Review Summary: If I had the Moxie, I'd give this a 5.
Okay, so it should be said that not everyone will enjoy listening to this album as I have, and I understand that. Synth-Core has repeatedly been hit with rebukes of being a lost cause by many, and the musical production and sound is by no means perfect. But minor flaws aside, what we have here is a marvel of fantastic musicianship and lyrical prowess that, despite anyone's musical preference, is objectively captivating and holds a story that is wonderfully told.
A bit of interesting trivia about "They Said a Storm Was Coming" is that the entire thing was written by the band's vocalist, Aaron Pauley, after a series of reoccurring dreams he had revolving around this premise. The idea behind "They Said A Storm Was Coming" is to create a narrative revolving around a fictional tale of a 19th century voyager/mapmaker who becomes stranded at sea, and faces many challenges in his endeavors to escape. These lines from the opening track "Seasons" are an accurate summary of the story you can expect:
The struggles of a burdened man
Who clung to violence and transgressed
Against the few who stayed
The few that remained
The few he didn't abandon
Or push away as he left his home
In search of fool’s gold.
He went west but longed for the east
And he waged wars but he longed for the peace
that never made its way to ease his troubled heart.
The main feature of this album that makes it stand out as a gem compared to it's competitors is this idea. It's a brilliantly spun yarn that delves into concepts that are extremely intriguing. The tale itself is told as a metaphor, it makes statements about our modern lives that, while not everyone will agree with, are excellent points of debate. Man's destruction and downfall by his own greed and ambition, restoration of faith after straying away in deviance, betrayal of a loved one, and search for the path of redemption are all common themes displayed here, and they are all displayed with the utmost ingenuity.
It is all told loosely, but not poorly, as many of it's themes are open to interpretation while making coherent points. Each song can stand on it's own as having it's own individual meaning, while also being a chapter in the novel that is this album. The construct of this fable is what makes the album unique and amazing. Even if you don't enjoy this genre of music, I'd recommend looking up the lyrics and piecing together the story for yourself, it is that excellent.
The music itself, while not wildly innovative, is superbly executed in production and presentation. The main function of the album's sound is to paint a vivid and whimsical image of the story told and it does that in some of the best ways possible. The guitar work is some of the best in this genre period. Small solos are dropped in everywhere and they fit perfectly where they belong, and best of all the guitars themselves are thoroughly explored in every song. The band's Guitarist, Matt Scarpelli, really outdid himself in these regards. Drumming is done very well and adds tension and atomosphere to many songs, such as "The Prodigal" where the drumming gives the song an excellent ambiance, which adds to it's symbolic use of water as a constant theme.
The album's vocals are fantastic, harmonious and beautiful. While you can hear the frequent use of reverb, and other background effects, they really just end up adding to the experience. And because Aaron's vocals are already great on their own, it is in no way detrimental to the band's overall quality. The one major criticism I have about the sound are the needless synth openings, namely in the songs: "They Said A Storm Was Coming," "Antithesis," and "The Lighthouse." They feel tacked on and starkly contrast the remainder of each song. Other than that, the synth itself, much like all of the other instruments, adds to the overall atmosphere.
"They Said A Storm Was Coming" is an amazing experience that displays what a group of truly talented minds can bring to the music industry. You can do yourself no disservice by at least exploring this albums narrative. On a side note: Unfortunately 2/5's of the band that created this album (Including Aaron) have left since this release, but the band still continues with their new lineup and potential release of their upcoming album "Rebel Revive." And I hope that release can continue this bands quality of excellence.
P.S. If I picked a favorite track and could recommend a staring point it'd probably be "The Mapmaker", and if you're left wanting more afterward I'd check out The EP "Re-Imagined" and their two singles "Like Sparks We Shine" and "Anchor."