all else, whatever the band attempts, ‘Hinterland’ feels smooth throughout and the eight compositions come together with a wonderful flow. Nothing feels out of place or disjointed. Much of this has to do with a really fine production that allows the instruments and the vocals to each deliver their parts with real clarity, precision and not a little richness.

Tilt band

‘_Assembly’ opens ‘Hinterland’ and, quite honestly, it is rather fabulous. It begins in slightly foreboding, discordant fashion, where electronics and strange sounds dominate a bleak-sounding industrial landscape. But gradually the song settles down and begins to unleash some of its magic. Strong melodies, rich atmospherics and some fantastic vocals from Dourley underpin a lengthy track that packs a punch and captivates despite being rather measured in its tempo and deliberate in the way it builds to a heavier conclusion. It is thoroughly addictive and right now is vying for a spot in my ‘best songs of 2016’ list.

The title track follows and is immediately a more up-tempo number with more mainstream appeal. The acoustic guitars are really nice and the rhythm section is both solid and pleasantly flamboyant when the need arises. And, as the composition nears its conclusion, I love the tension that’s built via some edgy riffing and the synths and electronics beneath.

‘Against The Rain’ is another big favourite. The piano that leads this emotionally-charged ballad into existence sounds equally vibrant and sorrowful, accented by more beautiful acoustic guitars, minimalist synths and another spine-tingling and vocal performance from PJ Dourley.

‘No Superman’ is a shorter, punchier and straight-forward rocky number with, dare I say it, a hint of alt-rock or even grunge to it, courtesy of the dirty lead and rhythm guitar tones as well as the execution of the riffs. Acoustic-led ‘Growing Colder’ meanwhile features a real grower of a chorus that ends up being one of the strongest earworms on the entire record.

It isn’t often that a prog rock record will feature the name of an extreme metal band but ‘Strontium Burning’ begins in not too dissimilar fashion to Agalloch of all bands. The acoustic guitars and the evocative and haunting percussion sounds create similar images in my mind of wild open expanses of nature as the now-defunct American as I listen. The similarities don’t last for long as the track erupts into an urgent acoustic-led number with more exquisite melodies and clever synths to add layers of atmosphere to proceedings. Oh and the guitar solo towards the back end of the song is a thing of beauty.

‘Bloodline’, the first song to be aired on the album is another massive composition, that is urged on by a persistent and rich bass line. The keys and synths yet again create multi-layered textures whilst the melodies become deceptively strong with repeated listens.

‘Hinterland’ is then brought to a close by ‘Disassembly_’, without doubt the most electronic-focused composition on the album. It is eerie, melancholy and extremely bleak in places yet as the post-rock, ambient and electronic composition develops, so does a poignant melody that grips me, particularly when accompanied by the words ‘is there no God?’

And with that, ‘Hinterland’ is at an end. I liked much of the record from the beginning but even so, I wasn’t expecting to end up liking it this much. I love the richness and the vibrancy of the material but most of all I love its subtlety and the bands’ willingness to explore interesting and compelling soundscapes. In ‘Hinterland’, Tilt have surely produced one of the most compelling prog rock albums of 2016.

The Score Of Much Metal: 8.75

If you’ve enjoyed this review, check out my others right here:

Cosmograf – The Unreasonable Silence
Fates Warning – Theories Of Flight
Wolverine – Machina Viva
Be’lakor – Vessels
Lacuna Coil – Delirium
Big Big Train – Folklore
Airbag – Disconnected
Katatonia – The Fall Of Hearts
Frost* – Falling Satellites
Glorior Belli – Sundown (The Flock That Welcomes)
Habu – Infinite
Grand Magus ‘Sword Songs’
Messenger – Threnodies
Svoid – Storming Voices Of Inner Devotion
Fallujah – Dreamless
In Mourning – Afterglow
Haken – Affinity
Long Distance Calling – Trips
October Tide – Winged Waltz
Odd Logic – Penny For Your Thoughts
Iron Mountain – Unum
Knifeworld – Bottled Out Of Eden
Novembre – Ursa
Beholder – Reflections
Neverworld – Dreamsnatcher
Universal Mind Project – The Jaguar Priest
Thunderstone – Apocalypse Again
InnerWish – Innerwish
Mob Rules – Tales From Beyond
Ghost Bath – Moonlover
Spiritual Beggars – Sunrise To Sundown
Oceans Of Slumber – Winter
Rikard Zander – I Can Do Without Love
Redemption – The Art Of Loss
Headspace – All That You Fear Is Gone
Chris Quirarte – Mending Broken Bridges
Sunburst – Fragments Of Creation
Inglorious – Inglorious
Omnium Gatherum – Grey Heavens
Structural Disorder – Distance
Votum – Ktonik
Fleshgod Apocalypse – King
Rikard Sjoblom – The Unbendable Sleep
Textures – Phenotype
Serenity – Codex Atlanticus
Borknagar – Winter Thrice
The Mute Gods – Do Nothing Till You Hear From Me
Brainstorm – Scary Creatures
Arcade Messiah – II
Phantasma – The Deviant Hearts
Rendezvous Point – Solar Storm
Vanden Plas – Chronicles Of The Immortals: Netherworld II
Antimatter – The Judas Table
Bauda – Sporelights
Waken Eyes – Exodus
Earthside – A Dream In Static
Caligula’s Horse – Bloom
Teramaze – Her Halo
Amorphis – Under The Red Cloud
Spock’s Beard – The Oblivion Particle
Agent Fresco – Destrier
Cattle Decapitation – The Anthropocene Extinction
Between The Buried And Me – Coma Ecliptic
Cradle Of Filth – Hammer Of The Witches
Disarmonia Mundi – Cold Inferno
District 97 – In Vaults
Progoctopus – Transcendence
Big Big Train – Wassail
NightMare World – In The Fullness Of Time
Helloween – My God-Given Right
Triaxis – Zero Hour
Isurus – Logocharya
Arcturus – Arcturian
Kamelot – Haven
Native Construct – Quiet World
Sigh – Graveward
Pantommind – Searching For Eternity
Subterranean Masquerade – The Great Bazaar
Klone – Here Comes The Sun
The Gentle Storm – The Diary
Melechesh – Enki
Enslaved – In Times
Keep Of Kalessin – Epistemology
Lonely Robot – Please Come Home
The Neal Morse Band – The Grand Experiment
Zero Stroke – As The Colours Seep
AudioPlastik – In The Head Of A Maniac
Revolution Saints – Revolution Saints
Mors Principium Est – Dawn of The 5th Era
Arcade Messiah – Arcade Messiah
Triosphere – The Heart Of The Matter
Neonfly – Strangers In Paradise
Knight Area – Hyperdrive
Haken – Restoration
James LaBrie – Impermanent Resonance
Mercenary – Through Our Darkest Days
A.C.T. – Circus Pandemonium
Xerath – III
Big Big Train – English Electric (Part 1)
Thought Chamber – Psykerion
Marcus Jidell – Pictures From A Time Traveller
H.E.A.T – Tearing Down The Walls
Vanden Plas – Chronicles Of The Immortals: Netherworld

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