First of all, we should talk here not just about a band, but rather a big band (bold is to emphasize the bigness), or large ensemble. In addition to the standard metal instrumental trio: guitar, bass, drums; you get an extra 15 people on woodwinds, trumpets, trombones, “rhythm”, and Rhodes. This lineup makes for a very fully sounding band, heavily layered in harmonies and rhythms, as well as timbres, the latter being something that most bands lack diversity of. I can comprehend, on the other hand, that it must be very difficult to build up, maintain, and keep cohesive such a wide bunch of musicians, and that’s all in Nathan’s honour.
But it really is a metal band, a progressive metal band, and with such instrumentation some could argue it’s experimental or even avant-garde: the drums, even if heavily jazz-influenced and with loads of seemingly improvised fills, are definitely “heavy” and “metal”. The guitar and bass are often left out, barely audible, behind the wall of wind instruments, and that is not something you’ll hear often in progressive metal, a genre that tends to focus too much on guitarists’ virtuosity, in favour of the other instrumentalists’, and sometimes in favour of the sound as a whole. That is truly not the case here. Even if every musician here is obviously proficient on its own instrument, it is not the focus of the music, and they only work in union, in order to create something bigger.
Recently I’ve read Tolkien’s Silmarillion yet again, and I cannot help but imagine this album being the soundtrack to – or being – the Music of the Ainur, Ainulindalë. The similarities in my head are just too obvious, perhaps was it envisioned as an ode to this great writer? Perhaps…
And if you’re still here reading me wander in textual form, then you simply haven’t got it yet: Go. Get. That. Album.
Definitely one of the best of 2014.