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Sonus Umbra

Winter Soulstice

Review by Gary Hill

The mix of sounds here is quite impressive. There is a bit of a dark, somber modern progressive element, like Tool, that permeates much of the set. Still, there is quite a range of sounds throughout. At different points I heard things like Iron Maiden, Dream Theater, Deep Purple, ELP, Tull, Yes, Queensryche, Genesis, Rush and more. Yet, it’s all woven into something that’s unique to this group. This is the kind of thing that plays better as one unit than separate songs, but it could work either way. It’s quite a compelling and satisfying journey when taken start to finish, though.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2015  Volume 2 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Last Train to Kimball

This is literally the sounds of a train with bits of music as it nears the end. There is also a voice (an announcer talking about train destinations).

Insomniac Blue
There is a bit of a Tool vibe to this in some ways, but with more mainstream traditional prog in the mix. As the arrangement fills out that mainstream prog thing is more apparent. There are some great shifts and changes on this thing. I really love some of the bass work on this thing. I am also taken with the jam later in the number that feels a bit like Dream Theater. There are also some hints of Iron Maiden in some of the progressions that show up from time to time. This song is ever shifting and changing. It’s a real powerhouse that works start to finish through all the varied changes.   
Palestinian Black
This comes right out of the previous track. It’s an instrumental that merges progressive rock, proto prog like Deep Purple and heavy metal. There is a jam later that definitely has elements of Jethro Tull in the mix. Of course, the flute drives that home, but the music touches on it beyond that. There are also hints ELP in that section. There’s a mellower section beyond with a lot of piano. I dig the organ later, as well. It definitely brings ELP back to mind.
Wounded Animal
There’s a cool opening jam here that makes me think of Rush just a bit. It’s mostly about the kind of stuttering rhythm section. Still, there are other Rush like elements. That said, it gets a bit of metal added to the equation through some fo the guitar work. I love the keyboard jamming at the intro flows, too. Eventually they bring it to a mellow segment for the vocals and the cut continues to evolve from there. After a time it powers back up and then the cut continues to shift and change. There is an acoustic guitar movement further down the road. That gets other instrumentation added to the top as it maintains its grip on the piece. As it keeps growing and changing we get some sections that make me think of Dream Theater, others that call to mind Rush a bit and lots more. At almost ten and a half minutes in length, this is an epic piece.
Let It Rain
More of a melodic progressive rock ballad type piece, flute again begs comparisons to Tull at times. The bass line really stands out here, but the whole piece is just full of charm. Although this has less change and growth than some of the rest, it definitely intensifies. I love the vocal arrangement and the jamming at the end of the track.
Silence Kills
Intricate acoustic guitar with a keyboard weaving lines over the top opens this piece. After that runs through, they take it into a movement that feels to me like a cross between ELP and Dream Theater. Eventually that gives way to the song proper, a melodic prog section that’s compelling. That builds organically until it eventually works out to a powerful instrumental section that makes me think of both Yes and Genesis.
It's Only Fear
There is a lot of magic in this piece. It lands toward the mellower end of the spectrum. It’s powerful and has some great classic progressive rock elements. The melodies are strong and ever shifting. There is a great balance between the more sedate and the more rocking sides of things. At different points I’m reminded of things as diverse as Genesis and Queensryche. The instrumental section near the end is very soaring and potent. It has some harder rocking sounds brought by some of the guitar soloing (at times I can hear Pink Floyd a bit in that regard) and yet the keyboards bring mellower prog to the table.
Bar at the End of the World
This is basically an intricate acoustic guitar solo. It’s part folk, part prog and part classical. It does have some sound effects and atmospherics as accompaniment.      
Haunted
This starts on acoustic guitar, but it doesn’t stay there. It works through all kinds of movements and changes. There are sections that make me think of different acts a bit, but it’s all a unique combination of classic and modern progressive rock. There is a great section at the end of the sound that’s just multiple layers of vocals.
Rebuke the Sea
Acoustic guitar set in a folk meets classical approach starts this song. The piece evolves into a melodic, ballad-like piece from there. This piece is one of the most dynamic here. It includes more rocking moments and sections that are quite classical in nature. There are mellow movements and rocking one. It’s one of the longer pieces at over nine minutes. That gives them a lot of room for exploration, and they use it well.
Adrift
This instrumental is based heavily on a guitar solo. It’s intricate and quite pretty. It’s also mostly mellow. I like it, but I think it tends to go on a bit long without enough change. Still, it serve as a reasonably satisfactory closing song.
 
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