By Steve Morton
DeeExpus began as the solo project of multi-instrumentalist Andy Ditchfield, inspired after seeing Porcupine Tree live. The mention is important. There are elements of Porcupine Tree and even a tune (“PTtee”) dedicated to that fateful evening, containing short musical & lyrical quotes from the Steve Wilson catalog. Despite influences, DeeExpus has its own sound. Andy enlisted his friend, Tony Wright, to do the vocal work, and co-write a couple of tunes. From there, the album Half Way Home began to take on a life of its own. With solid songwriting, quality musicianship and a ‘wall of vocals’ sound, this album is a powerhouse. Since its release, they’ve formed a band and taken the music on the road. I’ve seen cuts from the live DVD, and can tell you that they reproduce the music here quite well.
Right out of the gate, the pulsing sequence and guitar arpeggio that opens “Greed” leads into a thunderous power guitar riff that lets you know that this album is packed with energy. The early 80s Tony Banks-style keyboard soloing at the end is just confirmation that the group’s Prog stylings are firmly rooted. “Pointless Child” has a melodic turn that made me want to sing along, and I don’t usually do that sort of thing. The harmonies are layered well, and smooth as silk. If you like your prog in extended length, the title final track, “Half Way Home” delivers. Going from section to section, the 17-minute piece reveals the different facets of DeeExpus’ collective voice; with riff-laden guitars, soulful vocals and a climactic rock-out section. All the while switching time signatures and moods on a dime.
Considering that all the instruments on this album were performed by one person, the quality of play is superb. Blistering guitar solos, solid drums, thumping low end and keyboards that lift Half Way Home from a solid, guitar-based prog-rock album to a full-spectrum sonic experience. Tony Wright’s vocals are the icing on the cake: expressive and powerful. If you like Porcupine Tree, Marillion or melodic power prog, you’ll like this album.