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Iona - The Book of Kells  CD (album) cover

THE BOOK OF KELLS

Iona

 

Prog Folk

3.73 | 55 ratings

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Mellotron Storm
Prog Reviewer
4 stars While their self titled debut album focused more on the Island of Iona and it's history, this release draws our attention to the "Book of Kells". As the band notes "The "Book of Kells" is an illuminated manuscript of the four gospels, written in Latin and dating back to the 8th century. It was created by the monks probably at the monastaries of Iona, off the west coast of Scotland, and Kells in County Meath, Ireland. Seen by many as the pinnacle of Celtic art, it stands as a testament to the faith and devotion to God of those who spent more than thirty years working on it. It's 680 hand written pages are beautifully illustrated with the most intricate detail...Natural sounds, such as those of the sea, wind and rain are used on the album as they are the sounds that would have been heard by the monks who began the book on the island of Iona....The actual "Book of Kells" is housed at Trinity College Library, Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland."

The band plays less of the traditional Celtic instruments than they did on the debut. I was surprised that this record is even more atmospheric than their debut,which really makes the vocal led songs sound even more dramatic when they arrive. I was actually reminded of "The Sky Moves Sideways" at times because of all the synth waves on this record, but that is where the similarities end. Sax, flute and guitar are the main supplements to the synth washes.

"Kells Opening Theme" is one of the best songs on the record. What a way to start ! It opens with waves of synths as the haunting and beautiful vocals of Joanne proudly appear. Some sparse Celtic instruments only add to the atmosphere. "Revelation" is a straight forward tune really with great vocals and guitar.The sax towards the end is a highlight. "Matthew-The Man" opens with a nice contrast between the tribal-like drums and the synth washes, that contrast continues until we get some acoustic sounds followed by synths.There is an explosion of sound before 8 minutes in as vocals come back and the tempo speeds up.This song is a ride ! Dave Bainbridge wrote " For me, this is one of the key pieces of the whole album as it combines all the elements that I believe are at the heart of the music of IONA.There are powerful rhythmic sections, atmospheric passages, the use of traditional acoustic instruments in conjunction with electronically created sounds, tightly arranged and also improvised sections and of course Joanne's haunting vocal and incredibly evocative lyrics." "Chi- Rho" is musically a triumph, with the beautiful acoustic guitar melodies and her perfect vocals. Drums come in 1 1/2 minutes and some fantastic sax follows. Amazing song about Jesus Christ and his sacrifice, while the chorus is inspired from Colossians 1:13- 23. "Mark-The Lion" has a strong drum rhythm from two drummers for a thunderous effect, while Bainbridge doubled his improvised guitar solo in the studio. "The River Flows" was inspired by the book of Revelation that describes a river running through the Holy city. This one has some uilleann pipes on it (the song not the city silly).

"Luke- The Calf" is surrounded by the sounds of the sea, as a beautiful flute melody is played. Nice. "Virgin And Child" is very atmospheric with a Celtic harp playing. Gorgeous. "Temptation" opens with a spacey soundscape before drums take over, then finishing with a souna which is a Chinese instrument. "The Arrest-Gethsemane" is Eastern sounding with sax and synths. "Trinity-Godhead" is a floating song with lots of atmosphere. Sax melodies after 3 minutes and it ends with the sound of rain and thunder. "John-The Eagle" features sax and synths, with a floating keyboard melody. "Kells" may be my favourite song. After so much atmosphere when the vocals come in they are so uplifting ! They sound fantastic ! I'll let the band describe the final track "Eternity-No Beginning,No End" "The end of the track was inspired by a passage from the Book of Revelation in the Bible:...Revelation 5:9-14. The aim was that the end of the track should sound like a glimpse into this scene,almost peering into the heavenly realm !...The sea of voices on the album was the response that came as David Fitzgerald and Dave Bainbridge came to the end of their performance of the piece and as people spontaneously began to worship God through the Spirit-a very emotional, humbling and joyous experience." Robert Fripp would play on their next studio release "Beyond These Shores", as well as on the live "Woven Cord".

As for this one ? 4.5 stars. Breathtaking !

Mellotron Storm | 4/5 |

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