Review Summary: Putting the ‘progress’ back into progressive rock.
Progressive rock has forever been a genre that has pushed for deeper, more intelligent song-writing that challenged the boundaries of standard rock via experimentation. It offered musicians the ability to craft music that involved a longer thought process and complex compositions and that still retained the biting edge of rock music. 2014’s experience with Storm Daughter
has been one that will not be easily forgotten, for the music contained within the aptly titled Archaic
is some of the finest of the year and fulfils the expectations of its genre magnificently.
is a conglomeration of various electronic influenced instrumentation, crafted along a rigid backbone secured in the roots of hard rock. The result is a matured guitar-derived rock sound, dripping in symphonic influences and electronic effects. While this may seem a tad chaotic, and indeed an ephemeral listening experience may lead to such a conclusion, it is upon further inspection that the various components coalesce into a true display of musical prowess. This is an album that will take time to truly appreciate; time for the myriad detailed aspects to reveal themselves to you, the listener, hidden away as they sometimes are by their louder and more abrasive companions. Something that is immediately apparent when dealing with an album such as this is the intricate and meticulous layering of little details here and there, some that may even be neglected by casual listeners, which build upon the framework and create a rewarding listening experience.
Even more amazing in regards to the work-load that is attached to such an undertaking, is the knowledge that this band is largely the solo project of artist Johnny King, with guest appearances by bassist Chris Bevan. Chris’ presence is felt immediately on the second track ‘The First Coruscation’, where his strong bass work is instantly detectable, once the soft lead in ramps up, as a major difference from the introductory track ‘Dark Ages’. The bass is quite high in the mix, even amidst the soaring electronic orchestras and synths, and serves as one of the albums strongest points. Throughout the albums entirety, however, these bass-heavy moments are insufficient to sate the desire for more.
The first taste a listener gets of Archaic
comes in the form of the thundering ‘Dark Ages’ which leads with a crunchy guitar-driven attack that embodies the implications of its title. The ever-present guitar work is coupled with some more subdued electronic effects which perfectly complement one another. Approximately half way through the tracks runtime, it seems to end, and an entirely different synth-and-electronics fed track begins. The juxtaposition is brilliant and mixes the track up, ending in some impressive riffing which fades out and leads into the subsequent track. A collection of tracks throughout the album follow a similar pattern, dropping off a little after they’ve reached their climax and becoming a completely different beast that eventually resolves itself and reflects its younger form. It’s one of the greatest techniques utilised on this album and generates interest once an idea is close to approaching banality.
Honestly, the amount of thought that has been dedicated to each track is impressive in and of itself, and it shows in the music. It’s simultaneously dense and comfortable, but never cluttered or overdone. Everywhere there is something interesting going on, whether it’s the soft piano-effect on ‘Jane Austen’, which leads into equally subdued synthetic orchestration, or the melodic, jazz-influences felt on ‘Oh My, Miranda, Look At Their Knives…’, and this continual mindset of intrigue that stalks you like a stubborn old cat throughout the album ensures it simply never gets boring.
is doubly interesting when it becomes apparent that it is also a concept album, structures around the cycle of civilisations. The album travels through the chronology of an age, beginning with the demise of the preceding civilisation and ending with the fall of the current one. It’s an intriguing basis for an album and ties in neatly with the title, with the dual meaning of the ‘Arch’ in Archaic representing the polynomial curvature of such a rise and fall in the civilisation over time. Indeed, the concept just adds to the entire experience and ties the tracks together effectively.
The album is not perfect, despite everything that it has going for it. The production is not as clean and crisp as would potentially befit the music, and can occasionally limit the album, especially in regards to the electronic drumming prevalent on a few choice numbers. Make no mistake, the production doesn’t hinder the listening experience in any way, it just seems to hold back what could potentially be something above and beyond fantastic, and instead settles for just being great. Apart from the small gripe of underused bass guitar talent, the only other problem of significance is that from time to time the album can tend to be a little suffocated under its own weight. There are so many brilliant ideas and executions of said ideas running around that it becomes difficult to distinguish between them. This is merely a matter of personal taste, and may appeal to the majority, but with so many attractions, they tend to lose that special quality that solitary greatness seems to possess. The absence of any vocal input can make track identification a little difficult too, unless you become very familiar with the names and qualities of each song. This is only really a problem when you want to hear a certain part again, but can’t even begin to guess where it appears on the album.
is a remarkable achievement, especially for a solitary undertaking. Not only does the album epitomise progressive rock, it has galvanised the progress of the genre itself.