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The Emerald Dawn - Nocturne CD (album) cover

NOCTURNE

The Emerald Dawn

Neo-Prog


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rdtprog
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Heavy / RPI / Symphonic Prog Team
4 stars This is the third album of the band with a new bass player in the name of David Greenway who replaced Jayjay Quick in the Spring of 2018. The first track is instrumental with a dark atmosphere, the keys setting this mood nicely before the guitar kicks in. "Moonlight" is another instrumental track united by a duel between the piano and the guitar with again some haunting atmosphere in the middle of the song that brings everything in another level."In the Dead of the Night" is not the UK cover! This time the vocals make their first appearance with saxophone, the song keeps the dark atmosphere of the album. And finally the epic final song "The Child Within" has that Gilmour style of guitar, some beautiful keyboards melodies with the fretless bass sound in the back. If you enjoy melodic, dark prog rock music and are not afraid of going out in the night, this is something for you...
Report this review (#2115574)
Posted Sunday, January 6, 2019 | Review Permalink
4 stars This band was only introduced to me this week, so I listened to this release with open ears and an open mind. I think that it's a very accomplished effort - some very nice keys work especially. As everybody knows I am not a fan of the Saxophone (The Flower Kings and The Tangent are the only exceptions to this as they seem to have sax solos that appeal to my ears) - so the sax solo leaves me a bit cold - and would be better served by a Hammond organ solo or whatever. What genre is this? Neo Prog? - Never been a fan of that label - I sort of hear influences from many of the classic bands - I even hear a bit of "The Enid" in one track! However - I will be buying this CD and probably the two earlier efforts (If I can source them) - It's solid prog - and I like the Epic in particular (all long songs float my boat usually) - I think "Heavy Symphonic" would be a better label - with a nod to the guitar at the metal end of the style. I like to support English prog - and this definitely reminds me of some of the bands in the early eighties like "As Above, So below" who produced sublime prog - I'm hoping that somebody will pick up the vibe and produce the bombastic prog that was performed (By Pallas (amongst others) - but then was ruined by commercial pressure) - So this is a 4 star release for me - I think that possibly the best is yet to come?
Report this review (#2116315)
Posted Tuesday, January 8, 2019 | Review Permalink
siLLy puPPy
COLLABORATOR
PSIKE, JR/F/Canterbury & Eclectic Teams
4 stars THE EMERALD DAWN was formed in 2011 as a trio in St. Ives which is located in the Cornwall region of southwest England and began as a trio that consisted of Tree Stewart (keyboards, vocals), Ally Carter (guitars, tenor sax, keyboards) and Tom Jackson (drums.) While there was no bass player on their 2014 debut "Searching For The Lost Key," for their 2017 sophomore release "Visions," Jayjay Quick, became the band's official bassist but also brought along the extra talents of electric violin and cello. Quick would quickly disband after one album and for the band's latest release NOCTURNE, David Greenaway picks up the bass duties.

While generally classified as neo-prog, THE EMERALD DAWN develops a more eclectic sort of prog that not only takes cues from the bigwigs King Crimson and Pink Floyd but also adds some aspects of classic Moody Blues and even McDonald & Giles. Add to that a complex mix of classical music inspired by the great works of third stream artist Jan Garbarek, Dmitri Shostakovich, Ralph Vaughan Williams and Jean Sibelius as well as the jazz world heard especially in Tom Jackson's stellar drumming style and the occasional squawk of the sax.

NOCTURNE is a vague concept album that as the title insinuates deals with all things that come out at night but i'm not talking about barn owls and zombies, i speak more of an emotional manner and the overall gist of the album is how things appear different than what they actually are with the nighttime as the main focal point such as when your imagination plays tricks on you in the darkness of the moonlit nocturnal hours. All of this is expressed in the four lengthy tracks (the opener is just a quick thirty second narrated intro.) While the tracks the first three lengthy tracks range from eight and a half minutes to nearly eleven with the grand finale "The Child Within" clocking in close to the 21 minute mark.

