Symphonic Rock | Progressive Rock | Hard Rock
With classic anthems such as “Carry on Wayward Son” and “Dust In The Wind” under their belt, it should be fair to say that many people should be aware of the 7-man band that is Kansas.
I became aware of the band and their classic songs during the period a few years back when I was going through all of the great music and bands of the 1970’s, for the sake of a final dissertation I wrote in my final year at uni. And out of all of those bands that I skimmed over, I found Kansas to be one of the more underrated of these bands (especially considering how exciting of an album for its time 1976’s Leftoverture was).
And while they have released a barrage of records between the days of Leftoverture and the current year, I admittedly haven’t glossed over anything that Kansas has created recently; until now.
The Absence Of Presence is the bands sixteenth (yes you heard that right, SIXTEENTH) studio album by the band, and while I wasn’t expecting too much from this album, only for it to be a solid experience really, I was left pleasantly pleased by the teaser tracks that I had the chance to hear before the full album, and as a result had me much more excited for such a project.
The teasers in question were the likes of “Throwing Mountains” and “Jets Overhead”, which fittingly show up very early on the final project. And while these songs both did a marvellous job of keeping that pseudo-orchestral spirit of Kansas well-tempered, what I also notice was that there is a far more surging sense of energy, when compared to even the most upbeat of their classics. Everything seemed to feel a lot more refined in terms of audio quality and depth, and as a result this made me build up the hope that this much more energetic atmosphere would translate to the rest of the album.
Fortunately, for the most part, it does. However, The Absence Of Presence is still rife with arena-ready slow-burning anthems, which might I add isn’t necessarily a bad thing at all. In fact, track like “Memories Down the Line” and “Never” were highly enjoyable and epic in their respective melodies.
Although having said this, it was certainly clear to me that the highlights of this album came in the form of the band just going all-out, and really taking advantage of their strength in numbers, to create complex and layered melodies which are in equal measure, epic and bad-ass.
All of what I enjoyed the least about the project overall however, had one commonality; that being just how familiar (in all the wrong ways) they all sounded. Without any of the uniqueness or sense of innovation that the best of this album carries, each of these track simply felt like an assembly of all of the typical tropes you get from a very outdated style of rock. But thankfully, out of the nine tracks that this 47 minute experience carries, the duds do definitely seem scarce.
Oddly enough, the defining moment of the album for me, had to be the closing track. which is titled “The Song the River Sang”, which I felt is the epitome of everything that Kansas do so brilliantly, combined with a completely unique and highly engaging formula.
In short, while thematically this album simply feels like a continuation of all of the Kansas-ism’s that we have come to expect, it is still refreshing to see that they have still clearly got a good musical edge, as shown by yet another epic project.
Favourite Tracks: Throwing Mountains | Jets Overhead | The Song the River Sang
Least Favourite Track: Animals on the Roof