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Agents Of Mercy - The Fading Ghosts of Twilight CD (album) cover

THE FADING GHOSTS OF TWILIGHT

Agents Of Mercy

 

Neo-Prog

3.11 | 86 ratings

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Anthony H.
Prog Reviewer
3 stars Agents of Mercy: The Fading Ghosts of Twilight [2009]

Rating: 6/10

The Fading Ghosts of Twilight is the debut album from Agents of Mercy. This group has since become a full band, but at the time of this release, they were merely a side project formed between Roine Stolt and vocalist Nad Sylvan. Roine came across Unifaun's debut album and decided to involve Nad in this band, which was originally intended to be a low-key/acoustic project. While not quite acoustic, this album is indeed a far cry from the bombastic symphonic grandiosity that Roine is known for. This is a subtle and relatively simple prog album that is mostly centered on Nad's vocals. Nad has a wonderful voice; he's strongly influenced by Peter Gabriel and Fish, but his singing remains unique and original. However, I find that his vocals dominate this album a bit too much. The main problem with The Fading Ghosts of Twilight is a lack of balance. Some of the tracks blend together, and the album's long length doesn't help this. I enjoy how long Flower Kings albums are, because the length fits the music. However, the style presented here doesn't work as well in an extended format. Regardless, there are some gorgeous moments here. These moments are so excellent, in fact, that it pains me to give this less than a four-star rating.

The splendid title track begins with a rather dark piano/vocal duet. It transitions between brooding and bombastic dynamics; these two tones work quite well together. The subtle and symphonic "The Unwanted Brother" features a great chorus from Nad. However, I wish that the instrumentality would have been slightly expanded here. "Afternoon Skies" is a largely acoustic track with another great chorus. The album's scaled-back approach works quite well on tracks like this. "Heroes and Beacons" features a hearty helping of emotive vocals from Nad, and the main riff/motif is excellent; it's a solid track throughout. "Jesus on the Barricades" is one of my favorites on the album. It's a quiet and subtle piece with wonderfully intimate vocals and a short emotional guitar solo. Roine performs most of the vocals on "Wait for the Sun." The chorus here doesn't do quite as much for me as the others. It's not a bad track, but it's one of the weaker points on the album. "A Different Sun" is probably the most bombastic track here. Roine plays some lovely guitar, and complex polyrhythms accompany Nad's lovely singing. "Ready to Fly" is a good but generally underwhelming track; the chorus is somewhat uninspired. "People Like Us" is my personal favorite. Roine performs most of the vocals here. The eleven-minute "A Soldier's Tale" is the epic of the album. There are some standout moments here, but it feels overlong, especially considering the style Roine and Nad are aiming for. It remains a solid track, though. "Bomb Inside Her Heart" has an 60s-pop feel. Yet again, this is a good track, but it's not particularly great. "Mercy & Mercury" is an extended reprise of the title track. This would have been a superfluous track, but the superb guitar work saves it.

This really is a solid album, and as I said before, it upsets me to give it less than a four-star rating. However, I can't help but feel that portions of the final product feel a bit forced. This album was meant to be a scaled-back and subtle affair, but the album structure (as well as some of the songwriting) butt up against this approach, creating a rather uneven work. Don't misinterpret me - I'm an avid fan of grandiose symphonic prog. However, that style is unceremoniously inserted into parts of this album that simply don't call for it. Songs like "A Soldier's Tale" would have been much more effective if the arrangements were simplified. Songs like "Jesus on the Barricades" and "People Like Us" work so well precisely because they don't try to be more than they are. The Fading Ghosts of Twilight could have been a much better release, but it seems unsure of itself stylistically. Regardless, this is an enjoyable release that I would recommend; there are great moments to be found here.

Anthony H. | 3/5 |

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