Review Summary: An audio wonderland that you can't possibly pass up.
It’s the middle of the night, with a full moon looming overhead. The clouds show no intentions of blocking this otherworldly scene as the moonlight plays directly off the snow, and into the fragile ice sickles hanging off the seemingly dead trees, but there you are, in the center of it all. This is the impression ones gets from the first few seconds of “Hyperventilate,” before it kicks into its seven minutes of pure blue glory.
I never expected to get nearly as hooked on this album as I did, but lo and behold… here we are. I’d received this from a friend back in 2008, but never bothered to listen all the way through up until the middle of winter in 2009. I couldn’t believe what I’d been missing out on for an entire year. From the opening instrumental that is “Hyperventilate,” the listener gets a distinct impression that this is a band with a goal, and who knows damn well how to achieve it.
Once “Hyperventilate” dies down, the straightforward rocker “No Me No You,” timidly walks into the room. Swelling into place with clips of news shows, they begin to build and build, until John Mitchell beings the opening lines of the song with a straight eight-note pulse driving behind him. The songs spins and dives between the dark verses and the lighter, somewhat epic sounding, choruses, fading out with another winter wonderland-esque piano line.
Piano-based atmosphere stays right where it is after “No Me No You,” and rolls right into “Snowman,” which lives up to its name easily. Definitely one of the best melodies off the entire record, complimented nicely by a chromatic bass line in the left hand, and toped off by an odd-sounding patch on the keys and an acoustic guitar doubling the piano melody. Almost minimalist compared to the record, but definitely one of the most powerful as well.
Then, a complete one-eighty! The groove oriented “The Other Me” scratches itself into place with some static before introducing a lonely groove brought in by the guitar, then followed up by bit-crushed drums, and then laying back into what it’s set up with the rest of the band. “The Other Me” seems to be a bit of a pre-cursor of what’s to come on “Blacklight Machine,” but definitely holds its own as a total badass.
Up next is one of my favorite tracks (There’s only six, I know, and my favorites change on a daily basis. Today it’s this one.) off the entire record, “Blacklight Machine.” There is no warning for this song at all, but instead opens up with guitar and synth constantly octavating themselves into a swirling, massive atmosphere. The drums burst into, and the song takes off into the skies, soaring higher and higher as the verse continues, until reaching cruising altitude with a guitar and synth solo, then floating there for what seems like a blissful eternity of airy vocal lines and serene orchestral like pads. Just as the song had gotten there, it comes crashing down like an atom bomb from the heavens with an almost four minute electronica-tinged, bugged-out type of jam, led by none other than Mr. Jem Godfrey himself, only to end the last ten seconds of the song with a reminder of the previous sections.
The sixth song! It’s almost over! Well, not quite… you’ve still got twenty six minutes left of snowy happiness to go, so hold on tight. This monster (and also the title track), “Milliontown,” is possibly one of my favorite “epics” that I’ve heard in quite some time. The song is split into six different movements (One Underground, Abracadaver, The Only Survivors, Core, The Chosen Few, and Two Underground). From it’s “Hyperventilate”-type of opening, through the various middle sections, which encompass literally everything from an almost rock-ish type “Snowman,” behemoth atmospheric-type sections, and even a mellotron and mid-scooped interlude, the song ends with the same intensity that the album began with, and it’s gone just as it came.
Overall, this album is a classic. The production is flat-out fantastic (if not a little mid-scooped, but nothing major), the song writing is flawless, and the instrumentation is just beautiful. Definitely worth a listen through, or maybe quite a few listens through. Enjoy!