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Sunhillow - Eloise Borealis CD (album) cover




Crossover Prog

3.83 | 5 ratings

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4 stars In the spring of 2016 I saw the debut gig of SUNHILLOW in Helsinki. It was one of those warm-spirited domestic prog gigs I remember with fondness. The debut album of this Finnish group replacing PAX ROMANA (three Sunhillow members out of five played in that preceding band) was also to be expected to come out sooner or later. Well, it turned out to be later indeed, but as they say, better late than never! Those familiar with Pax Romana will easily recognize the relation from the melodic, slightly PINK FLOYD flavoured music, and of course from Matti Kervinen's vocals. His warm voice is perhaps comparable to Mark Knopfler's, but more capable of carrying emotions. As I know that the band name surely makes you think of Jon Anderson's album Olias of Sunhillow, maybe I should underline that the reference is not to be taken very literally, as a hint for the music's style. (Anyway, at least Kervinen is a big Yes fan and therefore undoubtedly fond of Jon's album as well.) This is melodic and easily accessible Crossover Prog. The atmosphere is way more important than complexity.

The brief, ambientish instrumental 'Intro' is followed by the title track that closely follows the song style of Pax Romana, but also contains the special feature to make Sunhillow distinctive from its precedessor, ie. the violin of Elisa Heikkinen. It's a crucial part of Sunhillow's mellow sound. More than bringing a rustic folk flavour or reminding of violin-heavy prog bands such as Kansas and Curved Air, the violin most of all makes me remember how I was impressed by Ben Mink's electric violin solo in the Rush song 'Losing It' (on Signals album) in my early teens. Ever since that I've been fond of violin in a prog context, and on this album the instrument really sounds lovely. 'No New Words' begins very calmly with tender violin melodies in the centre, and puts on a faster gear in the midway. The finale after the delicious instrumental movement gets very cathartic (with Elisa's voice in the choir), reminding me of the deep pop era WIGWAM at its best. The pop and folk nuances are most notable on 'Beyond the Dreams' which grows beyond its slightly mediocre first impression as a song.

'Out There' is a serene, beautiful song reminiscent of DAVID GILMOUR's On an Island album, and it's the other track in which Elisa's backing vocals are best heard. It would have been interesting to hear how she would have sounded as a lead vocalist. Among highlights is definitely 'For a Moment', the longest track at 8:38. The final track is a moody instrumental full of ambience. Throughout the shortish (37-minute) album the vocal oriented, more or less pop-sensible approach intertwines harmonically with instrumentalism. If you like mellow, accessible prog with some folkish elements and an introspective ambience, Sunhillow is warmly recommended.

Matti | 4/5 |


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