“A prog band with three librarians and a drummer”. It sounds like the beginning of a joke. Well, welcome to Lyrian. On one level, this is a convoluted travelogue, with the titular Jester on a journey bursting with imagination, symbols, allegory and archetypes – a quirky, proggy Wizard Of Oz narrative set to a sprawling, whimsical soundtrack with spoken word segments and cheesy sound effects. And yet, within the musical whimsy, there is both power and a delicate touch, real light and shade, and all manner of ideas bouncing around with references to early Genesis, Handel and TV theme tunes.
If your proclivities lean in the direction of classical, medieval, renaissance and folk music, you’ll be well served. However, the music is unlikely to be the main issue for newcomers to Lyrian. The album boasts a most bizarre vocal delivery throughout – a heavily affected, wavering, sub-falsetto from John Blake, which wouldn’t be out of place in a Monty Python skit. It’s the very epitome of ‘an acquired taste’. There’s clearly keen intelligence and considerable care behind this album, but its execution may leave many scratching their heads or simply walking away. Shame.