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Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Another gem destined, I fear, to obscurity were it not for the benevolence, brilliance and imagination of the boys at Bravo, Sunhillow! You are a god! Pairing David Drury's church organ play with Brooke Shelley's female choral/operatic vocals seems natural--for church music. But then you mix in the standard rock instrumentation (drums, electric bass and electric guitar) and you get an unusual and challenging mix. The choice to creating prog/goth rock was made and, though the organ and vocal can at times feel separate from the electric side, overall the church- and medieval- feeling melodies and sounds mix extremely well with the rock elements. I must admit that I half expected the clichéd Captain Nemo/Phantom of The Opera 'crazed organ' sound (it's there a few times, like in "Wachet Auf") but, no! The organ is often actually rather quiet or in the background--not even as prominent as Rick Wakeman used it in the YES-classic, "Awaken." The electric guitar is, surprisingly, the one instrument that is, unfortunately, mixed as if 'outside' the rest of the band, otherwise Resonaxis has managed the formidable achievement of making their odd mix of instruments feel quite natural and perfectly suited for one another.

While I find myself quite liking all of the album's songs, the standouts for me are:

The graphic lyrics and catchy melodies of "Monsignor Loss" (4:47) (8/10), the FRIPP-like guitar arpeggios and harmonized male and female vocal weave throughout "Hymn 8" (4:00) (9/10), "Wachet Auf" (4:07) (8/10), "Deathdamp Allemande" (3:50) (8/10), the STEROLAB- like "Circles" (3:24) (8/10), the almost blasphemous church/sacred feeling, guitar infused, "Mysterium" (5:06) (9/10) (beautiful vocal!), the vocal melody and performance of "Chorus Angelorum" (8/10), the guitar and organ work in "Dustward" (4:25), and the awesome electric guitar chord play (including a 50 second solo intro) and amazing second voice harmonizing in a very church-like way on "Akasha" (4:55) (9/10).

I would love to see some more intricate and adventurous organ play from this maestro--who is obviously well-esteemed if he was the inspiration for Brooke's desire to put together a record. His play is solid and presents a wonderful and unusual backdrop to the music here (except on "Akasha"), but there are really no flashy soli or intricate weaves of multiple keyboard lines. One can only hope that in the future . . .

In the meantime, this is a solid three-plus star effort: an excellent listen for any adventurous prog lover!

Report this review (#1005209)
Posted Thursday, July 25, 2013 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars Like most adventurous minds, I have wandered occasionally into some deep fantasies, perverted thoughts of impossible pleasures and hitherto undiscovered bliss. Before the black-helmeted thought police come knocking on my Orwellian door, accusing me of some profligate sexcrime, let me reassure you I am talking prog-rock and not carnal sins (Well, I could divulge some of those but that will be for another moment in time and another pearly place). Through 45 years of musical expectations and fulfillment, I secretly always pined for a progressive rock album led by a church organ or a harpsichord, ever since falling in love with Rick Wakeman's the Six Wives of Henry VIII back in 1973. Forty years later, the first thrill has finally arrived on the shores of my expectations, as Australian band Resonaxis not only fulfills my deep-felt church organ yearning but surprises with phenomenal quality by adding some serrated guitar phrasings, potent bass that is thankfully up front and center and good thumping from the basher-drummer. Throw in a sensational female voice that skirts the edges of medieval, gothic, Gregorian and renaissance styles and we have a total winner! The material is diverse, memorable and immediately anthemic, the pools of drool around my feet are testament to my satisfied delivery from endless patience. What a stunner this is! Everything about this release exudes amazement, from opportune artwork, stellar musicianship, powerful sound production and flawless vocal delivery.

So, church organ as the lead instrument, eh? Well that is a first for this seasoned fan, especially in view of the fact that it's a quite cumbersome if not impossible instrument to lug around as one would need Jesus to apply as a roadie but outside of a few dabbles by the likes of Wakeman, Van Leer, Van der Linden, Par Lindh and no-guitar Italian bands Three Monks and Jacula, it is a rather rare set-up without falling into Enigma and the Gregorian New Age stuff like Lesiem, Nostradamus, Magna Canta, etc?. In terms of classical /folk music, it's at the opposite spectrum of Blackmore's Night, Karnataka, Magenta or Shine Dion. The bold and upfront guitars, the melodious low end and the tough drumming give this package some serious meat as witnessed on the opener, the gloomy "Monsignor Loss". This really serves as a proper sound/ear introduction to their awesome style, showing of each musicians considerable talents. Organist David Drury masters his knobs and ivories with evident composure, while impetuous axeman Richard Hundy rasps convincingly as well as supplying a supple solo.

But it's the next 3 cuts that really hot-blade slice into the butter, reaching deep into the pleasure dome. The tremendous "Hymn 8" is a fortifying aural tonic that stretches the boundaries of convention and satisfies compellingly. Brooke Shelley has a crystalline and impassioned set of pipes (pun totally intended!) that impacts profoundly in every sense of the term, creating vivid imagery from her mellifluous voice. This is an immense talent on display here, so clean the wax from your ears, please! The stately "Wachet Auf" is simply surreal in its spectral glory, a progressive icon of the highest order, a piece that will grab your attention immediately and with unprecedented authority. The melody is ecstatic, grandiose and eternal. The true definition of power and beauty, all wrapped in a 4 minute cocoon of genius. "Deathdamp Allemande" is equally spell-binding with its loopy 5 note synth melody that towers above the pipe organ fray, complete with a colossal soundscape that elevates this to the loftiest stars. A thorough adventure in musical bliss, short, sweet and to the point.

