Review Summary: Steve Von Till may find a solo competitor in Scott Kelly yet.
When matched up to his counterpart Steve Von Till in Neurosis, Scott Kelly holds his own and the two create a powerful duo in the band, but when compared on each man’s stand alone solo folk projects, Von Till has always outshined Kelly in every aspect. This isn’t to say Kelly’s output is bad, not at all. While Kelly’s solo albums have been great for what they were, they just dull in comparison to Von Till’s, which seem to have a much more stylistic finesse, uniqueness and offer more in terms of atmosphere, with many uses of ambiance and various instrumentation to his advantage. Kelly’s previous albums were much more morbid and dense and had a distinct ‘one man and his guitar’ kind of feeling, whilst Von Till’s seem much grander in scale, albeit still quite sullen and dreary. With The Forgiven Ghost In Me
, Kelly has returned with his backing band, ‘The Road Home,’ thus bringing in a dash of the Von Till Factor
that Kelly lacked on previous releases. With the backing band here to add more depth to the music, Steve Von Till may find a solo competitor in Scott Kelly yet.
What Scott Kelly and the Road Home bring to the table here is an album that flat out defies expectations, completely overshadowing Kelly’s Spirit Bound Flesh
and The Wake
. The reason, as stated before, is The Road Home. Scott Kelly’s little backing band here is extremely subtle, on some songs even barely noticeable, but it makes all the difference. What Scott Kelly and the Road Home brings here is an eerie demonstration of dense, bleak and tortured folk with a brooding atmosphere that encroaches upon the listener. This isn’t meant in a negative way, but the album carries the same uncomfortable heaviness found on many Neurosis albums. The Forgiven Ghost In Me
is a great example of the power of simplicity in motion. Kelly’s former albums being incredibly simplistic in their execution, The Forgiven Ghost In Me
is more intricate in its executions, but the additions of such intricacies are where the brilliance of simplicity shine. While not being simple in conception like the others, The Forgiven Ghost In Me
is simple with incredibly sneaky builds, ambiance and strange nuances explored.
It can be as simple as a single string being plucked in slow succession behind the crooning of Kelly and his acoustic guitar, the electric vibe sinking in one desolate time to ring a touch of body to the music. Or it can be as simple as a steady, droning tone played quietly over the music so as it can barely be noticed, but is felt in the completeness of it all. Quiet drums, distant, piercing guitar melodies, hushed harmonica, it all adds to the incredible ambiance and ultimately is what makes this album as delicately brilliant as it is. Despite all this, the album made me weary on my very first listen, as the first track ‘A Spirit Redeemed To The Sun,’ is a deceiving opener for the album. From its more traditional folk structure and execution, Kelly’s withered vocals croaking over a straightforward strummed riff, a country-style acoustic plucking with a light ambient humming behind it all. Ultimately, what separates it from the remainder of the album is its particular ‘upbeat’ (for lack of a better word) feel and almost predictably cliché lyrics (I love you like a flower loves the sun/and I need you like the earth needs the rain/together we will walk on/straight through the fire/and fuel our hearts with the flame).
Through it all, Scott Kelly has truly created the magnum opus of his solo career so far. Upping his game with a memorable vocal performance and a much more enjoyable creative direction, he has shown that not only can he compete with the quality of Von Till’s albums, but that he can match the intensity of both his and Neurosis’ artistic endeavors. We can only anticipate what he will put out next, and we can only hope that he will continue down the path of greatness set in stone with The Forgiven Ghost In Me
, and his Road Home.