Henrik Fevre-A Summer Can Change Everything
Sun, 29 Nov 2015 05:09:47 +0000
You’ve heard it said that a book can’t be judged by its cover. This idiom couldn’t be more applicable to Danish musician Henrik Fevre whose fourth solo album, A Summer Can Change Everything releases five years after his last offering. If his name sounds familiar, then it might be because of his most prominent association in the progressive metal world as the bassist and lead vocalist of Anubis Gate, and his lyricist and songwriting skills have not only been utilized with them, but have also been sought after by others in the field, including on Pyramaze‘s latest album, Disciples of the Sun. One would think that this kind of resume would be sufficient, but as the aforementioned idiom states, there is much more than meets the eye, as Fevre is a multi-instrumentalist playing not only bass, but also guitar, piano, saxophone, & even drums in his early years, and his breadth of musical interests far exceeds the limits of the progressive metal genre with his background having also included writing and performing pop, dance, contemporary, and jazz fusion styles. So as this album’s style may not seem to fit in with the standard Lady Obscure musical fare, Fevre’s connection with the prog metal world makes the not-so-large leap to review his solo work that expresses another side of him. Having released three previous solo albums, Seasons of a Soul (2002), Other Rooms (2007), and On the Brink of Something Better (2010), Fevre ventured into this foray yet again to offer his newest inspirations in A Summer Can Change Everything. So if you are expecting something akin to the Anubis Gate sound, or something heavy in general, then you would be sadly mistaken and not be further from the truth. I’m not sure what cover about Fevre is more difficult to judge – the sharply-dressed man you might not expect to write and perform some of the heaviest and complex music out there, or the prog metal musician actually having a softer side that explores life through the simple elegance of endearing minimalist compositions. So let’s open this book, er, album, to see what’s inside…
Life at Sea begins slowly and ethereally with suspended chords on the piano alone, and the vocals enter about a minute into the piece with a soulful and emotional delivery of the first verse over the continued whole note chord changes on the piano as accompaniment. There is an interlude that continues at its own pace, with a relaxing single note solo line that continues in conjunction with the chord changes, and picks up with a little more jazz flourish toward the end of that segment. The second verse is sung in much the way as the first, with the addition of faint ocean waves and ambient synths in the background that help to subliminally illustrate the song, which likens the uncertainties of love like sailing on the waves of the ocean until an anchor of stability can be dropped and established.
The second track, Love, has a different approach altogether, as it starts with vocals right away with an uplifting melody in the first verse. The song is a slow moderate tempo that has a relaxing nature to it, and continues with a piano accompaniment that is a lovely complement to the solid but elegantly delivered tenor vocal lines of the four short stanzas that eloquently illustrate the concept of love that allows for patience, forgiveness, and authentic acceptance.
The Elegant Dancer is a poignant two-and-a-half minute song that has a tempo in a slow 3 rather than a faster 1 beat of a usual waltz tempo. Again, it begins right off with a vocal/piano introduction for the first verse, leading into a bridge with a different vocal melody and a short piano solo following with its somewhat melancholy overtones that exemplifies the message of the song. A second verse then resumes, continuing the sad story of this dancer whose career was waylaid by something that went unexpectedly awry in her life, perhaps even something traumatic that kept things from ever being the same for her again. This track is the only song on which the piano was performed by Gunnar, rather than Fevre himself. (watch the lyric video below)
The fourth song, Safe, starts off with a minimalist piano entry that seems stark and sad, much like the wintry scene described as the first verse begins about thirty seconds into the brief piece. The song continues at a largo tempo with intention into the second verse. The second half of the song, however, picks up significantly – not in speed, but in rhythm – and becomes more hopeful as it scales upward in pitch and dynamics. Fevre’s voice becomes much more forceful and deliberate as the last stanza continues, and the piano follows suit with a much more forceful technique as it all builds together in a crescendo before the song closes out with a softer piano resolution.
Dreams and Compromises is an ethereal, instrumental piece that starts off with the piano playing slow chord changes in the upper octaves, with accompaniment by various synth effects of ambient tones and new-age feel. This song lives up to part of its name and evokes a very dreamy response. The melody becomes more pronounced as the song continues and keeps the listener involved, but overall, this song has a very relaxing effect to it. I could see easily be a song that would be a great piece on this album in particular to wind down the day listening to.
The next track, Clouded, is an emotional song, dealing with loss, and the sentiments are aptly expressed through the music and lyrics. It begins immediately with the entry of the first verse, with a delicate, almost spoken, vocal line with a minimal but supportive piano accompaniment. Fevre’s voice continues to strengthen into the second verse and chorus. In the short instrumental segue to the third verse comes the entry – for the first time – of electric guitar with a brief solo that is not overbearing but definitely makes its presence known in the song. The strength and range of the vocals continue to increase as the third verse goes on and as the fourth verse starts, things become even more abrupt and almost dissonant, communicating some of the heart-wrenching emotions being communicated. The guitar re-enters into the song following the first line of the fourth verse, forcefully paralleling the bassline on the piano in the lower range, all the while Fevre’s voice climbs into the highest octaves on the whole album. After the second chorus, everything fades out, and a delicate keyboard plays out the song with the melancholy theme in chord changes to the sullen ending.
