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Mostly Autumn – Graveyard Star Award winner

Mostly Autumn
Graveyard Star
by Dave "That Metal Guy" Campbell at 31 August 2021, 3:46 PM

In reference to the new album, the band has this statement for release: “The album is a deep, heartfelt reflection of how we were feeling through 2020/2021, a documentation of living through the pandemic.  Although a lot of the sadness and otherworldliness was personal to us, I’m sure many will relate to the content. There was simply no other inspiration present, only to write and put into music life as we felt it.  We truly believe that the song-to-song strength of this work could be our finest to date, it has been 18 months in the making and the longest studio schedule we have ever experienced.” It contains twelve tracks.

“Back in These Arms” opens the album. It opens slowly and starts to build. Two minutes in, and the sound is realized. A big, punchy lead take over the melody, and the harmonized vocals and recorder are a nice touch. I can’t quite make out who they sound like, but this is honest, feel-good music. “Free to Fly” is a shorter song that features ethereal female vocals and piano, with downtrodden tones at first, that turn to more hopeful ones, encouraging the subject to be “free to fly.” The French horn notes are quite charming, and for just a few minutes, all of you cares fade away.

The title track is a 12-minute beast. It begins with some spacey keyboards, hovering slowly. Male and female vocals trade off at first, with light drumming keeping the dark pace. Have you been swept into a dream that you cannot awake from? The dark sound drops after the half way mark, replaced by less tense tones. A guitar solo that speaks to the hurt in the band’s soul proves that you don’t need to play 100 notes a second to get the point across…it’s just beautiful, sultry, and poignant. Just after the ten-minute mark, the sound picks up and races towards the end. “Razor Blade” opens with slow, moving vocals and just some light instrumentation. The vocals are very expressive. At the half-way mark, they let a little more in, and male vocals take over. The guitar solo sound like something that David Gilmore would compose.

“Shadows” is more straightforward tune, with a more accessible sound. Again, the guitar solo is fantastic…right along with the melody line. The easy listening sound might be something that you could hear on the radio even. “Skin of Mankind” begins with a distinct Western feeling to it, almost as if you stepped into a saloon at the turn of the century. The female vocals are easy on the ears, while the percussion keeps a soft beat going. A recorder joins in, giving the track a jovial feeling. “Spirit of Mankind,” by contrast, has a heavier feeling to it, with weighted accents among the subdued vocals at first. She then opens up and puts in an emotional performance that highlights her impeccable vocal control.

“The Diamond” begins with acoustic guitars and female vocals. It’s another easy listening tune that just makes you feel good. After the half-way mark, the song blossoms into harmonized vocals and some emotive sounds that give you chills. “The Harder that you Hurt” is perhaps an appeal to love lost or the like. With the sound fully developed by the half-way mark, it punches you in the stomach and you can feel the ache for days. The closing guitar solo throws a few more blows before departing. “The Plague Bell” is a short, two-minute instrumental consisting of some darkened tones and even male vocals that are barely audible.

“This Endless War” is perhaps the culminating song on the darker side of the album…that feeling that you can’t shake…I’ve been there throughout the pandemic so I can relate. Each day feels like the one before, and the one after, with no end in sight. Even worse, when there was some glimmer of hope, it was dashed by rising numbers once again, from people who refused to wear masks and gathered in crowds. I hate to make the review political, but is mankind too stupid for its own good? Darwinism wins again? The music here is very powerful, portraying this sentiment perfectly for me…big, emotional moments that take you back to dark days.

“Turn Around Slowly” closes the album. It begins with charming piano tones, and a ray of hope? The tone is tenuous and guarded, but also confident. It builds to a crescendo and then drops at the half-way point, and re-groups with an angrier and bold, courageous sound carrying forward. It culminates with a guitar solo, and full on presentation of instrumentation, along with some really beautiful closing vocal notes that are controlled, directed, and fearless in their delivery. What a powerful way to end this lengthy but smile-on-your-face pleasing sound on the album.

No matter what diverse songs are presented on the album, one thing that remains constant, is quality songwriting. The album is quite ambitious, but the demands were met well, with a group of musicians who are obviously very skilled at their trade. Some tracks are dark and mysterious, as the band works through more challenging emotions due to the pandemic, while others are bright spots of humanity pushing through elongated days that never seemed to end…a testament to the resilience of the human spirit. Unafraid to take on the various political and civic issues around the pandemic, this album is both a journey, and a destination, with an emphatic ending that wraps up the tale nice and tight.

Songwriting: 9
Musicianship: 9
Memorability: 9
Production: 9

4 Star Rating

Tracklist:
1. Back in These Arms
2. Free to Fly
3. Graveyard Star
4. Razor Blade
5. Shadows
6. Skin of Mankind
7. Spirit of Mankind
8. The Diamond
9. The Harder that you Hurt
10. The Plague Bell
11. This Endless War
12. Turn around Slowly
Lineup:
Olivia Sparnenn-Josh
Bryan Josh
Henry Rogers
Andy Smith
Angela Gordon
Chris Johsnon
Iain Jennings
Record Label: Mostly Autumn Records
     


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