For the most part NOCTURNE is an instrumental ride into the sunless hours that creep into the early morning but occasional vocals find their way into the mix offering a break from the mostly keyboard driven melodic developments that create haunting atmospheres and complex and unusual harmonic structures that depict images about this musical journey taking the listener from nightfall until the first rays of the sun usher in a whole new day. Despite the brilliant mix of free flowing rhythms, David Gilmour inspired guitar wails and classical motifs that offer interesting compositional fortitude, NOCTURNE never flaunts the complexities intertwined within and retains an easily accessible beauty that drifts by chiefly in mid-tempo but occasional bursts into heavier sections.

NOCTURNE is a major step up from the band's previous works as it incorporates more varying time signatures and musical styles that are spotlighted throughout as well as the entire band sharing the songwriting duties this time around which give the album a more democratically inspired infusion of ideas which implement unusual musical scales and even less common juxtapositions of classical, jazz and rock elements. Just like the cover art depicts, NOCTURNE is a sonic journey through the darkened woodlands where while navigating through, stimulates a fertile imagination of all the possibilities of what lurks behind ever corner as the journey progresses.

After the brief "Prologue" narrates in a regal English poetic prose, "As Darkness Falls" begins the mind trip of runaway concepts with heavy rock guitar riffs, sweltering atmospheric keyboard counterpoints and Jackson's percussive drive. Greenaway also dishes out some stellar fretless bass lines, a winning feature of NOCTURNE. "As Darkness Falls" provides an interesting building up of tension that allows "Moonlight" to scale back the intensity and evokes more of a mythological representation of the night. "In The Dead Of The Night" is the first track to contain vocals which includes both Stewart and Carter finding roles in the vocal accoutrements. The addition of a jazzy lounge beat and soulful sax squawks create a completely different sounding track than the previous two.

A significant portion of the album is decided to the near 21 minute closer "The Child Within," which is a psychological exploration of the darkened night of the inner soul and how a brief moment of realization can release the subconscious from a lifetime of fear and pent up trauma. This one features Tree Stewart on vocals and thick atmospheric density that finds bluesy guitar solos erupting from the brume. The track builds up the intensity as the tempo slowly ratchets up and Stewart's ethereal wordless vocals evoke heavier layers of synthesized ambience and guitar heft. This by far is the spookiest track on the album and one that warrants its lengthy playing time as it shape shifts into varying segments that segue effortlessly from one dark keyboard soaked passage to the next.

THE EMERALD DAWN has diversified the stylistic approach quite broadly with a brilliant mix of the aforementioned influences and musical elements. The mythological connotations of the darkened NOCTURNE nights narrated throughout sound utterly brilliant and the compositions are brilliantly unique in the neo-prog world with the infusion of various classical composers influences as well as the jazzy touches which put the band in a world of their own. NOCTURNE is a must for all lovers of keyboard fueled atmospheric prog that exists in the dark and offers stellar rock guitar, bass and drum performances with jazzy extra touches within classically structured motifs that breeze along like a zephyr at the witching hour with satisfying rock orient crescendoes.

Report this review (#2118119)
Posted Sunday, January 13, 2019 | Review Permalink
Gerinski
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars Ahead of its official release date I was kindly requested by the band to review their third album 'Nocturne', so first of all my thanks to them for the privilege. I have to say that I did not know their first two albums so it was a new band for me. According to the liner notes, 'Nocturne' should be listened to preferably alone and in the dark, since the music is intended to bring about feelings and sensations which one may experience when in darkness. And the general atmosphere of the album is indeed haunting, not dark music as such, but dreamy and ethereal, more oriented to conveying moods and atmospheres than to keeping you busy with different things at once. The nice artwork by Katrina (Tree) Stewart complements this mood well. Besides a short vocal introduction we have 3 tracks with running times between 8 and 11 minutes and one final long track clocking 20m45s.

