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Nine Stones Close - Traces CD (album) cover

TRACES

Nine Stones Close

 

Neo-Prog

3.94 | 124 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Ghost
5 stars I don't write that many reviews. I find it hard to concentrate at all that music out there, whether beautiful or outright horrible. But occasionally a gem passes that sucks you in, pulls you toward itself and doesn't let you go for the duration of the ride. 9SC's 'Traces' is testimony to this. With this album, I feel that the words I am committing to my screen should echo inside you, resound wholly and make you understand why this music. Just. Simply. Rocks.

The subject of the album is not of a happy kind, as the songs deal with loss, regret and sadness. The lyrics are crystal clear and written down not unlike a devoted monk scribbles his lines into tomes of old. They bring a gloomy feeling into play, tying in perfectly with the music.

The album opens with Reality Check, an instrumental track clocking in at nearly five minutes. Clean guitars playing in a Pink Floyd style, without the use of heavy delay. And this is where the song thrives and creates this sense of dread, a feeling of unease that guts you. The music shifts from clean guitar tones to heavy riffs with some pounding drums and well used keyboards. The sounds mesh incredibly well and make one of the many strengths this band has.

Threads follows up on Reality Check, the second longest track on the album. A rain storm bringing the end to the latter is faded away by moody keyboards and wailing guitars. Whereas the beginning of the track reminds me of Pink Floyd again, when Adrian Jones begins to use heavy chorus guitars, I'm getting a distinct Ayreon feeling as well. The song is the first where Marc Atkinson begins to shine and brings his immaculate voice to the canvas that is Nine Stones Close, singing with conviction as his vibrato rings out in a way I rarely hear vocalists nowadays. The song moves into a bluesy guitar solo by Jones halfway through, bringing Gilmour to mind, before the track bounces back to the original beginning, with Atkinson giving it his best at the end.

Falling to Pieces begins with very careful but lovely keyboard sounds from Brendan Eyre, who along with Neil Quarrell, who provides the necessary bass guitar on the album, provides the adhesive between Jones' guitars and Atkinson's vocals. The guitar work on this track is very much in favor of the melody of this song, never going off on a power tantrum. The star of this song is clearly Atkinson, who uses his emotional voice to great ability.

The title track is the most memorable song. Traces begins with Jones' crystal clear guitars, quickly following Quarrell's lovely bass tones and Eyre's keyboards that he manages to thread through each and every song he plays on. If before Atkinson was already leaving a powerful impression, put this track on maximum volume, close your eyes and drift away with the evocative lyrics brought in such a way, it brings tears to my eyes every time. A lovely keyboard solo midway allows the guitars to pick up pace and the song transforms into an even more emotional and powerful rollercoaster that doesn't stop until Atkinson and Eyre close the song.

The closer to this album is Thicker Than Water, clocking in at a firm fourteen minutes, first showcasing its mellow and quirky nature the way Jones picks the strings. The song undergoes several mood changes, especially at the moment when Atkinson begins to repeat the sentence 'What happened to us', when he uses his voice to great dramatic effect, forshadowing even more powerful passages that Eyre, Jones and Quarrell bring to us. The power rock section comes with a soaring guitar solo before slowly reverting back to the intro of the song, ending sublimely before fading out entirely.

For a home production album, this was a welcome surprise when I found such albums could be made with a clarity that fits studio productions more. The album is clearly a showcase of superb songwriting, where four gentlemen got together and crafted what I consider one of the best albums of 2011.

I've been very quiet as to Neil Quarrell's contributions to this album and I should not be. If you listen carefully, you'll spot him. He is a master of subtlety, playing when you need him to be there. His sound is warm and lively and his playing fluid.

Brendan Eyre also deserves more than what I have written about him. Like Quarrell, he's a subtle force but one to be reckoned with. His playing on Reality Check, Falling to Pieces and Traces especially stands out for me, as he lifts the songs up to a level way beyond the already beautiful tunes that can be found here.

Marc Atkinson is a superb vocalist whose voice fits this music so well, it's almost like a scary revelation of sorts. Everything he does is spot on, the lyrics he wrote for 'Falling to Pieces', his powerful singing in 'Traces' and 'Thicker Than Water'. He carries the album convincingly.

Adrian Jones showcases he is an extraordinary musician, but also a talented songwriter. His lyrics are evocative and go straight for the heart, his melodies are powerful one second, then graceful the next.

The one and only downside I have with this album is that there is no real drummer, but a programmed track for each song. Although the drums sound reasonable and fit each song, I wonder what a real drummer would've done to these drums. But one must not complain when listening to such beautiful music. One should simply shut up, turn up the volume and close their eyes.

Ghost | 5/5 |

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