While this is clearly an album that’s not for every taste (of course, what work really is?), this is an amazing piece of music. It’s powerful and captivating. It never seems confined to any one or two genres. Even the choice of instrumentation and arrangement is varied throughout. It’s likely this made some “best of 2012” lists. It’s that good.
One might consider this music new age, but it’s much too dynamic and stirring for that label to fit. “Classical” might be another label tagged to this, but again, it’s only so accurate. Sure, there are classical progressions here. Much of the instrumentation is symphonic. But there are moments that seem closer to rock. At other times it wanders towards world music or jazz. While it wouldn’t be out of the question to imagine parts of this in the soundtrack to a film, this is music that stands on its own – and really deserves to do so. At times it even feels rather gothic. It has peaks and valleys, both in terms of volume and emotion. It’s a diverse ride that feels like a wonderful adventure to be undertaken and enjoyed.
This is also the kind of album that seems to reveal different things with each repeated visit. At one point in time certain sections seem to stand out. At other times, one will be drawn to different moments. It never seems to lag or become tired, though. It also never feels repetitive. Perhaps the hardest part of evaluating this set is picking a highlight. It’s all so strong that it makes it difficult.
The opening piece, “Black Friday “pounds in, almost like a European epic metal cut. Still, the emphasis is more on bombastic symphonic sound, but there is almost a heavy metal texture to it (but with only symphonic instrumentation). The melodies that come over the top often show off world music sounds. It’s quite a dramatic piece and one of a handful to feature some non-lyrical vocals. Suitably “Mourning” is mellower and slow. It’s more pure classical in nature, but that’s only so accurate. Piano plays a prominent role in the composition.
The title track has an insistent force to it and a sound that combines classical music with progressive rock. The cut is another with some of those non-lyrical vocals and there’s almost an operatic quality to it at times. It does drop down to some particularly mellow music, too. “Story of My Life” starts with some particularly symphonic music, but eventually works out to something that’s like a cross between progressive rock, Boston Pops and more traditional classical music. There are chorale vocals in the mix and some of it gets especially dramatic and theatrical later. World music and gentle classical sounds merge on “Glimpse of Happiness,” a track that feels almost like a child-like fantasy in some ways. “Solitude” is suitably gentle and sedate.
Some of the melodies of “Harald’s Dream” seem to feel a bit like “Fiddler on the Roof.” Overall, the piece is very much in a musical theater kind of territory. “Fantasy for Piano and Orchestra” is quite beautiful and more pure classical in nature. Of course, the title should tell one that it would be more classical. “Reverie” feels a bit like Beethoven’s piano compositions. In fact, it sounds at times rather like “Moonlight Sonata.” It does work out beyond that, though, seeming more modern, but remains a piano solo. “A Dream within a Dream” has more of that Beethoven element in a lot of the piano passages, but there is a definite symphonic air to the piece. It is powerful and dramatic and very soaring in a lot of ways. The later sections get quite theatrical as it builds outward. “Sahara” has some Middle Eastern styled vocals early on and the musical concept features a lot of that influence. It is quite classical in nature, but there is a lot more going on than that. It’s dramatic and theatric and quite stirring.
While this disc is hard to pin down, it’s also brilliant. It would not be out of the question to call it a masterpiece. It’s that good. Frankly, one needs to be a fan of instrumental music to enjoy this album, but it really does capture the listener and make it hard to ignore the music. This is an exceptional set.
Review by G. W. Hill
Rating: 5 stars (out of 5)