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Nine Stones Close - One Eye On The Sunrise CD (album) cover

ONE EYE ON THE SUNRISE

Nine Stones Close

 

Neo-Prog

3.97 | 160 ratings

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AtomicCrimsonRush
Special Collaborator
Symphonic Team
5 stars Nine Stones Close impressed me with their debut 'Traces' in 2010, and I have been looking forward to more from this innovative band. It is the type of music that will resonate with a listener in a variety of ways according to what they are going through at the time of listening, whether it be a sudden loss, a moment of epiphany or simply a change in life's direction. The lyrics on 'One Eye on the Sunrise' are cathartic focussing on dealing with pain and recovery. The music is overall beautifully ambient with moments of darkened chaos strengthened by distorted guitar chords at the hands of Adrian Jones and off kilter drumming.

The artwork by the talented Antonio Seijas is stunning throughout the booklet, consisting of depictions of streaked sunsets and silhouetted figures painted into the frame. The canvas works as a prompt that this is a work of beauty and yet has tinges of darkness, in the same way these nuances were embedded on 'Traces'.

Nine Stones Close are certainly well covered when it comes to skill and dexterity. Bassist Peter Vink has played in many bands including the Dutch band Finch, and drummer, Pieter van Hoorn, has had some experience with Knights Area. The keyboards are at the hands of Brendan Eyre (Riversea) and visionary lyricist Adrian Jones (Numb) is a delight on lead guitar. The lead vocals are well executed from Marc Atkinson (Riversea), who seems to be able to capture the melancholy emotions without being over the top, allowing the listener to bring their own meaning to the lyrics.

Opening with glorious chimes and retro sounding Mellotron, 'Faceless Angel' immediately captivates drawing us into a dreamscape. The distorted guitars crash through in a display of power, and the tempo is curiously slow and it builds with a fascinating layer of keyboards. The muscular lead break is Pink Floyd inspired like 'Comfortably Numb'; and that is only the first 3 minutes.

The next track, 'A Secret' (5:33), has a clean guitar crystalline sound. The soft vocals of Marc Atkinson enter, always a wonderful component of the band. This gentle delivery has the power to entrance, and the swathes of keyboards immerse the listener. During the verses there is a stripped back feel, with a calming resonance as the tale unfolds. The concept is loose on this album, having a lot to do with, according to Adrian Jones, 'a concept about sunlight and darkness, how they make me feel.' It is easy to find the references to the dark and light, the sunset and the sunrise, in the lyrics. The words are open to interpretation but revolve around feelings of remorse and searching to pick up the pieces after prolonged periods of loss and emptiness after the pain of a secret event that has irreparably damaged two lives. 'A Secret' is a gentle song with poignant lyrics concerning how difficult it is to retain a secret world of privacy when your life is an open book , 'Stay where I can see you, Right before my eyes, Stay where I can see you, Tell me all of your lies.' It feels as though two lovers are separating and a secret between then is now eating at the soul and swallowing her whole. The song is a warning not to reveal hidden mysteries or one day they may come back to swallow you.

'Janus' (5:46) is an amazing instrumental with very beautiful nuances to stir the emotions. Pastoral textures are scattered with lead guitar augmentations, over wide sweeping plains of synth. There are swells of sensuous guitar and very plaintive piano. There are valleys of thunderous drumming and mountains of driving bass. The melody is well held by the hypnotic sustained guitar wails and piano motif; a genuinely gorgeous piece of music.

Acoustic vibrations and haunting tranquil piano are the main instruments used on '... and dream of sleep' (1:53). It is nice to hear such an emphasis on acoustic for these shorter pieces. The first major highlight comes with the mini epic 'One Eye On The Sunrise', (12:09) driven by a laid back melody, meandering cello strings and acoustics. It builds into a delightful heavy guitar riff and powerhouse Hammond style playing. That grinding Hammond sound is incredible, and the way that the distorted guitar chords ring out, like metal meets Neo, is inspired musicianship. In one extended section there are symphonic violin-like serrations and a mantra that builds to a rather ethereal atmosphere. The lyrics are more chilling, speaking of an unseen dark presence that disturbs the protagonist as he struggles to come to terms with seclusion, 'somehow he is there, I'm suddenly aware, ice cold and dark, forever, never ending theme, blue and green, a wall of all things, ending.'

'Eos' (2:39) is a dreamy song with some crystalline guitar tones, and sweeping synth washes. The shorter tracks prepare us for the more lengthy dramatic songs. This speaks of hopes and fears that come as we focus on the sunrise. Adrian whips up a storm on guitar in this transition, sounding a lot like Gilmour's style, setting the scene for the next track. Indeed, this is a reminiscent sound to Pink Floyd's 1980 era.

