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Sonus Umbra

A Sky Full of Ghosts

Review by Gary Hill

Sonus Umbra's brand of progressive rock is often hard rocking. They have wide ranging influences, though. I can make out things from Jethro Tull (kind of an obvious one because of the flute) to Rush, King Crimson and even fusion like Weather Report. It's often packed with quick changes and has some really challenging music, yet can be hook laden. This new set is a solid release. If there's one thing that doesn't work as well for me, it would be the vocals, but your mileage may vary.

This review is available in book (paperback and hardcover) form in Music Street Journal: 2021  Volume 2. More information and purchase links can be found at: garyhillauthor.com/Music-Street-Journal-2021.

Track by Track Review
Antidentity
There is a blues rock kind of vibe as this song opens and moves outward. It gets some intricate and more proggy angles added to the mix as they continue. The cut shifts to a jam that has a real Jethro Tull turned metallic kind of vibe built into it. It's fast-paced and driving and covers a lot of territory as it continues to explore. It gets mellower for the entrance of the vocals. After the vocal movement a new fast paced jam ensues that has some Rushish elements along with Tull and more in the mix. The timing is unusual. The cut shifts more toward metal as it drives onward. There is a segment later that reminds me a little of the metallic bombast of early King Crimson. It turns a bit more toward the bluesy end of the spectrum for a short outro.
Bleary-Eyed People
The mellower motif that brings this into being reminds me just a little of mid-70s Yes. The first vocals come in pretty quickly and bring a more modern approach as they do. The cut drives out after that vocal movement to a more powered up melodic prog jam. I love the synthesizer on that movement. They brings more vocals in before working through a number of changes in a powerhouse structure that covers a lot of territories, near metal, old school prog, modern and more. The vocals eventually rejoin over a faster paced movement. This cut keeps shifting and changing as it works through.
Desolation Dreams
Mellower, more intricate concepts bring this into being. It becomes a psychedelic mellow kind of number that again makes me think of early King Crimson. That mellower motif makes up a lot of the track, but it does power up in some more driving sections.
Hidden in the Light
At almost 21-minutes of music, this is the epic of the set. It starts with a rather laid back short bit that gives way to a cool guitar and bass interplay that lands on the mellower end of the spectrum. It begins building outward from there as it continues. As this grows outward you might have an idea of the sound if you merge Jethro Tull with Rush and Yes (all from the 70s). There is a killer driving, moving, hard rocking prog texture as it gets into the vocal movement. Cool blasts of instrumental work and multiple layers of vocals create both magic and chaos as the piece continues. Around the seven-minute mark it drops back to a mellower mode as instrumental section. That builds outward to some pretty freaky zones as it builds back upward a bit. There is a real space edge to it along with rather freeform weirdness. A rather jazzy piano solo section takes over for a little while. Then it gets even stranger from there. Eventually it coalesces into a dark sounding ballad-like approach to continue. Vocals come in over the top of that arrangement, and it gets augmented beyond that vocal section. The cut works into another melodic prog movement from there and the singing returns. This gets powerful as it continues to drive onward and grow. There is a rather staccato movement later that has lines of vocals that seem to come in at one another. That is a particularly powerful section, and it really makes for a great closing movement.
Losing My Insanity
Coming in with a piano based, mellower sound, this evolves and grows around that. It eventually gets into harder rocking zones with a flute soaring over an arrangement later that calls to mind Jethro Tull.         
The Last Menagerie
This comes in with an intricate, balladic approach. The cut grows upward building on that. It is more intensified and switches to keys and vocals than actually changes. This eventually powers up as we're taken into different sections. There is a killer nearly metal jam later that's driving and powerful. Eventually the instrumental section ends, dropping us into a return to more melodic moves for the next vocals.
Time Is Running Out
At almost three-minutes long, this is a short tune on this set, but would be about average on a lot of discs. This has a great dreamy, prog ballad approach. There are hints of psychedelia built into it.
The Waves Will Devour the Sea
A dramatic fast paced prog jam brings this in with a rather staccato arrangement. The cut works toward some fusion-based jamming at times. This keeps getting reinvented as it moves on. There is a short connecting section that feels like Dream Theater meets Kansas. It works out from there to some smoking hot jamming that at times seems to channel acts ranging from Jethro Tull to Weather Report. It drops to a mellower section from there, as they begin a serious of shifts and changes that again move us into jazz-like zones after a while. There is a driving, harder rocking movement that really works so well. After that we get a percussion dominated section, but they blast through fast paced jamming along that road. This gets so crazed and so cool as it keeps changing. This killer instrumental might be my favorite piece on the disc.
Apogee

This another that comes in closer to the ballad end of the spectrum. It's a melodic prog song as the vocals join. There are more powered up movements later, and the cut gets a little crazed at times. There is a spoken female voice that comes in later to bring a special kind of magic as the track (and album) are working toward the end. This is a dramatic and satisfying closer.

 
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