On today’s to-do reviews sits Fearful Symmetry, a progressive music ensemble and the brainchild of Suzi James, a UK-based multi-instrumentalist. Together with Yael Shotts (vocals) and Sharon Petrover (drums, arrangements), Suzi released their sophomore album “The Difficult Second” on July 15, 2022. The album follows the band’s successful debut, “Louder Than Words,” from 2019.

Barely a month into the new year, I find myself with the good fortune to be listening to an album that will surely be on many progressive, classic prog, and jazz fans’ best lists come to the end of the year. After three years, Fearful Symmetry returns with “The Difficult Second,” which bristles with all that was garnered from their first album, exuding greater confidence in both delivery and songwriting, sharper in its lyrical narrative, and with more variety in its presentation and production.

The album comprises ten tracks, comfortably staying strong from start to finish and with a unique sound full of surprises. In their press release, Suzi says, “among these diverse tracks in the sand, may you find familiarity, comfort, hope, joy, and amusement. Experience the songs at face value, or seek the not-so-hidden contemporary stories, cause, you know, sometimes words have two meanings“.

Opening with the playful track ‘Mood Swings and Roundabouts,’ a classic ’70s prog with a solid bass line, clear yet prominent electric guitar, and keyboards. The title track supplies the perfect amount of instrumental to spice up proceedings. The following number, ‘Light of My Life,’ is one of the many highlights on the album, delivering great vocals, while there is a strong lyrical narrative and a greater sense of urgency. The mood switches with ‘Shifting Sands‘, turning the spotlight on Middle Eastern influences. The track features an instrumental with a Middle Eastern vocalization that includes classic micro-tonal intervals. These influences are also projected in ‘Eastern Eyes,’ yet are not as pronounced, remaining rooted in rock music with shredding guitars and bass.

Continuing through the album, more highlights occur, such as ‘Hope,‘ with a strong and heartfelt vocal performance from Yael. The single has some americana vibes, with bright piano and impressive electric guitar. However, it turns prog fast enough.

The Difficult Second” is a fantastic album littered with musical gems guaranteed to brighten up anyone’s day during the somber beginning of 2023. The album closes with ‘Warlords,‘ a great track, in under fifteen minutes. The song is divided into five parts, representing a story about a grand battle. On this their second album, Fearful Symmetry created a record that evokes the best of the prog music scene with a classic sound full of intrigue, intimacy, and playfulness that should propel them towards a much wider audience, for “The Difficult Second” is indeed an impressive blend of early classic prog, jazz, and rock music.

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