After the aforementioned short vocal introduction 'Prologue', a distorted guitar gives way to the first proper song the instrumental 'As Darkness Falls', the guitar keeps its motif shifting octaves as the keyboards alternate between moods and soloing, we then get a more jazzy section and an atmospheric 7/8 section before returning to the main theme.

The second track 'Moonlight' is also instrumental, beginning with slow piano and switching to an almost hypnotic mid- tempo central section. Again the music focusses mostly on soloing over chord progressions rather than using proper melodies ? choruses.

'In the Dead of the Night' (nothing to do with the UK song) is the first track with vocals although these are mostly limited to singing the song title in repetitive fashion, first by Tree and later in the song by Ally with Tree doing the backing parts. The fretless bass and the sax provide a welcome variety in the soundscape, and this track has indeed a more jazzy feel to it.

The final track is the 20 min 'The Child Within' and I find it the strongest. It has more clearly defined melodies and more developed lyrics, taking advantage of Tree's nice voice timbre. It moves through different sections with synth pads, organ and also some fretless bass, some different time signatures and guitar solos which often remind of Pink Floyd.

This is a pleasant album to listen to but I find it a bit too simple for my personal taste. Too much oriented to moods and atmospheres, with plenty of soloing over chord progressions and not containing enough interesting melodies or musical resources. If you fancy such atmospheric Prog you will enjoy the album.

Report this review (#2132059)
Posted Monday, January 28, 2019 | Review Permalink
TCat
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Eclectic / Prog Metal / Heavy Prog Team
3 stars Nocturne, released in February of 2019, is the 3rd album released by UK Neo-Prog band 'The Emerald Dawn'. The band consists of Tree Stewart, the founder of the band, on keyboards, flute, acoustic guitar and vocals, Ally Carter on electric guitar, guitar synthesizer, tenor saxophone, keyboards and vocals, David Greenaway on fretless and regular bass, and Tom Jackson on drums. The album runs about 51 minutes and features 5 tracks, one that only lasts 30 seconds and another that lasts over 20 minutes, so 4 of the tracks are quite long.

The 'Prologue' starts with a spoken vocal against a deep drone. This is followed by the 10+ minute instrumental 'As Darkness Falls' starting with the guitar announcing the beginning of the track. This is quickly joined by the band playing a dark and mysterious repetitive melody and making variations around it. After a few minutes of this, synths play alone giving an orchestral effect, staying dark. Eventually, a guitar and a synth trade off the spotlight against a moderate tempo, but still with the dark atmosphere. The guitar seems to be mixed low in the mix, even though it is one of the main instruments, but the synths are mixed to the front when they take their turns, and this makes the entire production seem very uneven. As it continues, this seems even more apparent. At 8 minutes, we get a nice guitar solo to a rhythm that finally settles in. But it is still mixed way too low. Later, this is changed to a more fuzzy guitar that isn't mixed low. All of this uneven production is very distracting.

'Moonlight' starts with a solo piano playing a nice melody. After about 2 minutes, the rest of the band joins. This seems like it could be a decent track with a rousing guitar solo, but the production seems quite stifled. The song goes into a repetitive foundation and the guitars get the most time on this 8 minute instrumental. The solo piano comes back in before the 6 minute mark and before long, the guitar accompanies. The tempo speeds up during the last minute as the music crescendos, but it finally ends sofly with a predictable ending.

'In the Dead of Night' starts of dreamily with vibes and synth orchestration. The band comes in with a heavy bass line and the first vocals. The vocals have an echo effect to give it all a psychedelic feeling and a sax improvises around it all making for a somewhat jazzy effect. The vocals are not very lyrical as they just repeat the title. When the vocals end, there is a sudden burst of orchestral synths and then guitars come in shadowing the synths at first and then improvising off of their melody. Halfway through, we get a heavy organ (synths) that sound like a haunted house theme, then the jazzy bass starts up again with deeper vocals this time repeating the title while female vocals try to make the song turn to a bad gothic imitation. Of course, you still get the stifled production sound. After this section, as things intensify, it actually starts to get interesting, but it's too little, too late.

