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(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 of war.

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, surrender yourselves.
Mothers, send me your blue eyed boys and let me see them, blue-eyed blond-haired boys."

"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 imperatives.

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 Bertrand Pourcheron.

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This section is part of the 'World War II' zone. 'A Promise Of Peace' tells the story, in chronological order, of World War II.

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