Raw Silk - The Borders of Light

Raw Silk The Borders of Light cover
Raw Silk
The Borders of Light
Fame of Poets Records
Raw Silk is a weird case. One of the few bands that came out in the AOR/HR genre from Greece and a really good one at them, possibly only held back by a rather weak production. The band debuted in 1990 with “Silk Under the Skin” to great local commercial acclaim and has through the years achieved a bit of a cult status on the strength of that release alone.

Some twenty seven years later and with little fanfare, a second Raw Silk album dropped about a month ago, with only Kostas Kyriakidis (drums), who is now based in the UK and working as a teacher remaining from the old line up. “The Borders of Light” features an entirely UK based “new band” and shares precious little with its predecessor stylistically. Gone are the catchy AOR/hard rock choruses and in their place a more mature prog/pomp style manifests. It’s not entirely different and who knows how the “original” band might have sounded almost three decades later, even if they were still together… but those who expected to hear, a band “frozen in time” are probably going to be largely disappointed.

Now baring closer semblance to mid-era Ten and Steve Hackett at his most commercial, rather than Bon Jovi inspired whippersnappers, the band proves their ability to still craft enjoyable songs. Vocalist Chris Dando is not bad, but as it’s made evident on songs like “Chimera”, he seems to need some more conviction, in certain deliveries, as he doesn’t seem confident enough to really lift certain sections above others with more focused deliveries, instead relying on more laid back vocals stylisms.

Even in the first few minutes of opener, “One Lifetime”, the prog tendencies are rather evident, only to be cemented, when its solo comes around.

“Nobody Fills the Loneliness” is wisely chosen as a single, as it does have a bit of a more commercial touch about it, with a chorus that a bit more standoffish than the predecessor.

The aforementioned “Chimera” just veers on and on at seven plus minutes, only salvageable by a nice series of solos.

“Night Time Angels” tries to sound dark, sad and melancholic at the same time and has some pretty cool guitar ideas and vocal melodies, not lacking in orchestration, but rather in focus, I am afraid.

“The Road You’ve Taken” is a ballad, with simple strummed guitars and some atmospheric ambiance provided by keys, the band biting on more than it can chew. Again the solo on guitar is pretty heartfelt, but really a more staccato, slightly faster version of this would have worked much better I think… it’s so indolent and sappy that it really doesn’t feel that great. It’s great conclusion should have sounded 10 times more impressive with even more voices combining into one… it’s sad to see a band trying quite hard, but not hitting bulls eye, either because of lack of experience or resources, or both.

“Losing My Mind” is probably the most different track, a very bluesy number, with more backbone and some fantastic guitar licks through. Dando offers a stronger delivery on this one, but does sound a little more strained, but not to the point where it’s annoying. As a matter of fact, I hope some of the conviction he displays here could have rubbed of in the rest of the songs of this project. Without any of the songs really being bad, this is the other song that somewhat stands out.

“Distressed & Powerless” is also different – heavier and more to the point, with Dando able to keep up but also sounding unable to really push things a step further, with a more plethoric – faster attacking vocal – which would have sounded utterly impressive. Reading an interview I’m curious whether certain of these songs were written while Kyriakidis was back in Greece trying to do a second album with the old members or all material is all new, since certain songs show a different “direction”/philosophy.

“Out of Reach” likewise feels more like RS of old, but with a mantle of maturity being ever present with more ponderous lyrics etc… but the pronounced keys seem to amplify the illusion, admittedly.

The title track, “The Borders of Light”, clocking at almost twelve minutes, seems to indulge a bit too much with almost three minutes of intro leading to a far more interesting section/verse, only to be somewhat marred by the ensuing polyphonic section that doesn’t manage to sound quite right… a keyboard lead leads to a softer section that’s quite lyrical, but ends up marred again by some baritone that’s not all that good, then after an inventive solo there’s a nice reprisal of the original verse and again a polyphonic part that tries to make things more symphonic, even including some poorly harmonized lyrics/vocals in Greek that would have sounded so much better if they were sung as a higher harmony. It’s a song that’s great in scope and quite beautiful, but sounds like an incomplete demo. Also a somewhat more condensed form of it, wouldn’t have hurt either.

“Solitude of Pain” is the conclusion of the album – another melancholic, layered track that feels at home with the rest of the material…

I hardly know what to make of this album. Firstly, it’s an unexpected “return” featuring only one member by the original band. It’s different musically, not bad, but somewhat disjointed and lacking in proper flow between the tracks, some of which work and some don’t. The overall mix, without being bad, doesn’t help much as it sounds quite clinical in a bad way. Also Dando’s reliance on technology to get the vocals right detracts a bit from the performances and without being terrible, he seems to be the weakest link in the band, as the guitarists seem to be doing a quite commendable job. As hard as it might be to spell it out, I think he’s doing a less than ideal job both as a producer and singer and while he’s not bad, he’s not on the same level as the rest. I still like quite a few of the ideas on the album, but to see the band again held back by production issues is a little disheartening. Also maybe a new moniker might have worked better as both the band and style are removed enough from the debut and usually in those cases bands tend to fall apart, when they fail to meet expectations.

Still hats off to Kyriakidis for wanting to do something with this, even some three decades later. More power to him.