The next four pieces are somewhat more ethereal and 'soundtrackish' (if I can use such a word). "Circles" deviates from the expected, providing a Cocteau Twins/Dead Can Dance feel in a quasi-monastery musical environment that exudes playfulness, serious reflection and sonic dexterity. This is perhaps a bit more contemplative that the other pieces here as it's fueled by a delightful bass and voice duet, another rare occurrence in our mesmerizing genre. The penitent organ seeks to expand on the mood as opposed to crushing it into submission. The choir work is lovely. "Hymn 2" is a hypnotic landscape of epic proportions, a scouring of the musical heavens, in profound rapture as the guitars sear and sizzle, the true definition of power and glory. The tabernacle is set with flickering vocal candles, echoing hallowed reverberation from each of its stones. It's at this crucial crossroad that one realizes just how devilishly clever and varied this style is. Resonaxis have definitely found their niche and stick to it. The inquisitive "Mysterium" chorales nicely, a brooding timbre of restrained thunder, just waiting to explode. And when it does, there is a strong 'Gothic Impression' as with Par Lindh's debut, shocking rhythms colliding with angelic voices, the massive organ fuming wildly, drums akimbo. The absolving "Chorus Angelorum" shows off some nimble Adam Bodkin bass work, as he carves a sinuous path amid the aural clergy. This is perhaps the most 'religious' sounding piece here as the voice has an obvious reverential quality, as if calling angels to convene on some cloudy stage, far from the maddening crowd

The home stretch is highlighted by 2 closing tracks that stay the course albeit offering different sensibilities. "Dustward" features a brilliant lead guitar solo from Hundy, ably aided by Shelley's supplicating voice, two furiously able talents at work in the name of the Prog lord!

And finally "Akasha" finishes off this pompous, decadent, magnificent and epic disc, a fitting finale for an album that keeps the mood forever exciting within a relatively restrained configuration, keeping the moods fresh and exhilarating. This has to be one of my top 3 albums from the amazing 2013 vintage, a still unfinished year of stellar prog achievements, perhaps the best 'cuvee' since 1973! I am pretty sure that in terms of absolute originality, Resonaxis will find a broad spectrum of observant and pious fans for many years to come!


Absolutely 5 Echoing alignments

Thank you Brufordfreak for the reco.....Bless you my son!

Report this review (#1020014)
Posted Saturday, August 17, 2013 | Review Permalink
4 stars Outstanding sophomore effort from Australian band Resonaxis, "Hymnarium" is a pipe organ-dominated ride through mood, majesty and yes, I'll say it: haunting beauty.

Much could be made of the commanding lead of that church organ, and surely it is a defining aspect of "Hymnarium"'s sound, but it is worth noting that there is a goodly amount of heavy guitar work at play here too, which, along with the bass and drums, fleshes out the sound justly. A strong effort musically, but where many bands falter (vocally and/or lyrically), Resonaxis play their ace in the hole:

Vocalist and songwriter Brooke Shelley has an angelic but powerfully operatic voice, soaring through a series of enchanting and darkly poetic tales. Solemnity gives way to spookiness which gives way to grief, mystery, poignance. On several occasions through my first and second listens of the album, I found myself just sitting and reading along with the lyrics in the booklet - a very good sign that I had a unique and fascinating album on my hands - and I do. "Hymnarium" is a gem, and one that I'm very glad I took a chance on and blindly ordered from the band's website. If this review has found you intrigued, I encourage you to do the same. Magnificence!

Report this review (#1028963)
Posted Wednesday, September 4, 2013 | Review Permalink
Prog-Folk Team
4 stars The self titled debut by this Australian crossover act sounded like it took shape in a modest country parish, but this follow up seems to emanate from the big city cathedral. RESONAXIS resumes its blend of hard rock with folk, pop, religious and classical music, starring David Drury's hypnotic and majestic pipe organ which dominates most of the tracks. The hymn like melodies impart reverence counterbalanced by aggressive rhythm and lead guitars of Richard Hundy. Of course, everywhere is Brooke Shelley's high sweet voice that skillfully slices through even the heaviest passages while never resorting to unbecoming histrionics.

Highlights abound, such as the rather gory opener "Monsignor Ross", but especially the crunching guitar and organ blend of "Watchet Auf" and the more bouncy and relatively laid back "Chorus Angelorum". "Circles" is the most atypical, more poppy at least in the verses, and yet it is worth the diversion. "Mysterium" is a dandy, sung in Latin I think, that seethes for most of its 5 minutes, never quite exploding, yet the threat is always present to keep us on edge. "Dustward" is one of the more accessible pieces thanks to its rather straightforward but lovely organ melody, and a splendid lead guitar solo. Only the two "Hymn" tracks and the closing number don't do much for me, being overly plodding and lacking the dynamic aspect of most of the rest, but I suspect those more ensconced in sacred music might disagree.

While you can't do wrong with either RESONAXIS release, I give a slight nod to this one for its ratcheted up grandiosity. I could see some of these songs in a new hymnal and the band guesting at the cathedral's 11 PM service, Brooke encouraging us to stand as we are able and join them. Now if they can just figure out how to take that organ on the road!

Report this review (#1120357)
Posted Saturday, January 25, 2014 | Review Permalink

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