(The following review appeared in Harmonie
magazine based in France. It was published in French, and what
follows is a translation.)
"Those who do not
learn from history
are doomed to repeat it"
"A Promise of Peace" is the kind of
album that, given the inspiration and ambition with it was conceived,
amply justifies the progressive approach and proves that rock
can constitute a rich and intense musical form.
Lee Saunders, not your ordinary
32-year old Brightonian, has composed this 77-minute-long concept
album about the second World War and rejected offers of major
record companies in a effort to maintain sufficient latitude to
manage this ambitious musical project in total independence.
In contrast to "The Wall", in which
the 1939-45 conflict was the pretext that allowed Roger
Waters to conduct a psychoanalytical introspection on
the theme of the "missing Father", "A Promise
of Peace" suggests a global reflection on the absurdity
In this vein, the opening song ("For
a Thousand Years") develops and analyses, against
the backdrop of a Hitler Speech, the Nazi triptych "Ein
Volk, ein Reich, ein Führer", stigmatizing
the cannibalistic imbecility of the man-eating generals:
"It's not enough
to get down on your knees and pray, it's just not enough.
The price is high, the price you have to pay is your freedom,
Mothers, send me your blue eyed boys and let me see them, blue-eyed
"Poor Buggers, Part One"shows that
this tragic cruelty knows no frontiers, focussing on the unenviable
fate of the British Tommies in the course of this dramatic period:
"Don't worry, son, we'll
telegraph your mum, about your demise and death.
A few lines of where and why you're dead, the mad general said.
We will thank your mother for yours and her sacrifice....
Thank you, Mother dear.
Goodbye, good luck. ....Oh, by the way, have you any more
sons to give away to us?"
"Soldier on Tom" picks up and enriches
the theme of the "pawns to be sacrificed", pawns who,
in the eyes of the hydrocephalic generals invariably thirsting
for power and blood, are the soldiers of all nations. The solitude
and desperate desolation of their terrible fate ("Face the
War Alone", "Is This the Shape?") is echoed by
the permanent silent suffering of their families ("Poor Buggers,
Part Two") and the innocent civilian populations decimated
by the blind bombings ("Alone in the Dark"), whose collective
and astonished prayer on the eve of the decisive battle of the
Allied landings resounds like a funeral knell ("Overlord").
In any case, one therefore finds oneself, here, in an eminently
realistic universe that carefully avoids all sorts of clichés
and well-worn myths, and does not hesitate, through extra effort,
to put us on our guard against certain, indeed worrying, denunciatory
mumblings of history, implicit in the fratricidal conflicts currently
tearing apart Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia:
"Soldiers or people
to us we're all the same, to us it was never a game.
We've paid the price. Now a promise of peace."
This ambitious historical fresco quite naturally
finds its perfect counterpoint in elaborate and ambitious compositions
connected by sound effects that easily integrate fragmented extracts
of the most famous harangues uttered by Hitler or by Churchill.
Given the superbly polished production and faultless
execution, "A Promise of Peace" thus
develops the kind of refined contemporary rock that places it
in direct decadence to Pink Floyd's "The Wall"
The justification for this comparison with the
most famous discographic universe of the pink flamingos are, of
course, the vocals: at the same time as the chorus of sexy Sharon
Woolf echoes unmistakably in "The Great Gig in the
Sky", the serious and deep voice of Neil Sherwood
is at least as disturbing as that of Roger Waters
during the moments of greatest tension ("Poor Buggers",
Alone in the Dark")
This direct Floydian line can also be perceived
in the clearly demonstrated will to marry a message of furious
violence, perfectly relayed by the cutting and explosive guitars
("For a Thousand Years") as well as by the powerful
and luminous solos> ("Overlord", "Not just a Phoney
War") with a meditative and solemn slowness lightly tinged
with blues ("The World Prepares", "The Killing
Grounds of Falaise"). The musical foundation of these climactic,
slightly "smoke-filled" passages is essentially ensured
by the soaring layers, distilled by the synthesis of the master
of ceremonies, from which the voluble and inspired saxophone of
Rob Boyce rises at more or less regular intervals.
One would, however, be wrong to reduce this album
simply to a high-quality Floydian rehash. Indeed, far from contenting
itself with reciting to the letter an entire classical progressive
score too sensibly marked out (with the exception of a small handful
of pieces, such as "Face the War Alone", or "Overlord",
"A Promise of Peace" is endowed with a real prospective
fusionary spirit that intertwines ambition, sophistication, and
eclecticism (scattered zests of funk and even of rap mixed with
basic pulsating rock) with a remarkable indifference to commercial
All these qualities, symptomatic of the omnipresent
and mysterious vigour that must be called inspiration, make this
an ambitious concept album, supported by inspired musicians and
a superb production, a work of high rank that imposes its "luminous
clarity" on its listeners.
Here and now, one of the albums of the year....
Reviewed by Philippe Arnaud and