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Deluge Grander - Heliotians CD (album) cover

HELIOTIANS

Deluge Grander

 

Symphonic Prog

3.72 | 91 ratings

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siLLy puPPy
3 stars By the time Dan Britton got around to his third DELUGE GRANDER album HELIOTIANS, he had also been heavily involved in his other complex prog project Birds To Behemoth which allowed him the luxury to explore beyond the parameters set out on the first two albums "August In The Urals" and "The Form Of The Good." HELIOTIANS turned out to be a completely different beast in a couple of ways. Firstly, it was released only on vinyl form with the artwork of the Van Gogh-esque sun and swirling atmosphere completely hand-painted by Britton and his wife along with handwritten lyrics, therefore the experience of the album was to be just as much about the impressive packaging as it was about the music. Only 365 albums were made thus making this very much a collector's edition. Secondly, this album was recorded exclusively on an analog tape recorder without the use of computers giving it a more authentic retro sound from the eras of yore. This is also a concept album about a hollow Earth with an acrylic paint cover that is quite stunning in both simplicity and color dynamics which was designed to reflect the themes involved in the lyrical content.

The HELIOTIANS period was a fertile time for the band as they initially wrote a few more 10 to 20 minutes pieces but opted to hold back on a few that would appear on "Oceanarium" and a yet unreleased album in the future. The album was designed to be more atmospheric, more relaxing and less demanding of a listen as the previous winners of the complexity Olympics. In the process of the recording the band was joined by guitarist Cliff Phelps who replaced Dave Berggren midstream. The new lineup resulted in the album being recorded Phelps' home analog studio which also resulted in a completely different style and sound compared to Britton's other projects. In addition to the guitar, synth, bass and drum instrumentation, HELIOTIANS includes a haunting cello, various flutes and a hammered dulcimer. The album truly stands alone in the sea of complexity as HELIOTIANS truly focuses on lyric driven melodies but don't think for a second they have gone mainstream. This cranks out the complexities in full form, just not the OMG super stratosphere types.

The concept revolves around the Earth as an empty shell with a sun in the middle and other worlds existing between the surface and the core about 10-20 miles below the outer surface. Unlike most DELUGE GRANDER albums, this one isn't exclusively or mostly instrumental but rather features an alternating male / female lyrical delivery by Cliff Phelps, Dan Britton and Megan Wheatley. This not only gives the album a quite different feel but also seems to contain the meandering instrumental liberties present on previous albums although this is still very complex symphonically driven progressive rock that utilizes all the time signature deviations, dynamically diverse elements and sprawling compositions with "Ulterior" lasting over 14 minutes and "Reverse Solarity" hitting the 21 and a half minute mark. Only tiny little "Saruned" is a regular track size at barely over 5 minutes. The 40 minute album hosts but a mere 3 tracks.

The pace of HELIOTIANS is fairly tame compared to either earlier DELUGE GRANDER albums or any Birds And Buildings albums. While the quirkiness and charm of Brittons piano based melodies are in full display, they are somewhat tamed and normalized with the addition of a storyline being narrated in sung form. This is a warm and organic sounding album as the sound production resonates with the subject matter of an Earthly connection albeit a fictional subterranean complex of cities beneath the surface. HELIOTIANS does indeed achieve its goal of providing a more relaxing listening experience as opposed to the jittery and angular albums that preceded, however i personally find the vocals to be the weak link on this one as they are fairly monotonous in tone. While Megan Wheatley dishes out some divine femininity with her diva contributions, Cliff Phelps on the other hand sounds a little robotic as he plods through the storyline and when all is said and done, it is the vocal contributions on this album that prevent me from enjoying it as much as the instrumental albums.

This is mostly because the dynamics of the music demand a more dynamic range of vocal expressions and something just feels amiss. Musically speaking, this is quite the enjoyable musical drifting through the Inner Earth, but for some reason i just can't achieve the overall pleasure factor. For those who prefer a lighter and fluffier version of DELUGE GRANDER this one is for you but if you're in it for the over-the-top complexities that Dan Britton explores on his musical project then this one won't quite scratch that itch, however the packaging is off the charts impressive. This is another great installment in the DELUGE GRANDER canon even if it's on the bottom of my personal list.

siLLy puPPy | 3/5 |

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