'The Child Within' is the last track and also the track over 20 minutes. It starts with the dark synths like most of the rest of the album and Ally does the lead vocals this time. The lyrics are a bit corny about a child lost in the darkness with no one to sing her a lullaby. At the 3 minute mark, it is time to cue the guitar for its sad solo. Drums finally come in at 4 minutes, but everything else continues as before. The guitar stays in the spotlight for quite a while, even past the 7 minute mark before synths interrupt and the song pauses while we get thunder and bell effects. Next the track finally speeds up a bit with a churning organ and the vocals start with that gothic feel again. At 11 minutes, the tempo changes again with swirling synths, and then more vocals after which there is a fast synth solo building intensity. Another change around 14 minutes with more spooky sound effects and a new foundation against which there is a nice guitar/keyboard exchange. The last several minutes are devoted to synth and guitars improvising over a basic foundation.

The biggest complaint I have is in the production, which unfortunately makes every thing else sound dated and stilted. The mix is not good on this one. I also find the music good, but too simple in that all of the solos are done against a basic background, thus making the music less than challenging. There are times when the music seems to want to go in a gothic direction, which doesn't work very well in this instance and instead it comes across as a bit tacky. I have a hard time giving this any more than 3 stars, and even then I am rounding it up because some of the musicianship is good, but the production is very uneven and just ruins the overall sound.

Report this review (#2134018)
Posted Sunday, February 3, 2019 | Review Permalink
3 stars 'UPDATE INTERESTING NEW PROG'

The Emerald Dawn was originally formed in 2010, in the Scottish capital Edinburgh by Tree Stewart (keyboards, piano, flute, acoustic guitar, percussion, and vocals) and Ally Carter (electric and acoustic guitars, guitar synthesizer, tenor and soprano saxophones, keyboards, and vocals), before moving to St Ives, Cornwall in South West England, where they were joined by jazz drummer Tom Jackson. The Emerald Dawn its first album entitled Searching For The Lost Key was released in 2014. For their second album entitled Visions (released in 2017) the band added bass player Jayjay Quick (fretless and fretted bass guitars, electric upright bass, electric violin and cello). On February 1st, 2019 The Emerald Dawn released its third album entitled Nocturne, with their new bass player David Greenaway, he replaced Jayjay in the spring of 2018.

1. Prologue (0:30) : This introduction delivers soaring keyboards and spoken words.

2. As Darkness Falls (10:44) : A slow rhythm in a dynamic and bombastic climate with powerful guitar and drums, a sultry sounding orchestral synthesizer sound (Middle-Eastern undertone), strong interplay (Rush comes to my mind). Then a brass synthesizer sound, fiery guitar runs with a distorted sound and flashy synthesizer flights, fuelled by dynamic rhythm-section, this is very pleasant Old School instrumental prog. The music slows down to a hypnotizing atmosphere featuring a fat synthesizer sound, slow drum beats and soaring keyboards. Finally again that distorted guitar sound, fiery and compelling, supported by powerful drum beats, the energetic and powerful vibe reminds me again of Rush.

3. Moonlight (8:33) : First wonderful piano play, from tender to sparkling. Then a slow rhythm with piano, now a wah wah driven electric guitar joins, what an exciting contrast between fiery electric guitar and tender Grand piano, to me it sounds like 'Chopin meets Jimi Hendrix'. The exciting wah wah guitar work continues, now with support from the organ, and slow drum beats, culminating into heavy and biting runs, wow! Then the atmosphere shifts to dreamy with tender Grand piano play, again the wah wah guitar joins, what a captivating duet. Gradually it becomes more dynamic and the tension builds. In the end the music turns into very mellow, with fragile piano runs, what a wonderful piece of music!

