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Napier's Bones - Hell and High Water CD (album) cover


Napier's Bones


Crossover Prog

3.27 | 17 ratings

From, the ultimate progressive rock music website

4 stars Introduction

I was very pleased about Napier's bone's 2015 release ?Tregeagle's choice" so I pulled the trigger and purchased ?Hell and high water" via band camp here: It is the third album of the british Progressive Rock band, which consists of the singer Nathan Tillett and Multi-instrumentalist and mastermind Gordon Midgley, who is responsible for all instruments, lyrics and the production. The duo could convince me with a thrilling mixture of 70s Prog in the tradition of King Crimson and YES combined with a dramatic story.


?Hell and high water" is another concept-album. It tells the story of a ballad-monger in the tradition of ?Tannhäuser" maybe. The first three songs are located in the presence, when the narrator, it seems to be a scientist, is affected by strange feelings in an old church. Machines and other scientific methods can not uncover the secret of this place. The topic is science against supernatural phenomenons. With the beginning of ?Mallerstang morning" Gordon Midgley and Nathan Tillett abduct us from the presence to the past and their time-machine is landing in a typical english Pub, where the ballad-monger is asking for a bed in exchange of singing some songs for the guests. But the mighty landlord refuses and the poor main character has to leave the town, wandering away alone into through the dark. At last he finds some friendly farmers, which appreciate his tales and songs, but he is still in anger about the rich town and curses it to fall. A heavy rain is falling and the selfish landlord and his staff drown. At last the balladeer feels free again after his revenge and talks about himself as a seer and healer, a man with supernatural powers. I call the story a gothic tale in the romantic tradition of Poe, E.T.A. Hoffmann and maybe Anne Radcliffe. I want to accent, that this kind of story is not the usual lyrical topic of Prog Rock and adds a refreshing element to the genre. The lyrics are whether esoteric nor philosophical as many others in the Prog Rock genre. Napier's bones is telling dark dramatic stories, sometimes close to Theater and Audio-drama.

The songs

An air of mystery: The album starts with majestic chords and a classic Moog-sound and dissolves soon into a mid-tempo rocker. The chorus is very catchy and the long ?Oh" of the choir illustrates the long way to go for the main character. At 3:30 a breakdown with YES-like volume-swells creates new excitement. The song ends with the repetition of the chorus. The tone of the guitar reminds me on Robert Fripp, though not often leaving the usual Pentatonic and Blues-area. All in all the beginning and the catchy chorus stand out. A decent opener while in my opinion not a highlight of the album.

Broadcasting live: In the beginning a nicely created terrific atmosphere, painting a strong picture of the haunting church. The newly introduced piano and harpsichord create a historic mood, pointing to a dark past. Nathan Tillett is able to create an immense suspense in this track. The choir becomes another fresh arrangement-detail compared to the first track. My favorite moment is, when Mr.Tillett creates an impressive climax up to 7:10 and the final words ?The squire's return". More original, more dramatic than track one. Now I am caught by this record.

No return: The syncopated guitar-riffs at the start will appeal to Rock-fans. Soon the Mellotron take over and we are back in Prog-territory. The part starting at 2:10 is amazing, colorful chords paired with a high Synthesizer- (or guitar?) melody, one of the best moments of the album. The break at 4:23 prepares the appearance of the singer. At 6:30 another magic moment, when the long tone of Mr.Tillett melts with the following Choir and Keyboard. The song cites again the motif of the long way and ends with another catchy chorus and a gilmourish guitar-solo. This is the strongest track so far with many magic moments for the Prog-lover. The Napiers manage it to keep the attention with diversity and surprising shifts.

Mallerstang morning: Now we are suddenly on a blooming meadow. Strummed Folk-guitars and an optimistic tone and melody from Mr.Tillett put a smile on every listener's face. The higher Tempo supports the change of mood effectively. After a breakdown at 3:15 we are entering YES-territory with a Bass-solo, Mellotron-flutes, then coming back to the positive Folk-beginning. The singer sounds enthusiastic. The end is a bit abrupt, but so far this is my second favorite of the album.

No room at the Inn: Well now we have a track here, which showcases another talent of Napier's bones. They can write little audio-dramas with pseudo field-recordings, different roles and a highly dramatic action-laden plot. Pink Floyd have often integrated some ?musique concrete" in their works (like at the beginning of ?Time") and developed different characters and roles (like in ?The Wall"), but Napier's bones topics are different: The gothic tale with supernatural elements becomes their trademark. Special applause to Nathan Tillett, who sounds really desperated here and fills his role with life and expression. The breakdown at 3:49 reminds again on YES with the guitar-riffs set against the long Mellotron-chords. A conciliatory choir of friendly farmers changes the atmosphere again towards a happy end. The balladeer is finally accepted by the society, but before you think on a happy end wait for the next track ? This song could easily be interpreted as a general statement against racism and prejudices.

Rain down: The song marks a heavy turn of the album's mood, introduced impressively in the beginning with its atonal roughness, one of the most surprising and striking instrumental parts of this album. Here the King Crimson influence is shining through. I admire the precise interaction of guitar and drums accompanied by the Mellotron. The change from the happy end of ?No room at the Inn" to the evil and dark atmosphere of ?Rain down" is disturbing. Maybe a very good author of theater-dramas could create something like this, an emotional roller coaster ride.

A wake in Yorkdale: The beginning with its 12-string guitar could be played by Steve Howe. The call and response principle of the chorus sets a nice contrast between Nathan Tillett and the choir. Napier's rollercoaster stops at a very positive and beautiful mood. The balladeer is free and happy to continue his voyage. The song (and the album) ends with the balladeer's whistling veering away from the listener.

Conclusion The good: Napier's bones third album continue the successful trademarks of its predecessors. Take ingredients of classic 70s Prog, particularly of King Crimson and YES, stir this with an atypical Prog-singer with a rocking edge and an amazing talent for dramatic climax, shake it with a gothic story in the tradition of Poe and E.T.A Hoffmann, add at last a splash of audio-drama and clever arranged instrumental parts and you get an album, which will attract all, which still think, that Progressive Rock is not Progressive Metal. The singer is awesome and all instruments are played and arranged with an eclectic taste and much diversity.

The bad: The best tracks are not at the beginning, wait for track three before you skip. I don't know, how Napier's bones create their drums, but whatever they use, a programmed drum-track or a live-drummer, I can hear the effort to create drums, which go along with the music and the complicated guitar-riffs and structures. So sometimes I wished to hear the drums better, especially the snare and the kick, and I am sure it's worth to hear them a bit more upfront.

The ugly: Nothing ugly here (except the landlord of course ?)

I will not forget the time I spend with this album ?

heartscore | 4/5 |


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