SERMON – “Birth of the Marvellous”

987585I honestly didn’t know what to expect when SERMON’s “Birth of the Marvellous” was offered to me. A little sneak peak while on break at work sealed the deal, and I was absolutely sold on it.

The album itself is riddled with religious undertones, in the best sort of way. From the lyrics to the ethereal organs and vocals in the background. Made keenly aware in the opening track “The Descend”. Atmospheric doom metal at its finest, and is honestly refreshing to hear in the genre. Reminiscent of Katatonia, in a way, but very much holding their own on their freshman album. Every instrument holds its own while simultaneously weaving together to create the power that drives the music. The vocals are clean and crisp. The composition on “The Drift” alone could convince anyone, I believe. From driving drums and bass line, to the ethereal tone of the lyrics.

The shift from “The Drift” to the following track “Contrition” took me as a surprise. Much harder and energetic after a seven minute sonic journey. How easily they go from a drifting sound to a more powerful one is a good shift. Including the addition of some raspy growls towards the end in “The Rise of Desiderata”. It keeps one hooked. The whole album is a trip worth taking. One I implore you to take for yourself. Watch these guys closely, because I get the feeling that with this powerful of a start, they will be going to great places.

Rating: 9/10

Track list:
1) “The Descend”
2) “Festival”
3) “The Drift”
4) “Contrition”
5) “Chasm”
6) “The Preacher”
7) “The Rise of Desiderata”

Label: Prosthetic Records
Release Date: 22 March 2019
Bandcamp: https://sermonsound.bandcamp.com

 

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Tim Bowness – “Flowers At The Scene”

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“Here’s an album for you to review. I know I didn’t even need to ask.” That’s what the boss said.

Well, I do wear my fandoms on my sleeve. One of those fandoms is of no-man, Tim Bowness’ project with Steven Wilson.

It was my discovery of Mr. Wilson’s work in 2013 that led me to no-man, and by extension, the solo albums of Mr. Bowness.

With the bias of fandom comes high expectations. I loved Lost In The Ghost Light, Mr. Bowness’ last album. I enjoyed the pre-release singles from Flowers At The Scene and had high hopes that the rest of the album would be as strong as those songs.

Oh, this album is incredible. Each of the 11 songs are strong on their own but segued together as whole work, they spoke to me as a narrative. This narrative suggests the story of a relationship or relationships that dissolved. (That is my interpretation, mind you.)

This is a very human collection of songs, told in that atmospheric dreamscape voice that Mr. Bowness possesses. I would hope that many listeners can connect with at least some of the lyrics found here.

Some of the highlights of this album for me:

Lead track I Go Deeper is a strong opener with upfront drum and guitar sounds, which never muffle the singer in the mix. This song caught my attention as a single and it caught my attention as an album track. It was a great choice as a lead song musically and lyrically – “They’re waving at me, I’m not waving back”. It is the beginning of the narrative. This song has become an earworm for me!

The Train That Pulled Away really does give me the feeling of a train pulling away with forward rhythm. It sounds like leaving, with uplift and release.

It’s The World is a richly textured track featuring Peter Hammill (from Van der Graaf Generator), Jim Matheos (from Fates Warning) and Steven Wilson. Is that a reference to the album title in the lyrics? (It’s also the title of track 5…) A connection in the narrative. Another earworm! (Check out the video posted at the end of the article.)

Mr. Bowness and Mr. Wilson produced the album together under the no-man name, yet this is Mr. Bowness’ album. His voice is the standout sound here, never overshadowed by the instrumentation. (The album was mixed by Steven Wilson. One of the hallmarks of his work for me is that I can always hear the singer. They are never buried in the mix. Thank you sir.)

There is word of new no-man music on the horizon, if it sounds like Flowers At The Scene, I would be a happy fangirl.

And there is an impressive list of guests who assisted Mr. Bowness in creating this wonderful collection of songs. (See below.)

Available now.