The seventh track, Pride, is an jovial song that is a nice contextual opposite from the previous track. An endearing piece about proud fathers watching their little girls perform at their recital or play, watching their “beautiful princess[es]” and relishing the joy of the moment. It begins with a singular note melody line on the piano, and then a jazzy chord progression as the first verse enters with a lighthearted delivery, communicating the joy and excitement of the song’s story. The easy 3/4 time of the song along with its syncopated rhythms and compositional structure gives it a waltzy jazz feel throughout this pleasant little tune.
It’s Only Me is a short piece that starts with delicate and sparse piano with vocals that enter soon after with the first verse. It gains dynamics into the “chorus” of sorts, and dies back down again into the forlorn second verse that ends the song. The slow pace and melancholy melody make for a touching and slightly sad composition that tells a story with the lyrics of a man reaching out to connect with a female loved one, as he misses her presence or even voice on the phone, but he fails to get in touch with her.
The ninth track, Inconfidence, is a mere 6 lines long, but says a lot in its short verbiage. It begins more ambiently with piano and more instrumentation than most of the other tracks with synth effects to help carry the chord basis of the piano melody. A modest bassline enters with some additional chime/bell synth accents before the vocals enter for the brief lyrics that tell the story of the disbelief of the lover’s story of another person who is “just a friend” while professing love for him. After this brief vocal appearance, the rest of the song focuses on the instrumental aspects of the song. A new addition to the album is the entry of a soprano saxophone solo, giving the song a slow classical-jazz feel, after which the song continues to slowly fade away with the ambient synth, piano, and bass melodies.
After All begins immediately with the vocals with solo piano accompaniment. The first verse is intentional and softer, but builds with emphasis in the second stanza, followed by a piano interlude leading into a key change that climaxes into the last verse that is emotional and nostalgic. There is no outro to this piece, just as there was no formal introduction to the song either, paired like a parallel process beginning with vocals and ending with vocals. This song is just under three minutes long and maximizes all of the time to tell its story in three stanzas of lyrics, about the well-understood story of the shy guy who is afraid to ask out the girl he likes, but misses his chance and is saddened by the passed opportunity when it is too late, years later after she’s gone, when he can’t share the love he had for her.
The titular song, A Summer Can Change Everything, is by far and away the longest song on the album, at 10:20 in length (in comparison to its sibling tracks that average 3.5 minutes apiece). It begins with a relaxing melody on piano that is constantly moving with eighth notes, but doesn’t feel rushed or fast, more like watching the current flow past on a stream that is smooth while not being stagnant. This continues for a good 2:45 before Fevre’s vocals enter with the syncopated vocal lines and a few harmonies that continue over the next four and a half minutes before resuming the continuing ambient, relaxing, instrumental melodies for the remainder of the song with the moving piano lines and ethereal keyboard effects that undergird the song that give it more of a relaxed feel throughout. The emphasis builds a little, swelling toward the end of the song, but it soon resumes the soft dynamics that it began with, eventually fading to the sustained end to the piece. All of the songs on this album are easy-going, but this track in particular is very relaxing.
Nextfloor Neighbour is an endearing end to the album, a short little tune just under a minute long about a man in a multi-level dwelling who hopes for something more than just a neighborly relationship to the attractive occupant below his apartment. Starting off again without any instrumental introduction, the first verse introduces the song with a smooth piano accompaniment with the charming vocal melody and lyrics over the short, one-verse piece. (watch the music video below)
A Summer Can Change Everything offers twelve tracks at nearly 43 minutes in length. It is consistent and has a nice balance to it throughout musically and lyrically. It is a personal album with most of the songs having something to do with relationships – father/daughter, neighbor, couple, want-to-be couple – and the many complexities of love that go into each one. The themes also encourage us to seize opportunities when they present themselves, and cherish the relationships we have in our lives. The songs have simple yet elegant arrangements that are raw and honest without any flash or fanfare, and are refreshing to hear in this day and age of often overprocessed and overproduced music. Sometimes stepping away from the overstimulation to listen to something soothing and relaxing can help us re-center and cleanse our musical palate.
Henrik Fevre clearly possesses eclectic musical tastes, interests, and talents that keep him from being a “Johnny-One-Note,” and being a multi-instrumentalist allows him to play whatever and however he likes, enabling him to explore and be experimental with the music he creates from his aforementioned eclecticism. To me, he seems to be an old soul with melodic sensibilities of the solo artists of the mid-20th century. Even though there is no holiday theme to the album, this is a disc I could see playing next to Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby, or Nat King Cole Christmas albums during gatherings that guests could enjoy listening to. His non-traditional songwriting approaches keep the songs interesting as well as succinct and to the point, maximizing every second of each song.
Those who enjoy progressive metal often enjoy other genres of music, and even though this album is much different than the heavier side that Fevre is connected with, listeners should give A Summer Can Change Everything to hear another aspect of his musical mind that stands on its own merits. It is an album that has a broad range of appeal that all kinds of music listeners could enjoy, and easily be something to wind down with at the end of their day. Having an open mind and hearing what is offered on this album could very well be a much-needed breath of fresh air!
Video to “Nextfloor Neighbour”
Lyric video to “The Elegant Dancer”
Follow Henrik on Facebook.
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