DAMANEK – Making Shore (2023)

DAMANEK - Making Shore (2023) - full

For the last three decades UK’s songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and vocalist Guy Manning (The Tangent) has been making a name of himself into the progressive rock scene. Lately Manning fronting other own band DAMANEK, now presenting a new album titled “Making Shore“.
Guy is joined by two prog-rock stalwarts; Australian Sean Timms (of Southern Empire) handles some guitar, bass, programming, synths and production. German Marek Arnold – who is involved in too many bands to count – is on sax, giving a distinctive feel to the proceedings, on drums Brody Thomas Green, and there’s many other talented musicians as guests.
Musically “Making Shore” mixes progressive, pop-rock, some hard, all interesting and with a classic sound exploring the likes of Asia, Giraffe / Kevin Gilbert, Icon (John Wetton), and more.
This is majestic music, bringing together elements which people would not normally consider prog, but surely that is what this is all about? There is no desire to sit within any preconceived boxes, instead the music goes where it will, and we are happy to have informative and intelligent guides for the journey at hand.

Guy and Sean worked on the arrangements, with Marek then weaving his magic around them, the three combining to create something special which was then embellished by the additional players.
At times Guy has a very similar vocal style to Ian Anderson, but that is his natural singing voice as opposed to an affectation, and like Ian, Guy often has important stories to share. Sometimes these can be fiction, such as in the dramatic and 30-minute epic which closes this album, ‘Oculus’ or can be designed to make us think such as ‘In Deep Blue’ and ‘Crown of Thorns’ which are the first two in what may be a new series, subtitled ‘Sea Songs’.

The album is divided into Part One, which comprises stand-alone songs that are about ‘Socio/economic/political themes’ and Part Two, the thirty-minute epic ‘Oculus’, ‘an epic gothic and literary flight of fancy’ exploring time travel and a parallel universe in five parts.
From these descriptions (taken from the band’s website) one might expect deeply metaphysical lyrics, possibly as obscure as those of, say, Jon Anderson. But this is not so. Whilst variously allegorical, the lyrics consistently strike me as being somewhat literal.
They paint fairly obvious pictures in Manning’s distinctive voice, placed high in the mix, rather than providing soundscapes that would allow the listener’s imagination to take over. Now that this minor observation has been made, I must also say that the lyrical foibles are, in most songs, more than made up for by excellent musical compositions and near-flawless production.

Most songs are a rich tapestry of melodies and sonic variation. The listener is taken on a journey from Mount Everest to the American Heartland, from The Great Barrier Reef to the Mediterranean Sea and from the Earth’s atmosphere into the cosmos.
Broader themes include the conquering of the Himalayas (‘A Mountain of Sky’), climate change (‘Back2Back’), child starvation (‘Noon Day Candles’), US agricultural challenges (‘Americana’), ocean damage (‘Crown of Thorns’), mental health (‘Reflections on Copper’) and alternate reality (‘Oculus’.) There is also a very personal theme in ‘In Deep Blue’, which is apparently about Manning’s son overcoming hardships to achieve the personal milestone of deep-sea diving.

My favorite moment on the album is without a doubt ‘Back2Back’ which is a glorious and hugely fulfilling example of what can be done when the funkiest of funk techniques are used to deliver top-drawer Prog. (‘Americana’ is another example of this)
Excellent drummer Brody Thomas Green drives these songs with massive intent and brilliant chops and the brass players’ and backing vocalists’ performances could have been in Tower of Power.

The epic ‘Oculus’ (all five parts) also deserves specific mention. At thirty minutes, it is adventurous indeed, and it settles the ‘Prog/Not Prog debate in a very affirmative manner. Although the honey-glazed keyboard strains of ‘Act III Passive Ghost’ are pleasing, the highlight of the suite is ‘Act IV ’A Welcoming Hand.’ This track is most definitely ‘not Not Prog’, and the Tull/Tillison-like vocals and complex instrumentals are filled with redemption and solace.
From generous bass-lines to urgent horns, soaring harmonies to writhing keyboards, dazzling guitar solos to white-hot drumming, the epic closing suite has it all, and is worthy of your attention – all the way up to the huge slamming door that ends the album.

‘Making Shore’ is an excellent album of variation and stylistic combination that ultimately proves to be – well – Progressive. Majestic and melodic, powerful and polished, the performances, while not always subtle, comprise clear declarations of the highest musical prowess. There is a lightness to the weightiness on this album.
Prog, Not Prog? Prog-heavy, Prog-lite? Truly, not many people care about these categorizations, provided they receive musical fulfillment, which is most certainly to be found on most of the tracks on ‘Making Shore’.
Highly Recommended


01 – A Mountain of Sky
02 – Back2Back
03 – Noon Day Candles
04 – Americana
05 – In Deep Blue (Sea Songs Pt 1)
06 – Reflections on Copper
07 – Crown of Thorns (Sea Songs Pt 2)
08 – Oculus Overture
09 – Act I – Spot The Difference?
10 – Act II – The Corridor
11 – Act III – Passive Ghost
12 – Act IV – A Welcoming Hand

Guy Manning – lead & backing vocals, keyboards, bouzouki, mandolin, acoustic guitar, bass, percussion, composer & arranger
Marek Arnold – saxes, SeaBoard
Sean Timms – keyboards, guitar, backing vocals, programming, arranger, production & mixing
Brody Thomas Green – drums (All except 5)
Nick Sinclair – bass (All but 3,5)
Cam Blokland, Ralf Dietsch – electric guitars
Jonathan Barrett – Fretless bass (3,5)
Julie King, Kevin Currie, Amanda Timms – backing vocals



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