Rating: 10/10

Tracklisting:

1. I Go Deeper
2. The Train That Pulled Away
3. Rainmark (feat. Jim Matheos)
4. Not Married Anymore (feat. Dylan Howe)
5. Flowers At The Scene (feat. Jim Matheos)
6. It’s The World (feat. Peter Hammill, Jim Matheos, Steven Wilson)
7. Borderline (feat. Dylan Howe, David Longdon)
8. Ghostlike
9. The War On Me
10. Killing To Survive (feat. Peter Hammill)
11. What Lies Here (feat. Kevin Godley, Andy Partridge)

Produced by no-man

Mixed by Steven Wilson and mastered by Steve Kitch (The Pineapple Thief)
Artwork is by Jarrod Gosling.

Tim Bowness – vocals, backing vocals, ukulele, trumpet and guitar loops

Guests:
Brian Hulse – synth/keyboards, guitar 1, 5, 7, 8, 9, 10, drum programming 1, 4, 8, 9
Peter Hammill – guitar and vocals 6, backing vocals 10
James Matheos – guitar 3, 5, 6
Andy Partridge – guitar 11
Ian Dixon – trumpet 3, 7, 8
Aleksei Saks – looped trumpet 6
Colin Edwin – bass / double bass / fretless bass 1, 2, 3, 6, 7, 9, 10
David K Jones – bass / double bass 4, 5, 8
Tom Atherton – drums 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 10
Dylan Howe – drums 4, 7
Charles Grimsdale – drums 8
Kevin Godley – vocals 11
David Longdon – backing vocals, flute, melodica 7
Steven Wilson – synth 6, additional drum programming
Alistair ‘The Curator’ Murphy – string arrangement 2
Fran Broady – Bridge 5 string electro-acoustic violin, octave violin 2, 10

Artist website: http://timbowness.co.uk

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/timbowness/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/TimBowness

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Darkwater – Human

Darkwater - HumanIt’s been almost a decade since the last album from Darkwater and that is a lot of time to pass between albums. I have seen bands that were gone for less time and then try to release a comeback that sounds nothing like their older selves. So how about with Darkwater? Well, I can tell you the gang turn in an impressive prog-metal gem with Human. You’ve got time changes, crushing riffs, keyboards for miles, great harmonies… pretty much all you could ask for. And it does feel heavier, as the band claims, but the sense of melody isn’t lost. And this is definitely still Darkwater.

While they have their own sound, there are shades of earlier Dream Theater, mid-era Fates Warning (think Perfect Symmetry), and some mid to early Queensryche. It’s like a sprinkling of the better parts of those bands but they are by no means a copy of them. Just showing their influence.

Getting things started is A New Beginning, with all of the previously mentioned attributes. And it’s a nice wall of sound with nothing really overshadowing the rest. Everything in its place. Great track to kick off the album. Video below.

In Front of You begins with a mid-paced strut with some nice chunky riffage and choral sounds. The early-ish Dream Theater vibe comes across nicely on this track. Video also below.

Alive (Part 1) sounds, in part, like that mid-era Fates Warning vibe I referred to earlier, all acoustic and mellow, before kicking into a Dream Theater style sound, ala Learning to Live, with Alive (Part 2). This was the first single and showcases the bands talents nicely. Melody: check. Riffs: check. Catchy as hell chorus you’ll want to sing along with: check. Annnddd… video below. So, you can very nearly check out the first 20 minutes or so of this album on Youtube, if you wish. 20 out of this behemoth of a 76 minute album.

Reflection of a Mind starts off rocking but settles into a cinematically dramatic, yet brooding feel. The longest track on the album at over 11 minutes, there is a lot to process here.

Insomnia and The Journey continue on with some great melodies and impressive musical passages showing off the bands talents. And The Journey has another incredibly catchy chorus. They are on fire with the melodies on this album.

Then you get a proggy, riff filled, heavily melodic track (but aren’t they all?) in Burdens that is yet another perfect example to show someone just what Darkwater are about. The synth/guitar solo trade-off on this one really shines too. Warning: you’ll be singing along with this one as well.

Turning Pages starts off like it’s going to be a mid tempo rocker, but then kicks in with some fast riffage that will get your head banging nicely before falling back into a melancholic, Fates Warning sound for the verse. And, yes, another catchy chorus. The instrumental section on this one greets us with a cinematic feel again before plunging into some great guitar and keyboard work. Clocking in at over 10 minutes, there is a lot to take in here too.

The last track, Light of Dawn, doesn’t skimp on time either. At over 9 minutes, this rocker is a great way to close out the album. Love the mood here.