4. In the Dead of the Night (10:43) : First the distinctive sound of the Fender electric piano, blended with an orchestral keyboard sound. Then a slow rhythm with fretless bass and gentle drum beats, dreamy vocals and a long and powerful saxophone solo. The atmosphere is hypnotizing but then a bombastic eruption with wonderful orchestral keyboards. Now the focus is on moving guitar work, from sensitive to fiery, simply beautiful. Halfway a break with an ominous climate, orchestral keyboards, turning into a slow rhythm with fretless bass runs, then hypnotizing male and female vocals (low and high), evoking a horror movie-like atmosphere. Suddenly a majestic church organ sound, gradually the atmosphere becomes more bombastic when propulsive guitar riffs join, what a compelling atmosphere, topped with howling guitar runs and sumptuous keyboards. The final part is like the start, featuring a dreamy Fender piano sound.

5. The Child Within (20:45) : It starts dreamy with soaring keyboards and melancholical vocals, reminding me of the song Child Of The Universe by Barclay James Harvest. Then orchestral keyboards, matching with the melancholical atmosphere, now a distorted electric guitar joins, intense, raw, with howling runs, blended with celestial female vocals. This music evokes to me the good old days of Steve Hillage, and German prog legend Grobschnitt during the epic Solar Music. The music turns into a slow rhythm with the focus on a splendid fiery guitar play, with again those high pitched female vocals, like an angel, contrasting with the heavy guitar sound. Halfway a break with the sound of thunder and bells, then an accellaration with tight drums, repetitive organ runs and heavy guitar, blended with spooky female vocals. Now soaring keyboards join, and the mood shifts first to dreamy with moving guitar runs, and then to a slow rhythm with those spooky female vocals and a fiery guitar that rocks. This is topped with a long and flashy synthesizer solo and propulsive guitar riffs, what an exciting sound, I love this sumptuous prog sound! Then again the sound of thunder and bells, followed by tight drum beats, repetitive organ and a raw guitar sound, very compelling. Finally the dreamy atmosphere from the start of this epic composition returns, featuring soaring keyboards and melancholical vocals, and in the end a spacey synthesizer solo with subtle use of the pitchbend, and soaring keyboards, a wonderful goodbye.

My first encounter with The Emerald Dawn turned out to an interesting musical journey with lots of captivating own ideas.

My rating: 3,5 star.

This review was recently published on the Dutch progrock website Background Magazine, in a slightly different version.

Report this review (#2231162)
Posted Sunday, June 16, 2019 | Review Permalink
4 stars Will you surrender to the experience? Or will you remain aloof?

For me, "Nocturne" is an either/or album.

The Emerald Dawn suggests listening to the entire, five-part work in the darkness, alone. If you refuse or are not able to do so, maintain silence.

Let the music BE, and thus experience what you may find.

Either you surrender to the meditative, soul-wrestling experience, or you keep a safe distance and perhaps become annoyed by the repetitions, the solemn vocals, the slow swelling and subsiding of the keyboards, the guitar keening, sighing, wailing, ever-changing.

If you surrender, sit silently in darkness, entering the night-time reveries and soliloquies, I think you will at the same time begin to dream, to feel, to think, and perhaps in time to begin to heal.

In this extended piece, the capstone is the final epic-length track, "The Child Within".

To these ears, it screams of childhood sexual abuse, the resulting trauma, repressed memories that serve to protect the vulnerable child, and eventually, the suggestion of remembering and healing.

Night-time demons and terrors are evoked by subtle sounds, creakings and groanings, by rapturous organ chords, by drumming that lies in that dimension that doesn't seek to overpower or gain attention, but to support, to add textures and flavors, to flow; and by bass guitar that sometimes stays well below, and other times powerfully enters the fray.

But Tree's and Ally's work develops the heart of "Nocturne".

Their vocals, the keyboards, the guitar, the lyrics, all become the centerpiece, the unifying threads, the direction of this work.

So, do you surrender?

Then I suspect you will be moved.

My rating, 3.75 demons being devoured by the light, rounded up to 4.0.

Report this review (#2241925)
Posted Sunday, August 4, 2019 | Review Permalink

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