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The Emerald Dawn - Nocturne CD (album) cover

NOCTURNE

The Emerald Dawn

 

Neo-Prog

3.60 | 32 ratings

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siLLy puPPy
4 stars THE EMERALD DAWN was formed in 2011 as a trio in St. Ives which is located in the Cornwall region of southwest England and began as a trio that consisted of Tree Stewart (keyboards, vocals), Ally Carter (guitars, tenor sax, keyboards) and Tom Jackson (drums.) While there was no bass player on their 2014 debut "Searching For The Lost Key," for their 2017 sophomore release "Visions," Jayjay Quick, became the band's official bassist but also brought along the extra talents of electric violin and cello. Quick would quickly disband after one album and for the band's latest release NOCTURNE, David Greenaway picks up the bass duties.

While generally classified as neo-prog, THE EMERALD DAWN develops a more eclectic sort of prog that not only takes cues from the bigwigs King Crimson and Pink Floyd but also adds some aspects of classic Moody Blues and even McDonald & Giles. Add to that a complex mix of classical music inspired by the great works of third stream artist Jan Garbarek, Dmitri Shostakovich, Ralph Vaughan Williams and Jean Sibelius as well as the jazz world heard especially in Tom Jackson's stellar drumming style and the occasional squawk of the sax.

NOCTURNE is a vague concept album that as the title insinuates deals with all things that come out at night but i'm not talking about barn owls and zombies, i speak more of an emotional manner and the overall gist of the album is how things appear different than what they actually are with the nighttime as the main focal point such as when your imagination plays tricks on you in the darkness of the moonlit nocturnal hours. All of this is expressed in the four lengthy tracks (the opener is just a quick thirty second narrated intro.) While the tracks the first three lengthy tracks range from eight and a half minutes to nearly eleven with the grand finale "The Child Within" clocking in close to the 21 minute mark.

For the most part NOCTURNE is an instrumental ride into the sunless hours that creep into the early morning but occasional vocals find their way into the mix offering a break from the mostly keyboard driven melodic developments that create haunting atmospheres and complex and unusual harmonic structures that depict images about this musical journey taking the listener from nightfall until the first rays of the sun usher in a whole new day. Despite the brilliant mix of free flowing rhythms, David Gilmour inspired guitar wails and classical motifs that offer interesting compositional fortitude, NOCTURNE never flaunts the complexities intertwined within and retains an easily accessible beauty that drifts by chiefly in mid-tempo but occasional bursts into heavier sections.

NOCTURNE is a major step up from the band's previous works as it incorporates more varying time signatures and musical styles that are spotlighted throughout as well as the entire band sharing the songwriting duties this time around which give the album a more democratically inspired infusion of ideas which implement unusual musical scales and even less common juxtapositions of classical, jazz and rock elements. Just like the cover art depicts, NOCTURNE is a sonic journey through the darkened woodlands where while navigating through, stimulates a fertile imagination of all the possibilities of what lurks behind ever corner as the journey progresses.

After the brief "Prologue" narrates in a regal English poetic prose, "As Darkness Falls" begins the mind trip of runaway concepts with heavy rock guitar riffs, sweltering atmospheric keyboard counterpoints and Jackson's percussive drive. Greenaway also dishes out some stellar fretless bass lines, a winning feature of NOCTURNE. "As Darkness Falls" provides an interesting building up of tension that allows "Moonlight" to scale back the intensity and evokes more of a mythological representation of the night. "In The Dead Of The Night" is the first track to contain vocals which includes both Stewart and Carter finding roles in the vocal accoutrements. The addition of a jazzy lounge beat and soulful sax squawks create a completely different sounding track than the previous two.

A significant portion of the album is decided to the near 21 minute closer "The Child Within," which is a psychological exploration of the darkened night of the inner soul and how a brief moment of realization can release the subconscious from a lifetime of fear and pent up trauma. This one features Tree Stewart on vocals and thick atmospheric density that finds bluesy guitar solos erupting from the brume. The track builds up the intensity as the tempo slowly ratchets up and Stewart's ethereal wordless vocals evoke heavier layers of synthesized ambience and guitar heft. This by far is the spookiest track on the album and one that warrants its lengthy playing time as it shape shifts into varying segments that segue effortlessly from one dark keyboard soaked passage to the next.

THE EMERALD DAWN has diversified the stylistic approach quite broadly with a brilliant mix of the aforementioned influences and musical elements. The mythological connotations of the darkened NOCTURNE nights narrated throughout sound utterly brilliant and the compositions are brilliantly unique in the neo-prog world with the infusion of various classical composers influences as well as the jazzy touches which put the band in a world of their own. NOCTURNE is a must for all lovers of keyboard fueled atmospheric prog that exists in the dark and offers stellar rock guitar, bass and drum performances with jazzy extra touches within classically structured motifs that breeze along like a zephyr at the witching hour with satisfying rock orient crescendoes.

siLLy puPPy | 4/5 |

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