Who doesn’t know hits like “Dust in the Wind” and “Carry On My Wayward Son?” These songs were seen as the staple of progressive rock and are both hits by none other than the iconic KANSAS. The band has had a long career behind them, but in recent years have re-invented themselves with a brand new lineup. This resulted in their previous album, “The Prelude Implicit,” released in 2016. In 2019, the band went through another lineup change as keyboard player Tom Brislin took David Manion‘s place and now, a bit over one year later, the band is ready to present their new album, “The Absence of Presence,” released on 26 June 2020 through InsideOut Music.
Title track “The Absence of Presence” launches the listener immediately into the unmistakable sound of KANSAS‘ unique offering of progressive rock. The song starts off with a swift piano intro and surely progresses in a beautiful, powerful progressive rock anthem, strong on melody. “Throwing Mountains” has a heavy undertone in the guitars, in stark contrast with Ronnie Platt‘s soft vocals; the strong is a refreshing take on old KANSAS‘ sound. In “Jets Overhead,” Brislin adds a superb piano intro that shows off great skill, but the song doesn’t end there; its slow buildup creates tension for the listener. Along with the beautiful arrangement, groovy bass lines provided by Billy Geer, and the flair created by the violin, “Jets Overhead” is one of the highlights of this album.
The pace changes completely with “Propulsion 1.” Clocking in at a little over 2 minutes, this instrumental track picks up speed and shows once again what the progressive in progressive rock means. The song has phenomenal power and incredible drum rhythms provided by Phil Ehart, who really delivered a top-notch performance on this track. The rest of the instruments blend in together beautifully and create a harmonious piece of music that serves as the perfect break before the band continues with the emotional “Memories Down the Line,” a sorrowful ballad that, with a melancholic piano accompaniment, can move its listener deeply. The song gains strength and turns into a true power ballad, with profound violin solos and a delightful guitar outro played by the power-duo of Zak Rizvi and Richard Williams.
With “Circus of Illusion,” KANSAS continues the slab of strapping songs that captivate the listener from beginning to end. Out of all songs, “Circus of Illusion” is perhaps a little bit more straightforward, but no less progressive. “Animals on the Roof” is easily one of the most fun tracks on this album, as the soulful song is a bit more up-tempo and is the perfect mix of KANSAS‘ classic sound combined with more modern influences.
“Never” is another beautiful ballad with beautiful piano arrangements, sounding even more fragile than “Memories Down the Line.” One last breather before the last song of the album, “The Song the River Sang,” kicks in. Composed by Tom Brislin, who also took care of the lead vocals in the song, is the most anthemic track on the album. It starts off with great energy, mainly due to the striking rhythm Ehart provides with his toms and snares. The rhythmic nature of this song makes you want to bounce around, after which a beautiful melodic part kicks in and completely takes over. Eventually, the song takes a turn with a darker passage that’s filled with tension and suspense, leaving the listener with a lingering feeling long after the song already ended, providing the most beautiful ending this album could have probably envisioned and perhaps even the highlight of the album.
The best aspect of the album is probably that this new lineup is able to channel KANSAS‘ authentic sound and have kept its spirit intact, while also charting a promising course for the future by combining it with new and fresh elements, as well as including all these musicians’ musical identities in the sound. The songs, while complex in nature, are layered and beautifully crafted and with a production that makes the album sound huge. “The Absence of Presence” is easily one of KANSAS‘ best-sounding albums that will surely blow many progressive rock fans’ minds.
- The Absence of Presence
- Throwing Mountains
- Jets Overhead
- Propulsion 1
- Memories Down the Line
- Circus of Illusion
- Animals on the Roof
- The Song the River Sang
Tom Brislin – Keyboards
Phil Ehart- Drums
Billy Greer- Bass and Vocals
Ronnie Platt – Vocals and Keyboard
David Ragsdale- Violin and Guitar
Zak Rizvi – Guitar
Richard Williams- Lead Guitar