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The Emerald Dawn - To Touch the Sky CD (album) cover

TO TOUCH THE SKY

The Emerald Dawn

 

Neo-Prog

3.97 | 71 ratings

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tszirmay
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars There was a time a few decades ago, when record companies FORCED groups to alter their style and substance in order to fit the commercial requirements instituted by 'the market'. Then you have those fans and critics who insist that they know better what musicians should be playing, moaning, and groaning if they venture into new territories, changing their sound or, even sadder if they maintain their style and stick to their guns. I guess bitching and complaining is the New Religion. But damned if you, and damned if you do not. The Emerald Dawn has been the target of certain enlightened critics who did not care much for the 'amateurish or muffled production', the 'boring formulaic simplicity' and the 'lack of diversity' of their style. To the band's staunch credit, they have stuck to their guns and keep making music they way THEY see fit, which is clearly their prerogative. There is a big difference between haunting and sounding muffled, as Alan Carter's shadowy psychedelic guitar style remains a pillar as well as the menacing keyboard stylistics of Tree Stewart. Their style has not changed at all, with talented jazz drummer Thomas Jackson holding down the fort since day one, the biggest change being on bass guitar where first JJ Quick and now David Greenway introduce some fantastic fretless and fretted bass lines to the musical score.

Showing even more rebellious tendencies, the band continue in creating lengthy pieces that establish mood as well a cinematographic impression that transports the listener far away into the realm of dreams and adventure. This is one band that requires the volume to be as high as possible, in order to eliminate this silly muffled sound notion once and for all. This should not be perceived as background music while ironing your shirt! On this, their 4th album, "To Touch the Sky", they offer 3 epic tracks of wistful prog, best exemplified by the slithering beauty of the opening track "The Awakening", an 11 minute+ soporific glide worthy of the best , combining a delicate piano motif that transcends splendor and permits a drifting into a whole series of musical forays, led by that nasty bass furrow, muscled drums , ornamental keys and Ally's by now remorseless 'muffled' (read: distorted) guitar illuminations. Tree adds a powerful scat vocal to elevate the impression of revival that forms the purpose of this highly melodic piece.

The temperamental "And I Stood Transfixed" offers a slight acoustic deviation to the proceedings, with great electric guitar riffs in the background that are heightened by some glorious sax flurries, rekindling images of Nik Turner of Hawkwind fame (now there is a band that has compiled an encyclopedia's worth of criticism from the 'knowledgeable' media for being 'simple' and yet they have been around for more than half a century!). Tree alters the mood with a lovely flute intervention that sets pastoral images into the arrangement, as the jazzy drum fills propel it all like windswept leaves in the autumn night. Midway through, the explosive Wagnerian mood is pierced by some maniac playing and drumming, creating a ghostly, ominous, and nasty cauldron of sound. This atmosphere then switches back to a languid section fueled by a majestic whistling synth lead and then a sizzling lead guitar eruption full of effect and shadow. The finale is sweepingly bombastic as the heart keeps beating. Delightful piece.

How about a 22-minute finale, to push the tolerance limits of the disbelievers and the ultimate pleasure of us diehard fans? "The Ascent" has a nearly classical feel, what with the ornate piano and flute duo, that precedes a wicked e-guitar blast which is then followed by a more languid keyboard dominated section that sets up the vocals. When the slick drums pop in, the tension rises, as the musical kettle starts boiling, evolving into quite the soaring cosmic ride, worthy of past greats. The arrangement keeps elevating itself to increasingly higher altitudes of expression, like an upward spiraling vortex of sound, heading straight for the stars. The piano and bass dance merrily embraced as the haunting synths converge on some distant point in the night sky. The use of the Roli Seaboard, a slick MIDI keyboard is also of note. The organ finale that revisits the main theme is nothing more than a coup de grace (the last word is not pronounced 'grah' but 'grass' , as coup de grah means a strike of fat, LOL). As far as progression is concerned, I loved their debut and every album thereafter, but this is their crowning achievement. Resolute, rebellious, adventurous, creative, and yes, FOCUSED on creating their own very original style, recognizable within a nano second. The group stick to their mantra, come hell and high water, unconcerned. That needs to be celebrated with gusto and respect.

Quick question: this is "simple' music? Okay then? I guess listening with one ear is the way to lose your balance. For me (and many others) this is touching the sky.

5 Heavenly caresses

tszirmay | 5/5 |

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