It was weird…
I was listening to Echolyn intensely when Brett contacted me the first time – Prog-gods work in mysterious ways!
Echolyn is one of those bands who produce progressive of the highest quality. Well, considering the capabilities of each member, it’s not that surprising I guess! Instrumental work is tight on this album and rich textures enhance my enjoyment of it.
Now, for those in the dark, Echolyn has been there for a while now. Before they were Echolyn, they were Narcissus with Brett Kull, Raymond Weston, and Paul Ramsey. Narcissus was a cover band and one year after they disbanded in 1988, they teamed up with Christopher Buzby to form Echolyn and create their original music. And I am very happy they did!
They have recorded both DIY albums and label albums, put their music out there to reach people and created a name for themselves. They have 11 records with their name on it, countless live performances (including opening shows for Translatlantic and Dream Theater!) and very experienced members to boot.
Their self titled 2012 album took a while to record – they wanted it to be its natural self and it took them seven years to put it together but man, it was worth it!
Now, without further ado, onto the album! As I do want to do a song-by-song.
Island – Sit back, get a drink… Because this song will go on for a while as will its review. Seriously, I’ve got loads to tell about this song… Liked it from the get go. The most obvious aspect at first listen is its proggy technical intro clocking in about 3:30 minutes. Raymond Weston is my hero on this one with his emotive vocals and Thomas Hyatt with his ethereal bass tones.
After the extended intro with “dat fantastic instrumentation”, bass come to the forefront before the vocals kick in even then stay there in the background making lady satisfied!!! Right at this moment I want to give a nod to Brett… the way that bass cuts through the mix, allowing his formidable skills to shine is greatly appreciated! Thickening vocal textures at 4:30 minute mark gives me the good kind of vertigo. Mmmm… Smells competency! As if that was not enough, Tom delivers bass lines over choppy drumbeats by Paul Ramsey – exiting!
The song transitions into a quieter mid-section with a melancholic feel to it. Especially the verse starting off with “to me, you are an island” will be a kick in the head – what sorcery is this? Truly beautiful emotive delivery!
The song maintains beautiful melodies and top-notch vocals throughout, and sort of tells the listener that this is a creative and solid album. Would probably be the best cut on the entire album, very catchy and accessible.
All of these come together along with some nice key changes and mood shifts to form a complex and mind-blowing prog-rock epic. Now, looking back, I should say the song did not feel long at all!
Headright is a nice tune. I liked it even more when I paid attention to the lyrics as they made me nod my head and smile… Does that make me a girly girl? The song has groovy rhythm lines and an uplifting mood in contrast with the lyrics.
Past Gravity is a bluesy ballad-y tune with a slight psychedelic edge. It’s featuring Brett’s emotive vocals against a backdrop of bluesy guitars and nice, solemn piano… I say good call as his velvety voice complements the soft tunes perfectly and takes you to an emotive journey. It does get very grandiose for a short while later on though with Brett’s nice, well controlled screams before it gets softer again. I really like Brett’s vocals. Nothing cries for attention, everything is quite laid- back, humble yet heartbreaking. This approach to singing certainly works brilliantly and captivates you and gives you goosebumps.
With When Sunday Spills, although the first half really struck a chord with me emotionally, my favourite part musically is the last quarter where the music gets darker and heavier and Ray gets really passionate with music matching the darkness of the lyrics. There are really nice guitar moments and the texture gets really thick, layered in great harmonies. So tastefully and appropriately aggressive for a song that deals with such negative emotions.
If you are of the prog-blues-classical school, Speaking in Lampblack is just for you! It starts quite slowly but really builds in such a majestic way… Piano and the strings are in the limelight and the song has a subtle beauty and grace. I have to say, Brett delivering the lines “And shout across the fear we’re holding to pull you back to me again” have been etched on my brain… It’s not only the highlight of this song but perhaps of the whole record. Yes, you heard that right! I crave for vocally deep moments delivered in perfection! I would have loved to hear more of these catchy vocal lines from him… Again, I liked the last third of the song better where it starts to build up with Paul’s nice beats, and we find ourselves in a perfectly executed interplay between tastefully arranged strings and piano, tasteful bluesy guitars and pounding drums, creating an emotionally stunning, dark, deep, thick and incredibly powerful atmosphere with the band showing their mastery in layering both the instruments and the vocals. Song literally explodes with a breathtaking orchestral crescendo making the whole thing, the overall energy of the feel very complete!
Another song rich in strings is Locust to Bethlehem – for the interested!
The Cardinal and I opens up with powerchords on guitar and keys and offers almost the entire musical patterns lady digs. Nice variation between softer and heavier moments, awesome degree of progression and aggression, emotive singing, great phrasing on some particular lines, soulful instrumental passages, tasteful shredding, and a very nice melody. Ah yes, the melody!!! Hearing it for the first time, I was just floored by it and the whole bloody piece kept growing on me with each listen proving itself to be another intense and technical piece laden with wonderful harmonies and bedazzling key driven moments. I really loved what Christopher Buzby does on this record with piano, organ, wurly, synths and glockenspiel since he adds so much to the overall sound and creates a beautiful atmosphere without overdoing the whole record scratching thing!
Ray’s vocals are just beautiful and the way he delivers the line “We’d be golden“ is so delicate that it’s impossible not to admire!
A short piano break steals the show and becomes the centre of the song for a little while. Really nice showcase of the technical skills of the bunch.
Brett is another hero of the song with his excellent riffs and the mind-blowing solo in the later part of the extended intro. Great closing track that leaves me wanting more. Very wise! The song speaks to you, telling that you must wait for the next Echolyn – nearing the end, the aggression builds up and the whole thing gets louder and louder until the perfect, peaking finish.
I just found the last delivery of those lines defeating this purpose a bit – I’d have preferred to be left with the aggressive instrumentation; a sort of ellipsis letting my inner voice complete the picture with the sole narrative of the dark and heavy atmosphere.
Overall, a cohesive album with an abundance of neat ideas and rich texture throughout. Yes, me likey!
The sound is very tight and it is obvious that the band members are a talented bunch.
If you like sophistication in your music, some frequent changes in tempo, abrupt yet natural transitions complete with very nicely done vocal harmonisations and a masterful production, this one is for you!