So, there ya go. Another fantastic piece of prog-metal from Darkwater. A band that has successfully captured the feel of the great prog-metal bands of the late 90’s/early 2000’s without sounding dated in the process.

Rating: 9/10

Tracklist:
1.  A New Beginning
2.  In Front of You
3.  Alive (Part I)
4.  Alive (Part II)
5.  Reflection of a Mind
6.  Insomnia
7.  The Journey
8.  Burdens
9.  Turning Pages

10.  Light of Dawn

Label:  Ulterium Records
Release Date: 1 March 2019
Facebook: www.facebook.com/darkwaterofficial

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Breidablik – “Nhoohr”

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Breidablik is the project of Norwegian musican Morten Birkeland Nielsen. While his music chiefly utilizes analog synthesizers, there are other instruments that appear in the mix, along with natural sounds, such as bird calls and rain.

Nhoohr is an instrumental album, and upon my first listen, I was reminded of Tangerine Dream. Further listens introduced to me an atmospheric soundscape that made me imagine the music as a guide to a journey in an new land.

Some of the listening highlights for me:

Lead track Arrival opens with an ominous drone that leads up to an expansive sound. The sounds of the natural world are here, of the wind and the caw of a raven or crow.

At The Windswept Planes [sic] Of Nhoohr sets a rhythm that moves the journey forward, along with what I feel is an introduction to this land. The sound of a cosmic brook flowing can found here.

A guitar sound reminiscent of Mike Oldfield appears on the track Clouddancing. There are chimes sounding as well.

The Old Forest does indeed bring the listener to a forest, with the sound of birds and frogs, along with rainfall. A guitar is featured on this track.

And, wait, was there a detour to space with the track Strange Lands?. It’s a cosmic sounding track.

Nhoohr is an ambient album, yes, but isn’t background music. I found it to be an immersive listen.

If you are a fan of progressive electronic music, I highly suggest you give this album a listen.

Rating: 9/10

Available now

Tracklisting:

1. Arrival
2. At The Windswept Planes [sic] Of Nhoohr
3. Clouddancing
4. The Old Forest
5. Strange Lands
6. Perihelion
7. Shadows (Bandcamp bonus track)

Bandcamp: breidablik.bandcamp.com/album/nhoohr

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Rhapsody of Fire – “The Eighth Mountain”

393513It’s been a while since I listened to Rhapsody of Fire, to be perfectly honest. When I first heard them in the mid-2000s in high school, they were the music I put on while delving into the Dragonlance books. I hadn’t even known that Fabio Lione left the band until recently, that’s how far I fell out of the circle. So when I was offered a chance to review their latest release, “The Eighth Mountain”, I thought it a good chance to see what these guys have been up to since the early 2010s.

Some things never change, of course. Rhapsody of Fire’s sweeping symphonics and wonderful guitar work were like the arms of an old friend you haven’t seen in so long. The new vocalist Giacomo Voli fits nicely into the sound of the album. Having gone back and listened to a few albums I missed over the years, “The Eighth Mountain” is an album of transition. Finding their footing again with a new voice leading the charge. It is the sort of album that sweeps one into a fantasy world full of magic, dragons, and heroes. Even with the softer, slower track “Warrior Heart” in the middle of the album, and “The Wind, the Rain and the Moon” later on, are a lovely break from the intensity brought on by the drums and guitars throughout the rest of the album. It all ends on a high note with the epic “Tales of a Hero’s Fate”. With sweeping symphonics and a choir ringing in the track, and nothing but greatness following.

This album was quite a reintroduction to Rhapsody of Fire after all these years. If you have reservations about the album since the vocalist change, I encourage you to give it a try.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go revisit a certain series of fantasy books.

Rating: 9/10

Tracklist:

1. Abyss of Pain
2. Seven Heroic Deeds
3. Master of Peace
4. Rain of Fury
5. White Wizard
6. Warrior Heart
7. The Courage to Forgive
8. March Against the Tyrant
9. Clash of Times
10. The Legend Goes On
11. The Wind, the Rain and the Moon
12. Tales of a Hero’s Fate

Label: AFM Records
Release Date: 22 February 2019
Website: rhapsodyoffire.com

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