Sunday, February 10, 2013

A Fond Look Back: Working With Graham Bonnet

Sometimes things take a while to become completely clear. On the one hand, memories can get that (often necessarily) photoshopped blur: outward quite pleasant, interiorly frosty. On the other hand, sudden revelations can be gleaned (even when that manufactured veneer suspiciously remains).

I was thinking this morning about a conversation I had a couple of weeks before Xmas 2012 with the main vocalist for my opera, Graham Bonnet. We had wrapped up Graham's vocal work for my "Fidei Defensor", and I was very happy talking to him, thrilled with his vocal performances. Please let me digress momentarily: Graham and I had some rough spots over the years we worked together, and things came to an angry head more than once. But I learned so much of value from him, very much like a rock 'n roll father to son, and I told him that. After his modest thanks, I thanked him profusely and...well, basically said goodbye. Graham wrote back minutes later: "That's far too final, I mean, I was hoping we can do more again soon."

Imagine how it felt when it really, finally hit me...to have heard something like that from my favorite Rock singer. And we're going to do more, I always have music for him, I love his voice and I love the way he sings my music.

I can tell anyone curious about Graham's current musical output: he still is more than capable of sounding as good as he ever did...in his case that's about as high praise as I can think of. Take it from an at least minimally accomplished musician and composer: there's no replacing Graham Bonnet.


Friday, February 8, 2013

Solitude Aeturnus "Alone"

Doom Metal masters Solitude Aeturnus were in their early years disciples of bands as disparate as Candlemass and Fates Warning. Over the years they lost the influences and by the time of their album before this, "Adagio", seemed to have come up with what seemed an often entirely different sound (one that needed at least another album to anti-bug). In a surprising turn that ultimately produced the Doom Metal album of the 21st century, the band decided to reincorporate the classic Candlemass and Sabbath influences for "Alone", but this time integrating them with the most distinctive aspects of their own, established sound.

Alone is an album that is striking from beginning to finish, but I want to briefly touch on what might be the centerpiece, opener "Scent of Death". This track, leading us past Mesopotamian Gates made of Sabbath Stones, over Charon and into the land of the wizard's own, hazardous stone tower, is carried by a sound and flow that is most indicative of the album as a whole. Mesmerizing vocals, refreshingly imaginative in their note-choices, range of delivery, and arrangements; even offering impassioned, dramatic homage to the Adhanic (one can cross-reference Robert's Middle Eastern-sounding vocal excursions with the Arabic-sounding singing behind, say, the first scene of the Exorcist). The way the vocals work with the engaging verse/pre-chorus/chorus arrangements is just addicting and perfectly a propos to the song. And yes, you get plenty of guitar, fellow players, more than a bit in the classic Uli Roth/Iommi/Blackmore mode.

As mentioned, many of the above strengths apply to a great deal of the rest of the album. There are so many great riffs, woven together so maturely that it's hard to abstract them from the songs as a whole; yet rest assured there are plenty of riffs that reverberate very strongly within the psyche, and Robert Lowe's entrancing Arabiscisms will occupy that same space as well.

I won't go into detail regarding Robert Lowe's lyrics, as they are best experienced with the music playing, but I must point out that they are understated/underblown for a reason. The degree of self-immersion these lyrics are portraying is best delineated as succinctly as possible, the music handles the details.

My impression of this album remains one of gratitude. I think Robert's lyrics, vocals, and John's music just aligned somewhere in the sphere of Black Metallic Rainbow on this CD to make a work of masterfully Epic Metal proportions; the most involving, rewarding, memorable Doom Metal album since the untouchable Nightfall, and even a notch above the often terrific music Fr. Lowe made during his tenure with Candlemass. I paid the high import price for the bonus track version of the cd, to be without that track would definitely take away from the experience, so please be sure to track it down so you don't cheat yourself.