'The Weight' (9:52) has some beautiful poetic lyrics sung with passion by Marc, 'two souls in the darkness, held together by light, we lie here together, hands held tight, we wait for the sunrise, as the world spins around as we speed toward dawn, without a sound'. The melody is strong and moves gently along waves of keyboards and guitar embellishments. There is an emphasis on emotional vocal delivery and sporadic rhythms providing an improvised time sig feel. It is very measured as though time is standing still. This makes sense in context with the lyrics, 'breathe again, feel and listen to slowing time as it pulls you down, you can lose your ground too far, too fast and you won't know how far you came'. The meter slows even further as a spacey reverb emanates, and it patiently meanders along with a narrative voice, until an outbreak of guitars over strong percussion. The sound builds to a crescendo and then an incredible lead guitar solo towers over, with immense string bends and sustained notes blazing. The song is definitely a highlight and grows all the more powerful on subsequent listens.

'The Distance' (4:55) is about coping with the battle scars of unrequited love, and the pain that follows from broken relationships. The lyrics are wracked in this pain, likening the incidence to a prolonged scar that becomes numbing after time, 'I feel no pain, on we go, just another day, staring into space, hearing but not listening, I feel the distance between us grow.' Again, this is a very slow paced ambient song, with melancholy vocals and phased guitar over lingering ghostly synths. The acoustics drip down like honey under the restrained somber vocals, that are heartfelt and broken; a remarkable infectious composition on the album.

'Frozen Moment' (13:35) is an outstanding track that continues the persistent concept of time coming to a halt, but it is heavier with a glowing cinder of metal distortion rising from the ashes. The keys layer the foundation of a spectral atmosphere, and the lyrics cement the feeling of loss and alienation. We hear the vestiges of memories and unrelenting regrets, with the protagonist left 'grasping for branches, clutching at straws,' a possible Marillion reference. Echoing in his head are the thoughts that somehow things could have been different but the moment is prepared for and unchangeable, 'dreaming in black and white, and living in grey, why did it come to this, I can't feel it anymore, I can't feel what I need to feel, need to feel, how did I become this way? Fade to grey, fade away, it felt like home.' As the song builds gradually to a crescendo, it enters the final extended coda that is a blistering lead guitar solo and staccato blasts of percussion and blood pumping synths. It is an incredible cacophony of sound and feels like the climax, as things get too much for the protagonist who is 'standing here alone' lost 'in the moment', becoming 'just dust and insignificance.' The music climbs to the peak slowly and then comes screaming down with a fast tempo, signifying the turmoil we experience with trials and tribulations becoming part of our existence; the rollercoaster of emotions we must all endure.

'Sunset' closes the album with a final peaceful tinkling of piano and tearful cello, as the dust settles and the sun sets again signifying another day above ground; a day where we may either surface or drown. The soundscape is teeming with symphonic smoothness and the silky strings are a soothing end to this masterful album.

It is sad to learn of vocalist Marc's departure on seeking to further his solo career, but I am certain the band will continue and we look forward to the progress of Nine Stones Close. Their latest album barrels swiftly along with the one concept, idea with meanings hidden in the mists of time. The existential lyrics will appeal to those who enjoy interpreting poetic imagery, the music is complex enough to appease prog addicts, and the melodies have a commercial appeal rather than detract from the overall experience. It is an enjoyable album that brims over with passion and an obvious love of the medium. A great deal of effort has been injected into the project, as much as with the previous 'Traces' and, although I was more into the preceding release, I still found this latest album to be a compelling pleasurable experience. It grew on me easily and was always a delight from beginning to end. My favourites are 'The Distance' that always gives me chills with its haunting ethereal atmosphere, the light and dark shades of 'Frozen Moment', and I am extremely fond of 'Janus', 'One Eye on the Sunset' and 'The Weight'. In fact this is all killer and no filler, and deserves the highest rating and recommendation.

Many listeners will relate personally to the lyrics more than I, although at one point I might have back in the distant past, but I still understood what the album was trying to say. Much of the lyrics may be attributed to the life threatening accident that Adrian experienced, and his recovery as he moved to the Netherlands. However, the themes are layered in complex imagery that will have a variety of meanings. Sunsets can mean many things to us; it could be a poignant moment in our lives, finding peace and tranquility, a final resting place, a new beginning of rejuvenation, a moment of celebration or a sharp ending of a harsh day, or simply a symbol of painterly beauty. Whatever the case, I believe Nine Stones Close have poured enough energy and vitality into their music to make the prog community sit up and take notice, though only the privileged few are in the know. This will all change as more and more people discover what a tremendous band they are and, it is said, if there is an artist on fire, people will come from miles around to watch them burn. Right now, Nine Stones Close are white hot and consolidating a strong reputation due to the highly skilled musicianship and desire to make a difference with music to immerse the senses.

AtomicCrimsonRush | 5/5 |

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