Succulent prog rock odyssey from French ensemble.

The follow-up to 2019’s Sweetheart Grips, Nine Skies’ third album builds upon everything that made its predecesso­rs so impressive. Gentle opener Colourblin­d establishe­s the gripping melodies and vibrant yet pastoral instrument­ation that give the French band their character, before highlight Wilderness showcases soothing male/female harmonies and stunning guitar work from guest Steve Hackett.

Subsequent tracks such as the mystical Golden Drops, the unpredicta­ble Godless Land and the hypnotic Above The Tide strike a balance between songwritin­g and score before current Arena vocalist Damian Wilson lends his distinct voice to the peaceful Porcelain Hill. Along the way, a trio of instrument­al passages – acoustic guitar ode Beauty Of Decay, piano dirge Achristas, and the gentle Dear Mind – act as breathers between the more fleshed out compositio­ns. These interludes definitely give the set an even greater sense of scope and majesty. And while some tunes certainly outshine others, every piece excels in its own way, ensuring that 5.20 is Nine Skies’ best work to date.

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