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Drifting Sun - Veil CD (album) cover

VEIL

Drifting Sun

 

Neo-Prog

4.29 | 42 ratings

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tszirmay
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars It becomes quite daunting when the entire discography over the years of a band are all major winners, with nary a thought of any weaker one among the lot. Such is the case with my long love affair with Drifting Sun going back to 2015 when I discovered the band's "Trip the Light Fantastic" album. Since those heady early days, my online friendship with Pat Sanders (in both English and French, may I add) has been easily one of my cherished ones, on par with the one I enjoy with my esteemed Lazland. I must also admit for the record, that both the 2016 "Safe Asylum" and the follow up in 2017 "Twilight" have stolen my heart and still resonate deeply in a multitude of unexplainable ways. Both subsequent albums, the adventurous "Planet Junkie" and the sprawling "Forsaken Innocence" are essential, extremely well received critically and acclaimed by the vast progressive fanbase. This is not surprising at all, in view of the solid talent that was on display! So, the dark clouds of the pandemic have petered out, giving all the time needed to set up the next chapter, as Pat reveals "VEIL" to the eager general public. With returning veterans John 'Jargon' Kosmidis on vocals as well as the celebrated bassist John Jowitt, Drifting Sun has added ex-Pendragon drummer Fudge Smith, guitarist Ralph Cardall (aka the Grump) replacing Mathieu Spaeter, as well as Suzi James (Fearful Symmetry and T.A.P.) on violin, and 7 chorists to fill out the line-up.

"Veiled" is a striking keyboard display with strings and choir, in a very classical mode that serves as a brief introduction for the impressive epic "Frailty", a dozen minutes of inspired bliss that wastes little time in marshalling all the muscular elements of the rhythm section, John and Fudge thundering along, keeping apace with the streaking guitar lines and Pat's sizzling synthesizer and splashy organ prowess, most especially his increasingly inspired piano playing. Jargon stays true to his Greek roots by theatrically seizing the microphone and telling his marathon tale of a doomed affair, a classic human tragedy. A top-notch track that really sets the tone for the things to come, a powerful choir finishing off the arrangement with clever bombast.

That masterful piano establishes the stunning "Eros & Psyche", a duet with Jargon's touching voice, simplicity incarnate. The serene atmosphere is maintained until the transition to a more powerful elevation and the full exploration of the initial melody. Swirling electric guitar raises the delirium to celestial heights, 'catching the whirlwind of life' and closing 'those old and withered eyes of mine'.

Mystical moments among the frozen lakes, darkened moods recalling Odin and Valhalla as we travel towards "The Thing", the glacial choir clashes with the sorrowful lead voice, as Ralph unleashes a few Thor's hammer solos, full of screeching agony and windswept rage. A spectacularly atmospheric piece that would make a Pict, Norman, or Viking proud.

A "2 Minute Waltz" piano etude settles the mood for the next barrage, and it bears repeating that Pat's decision to showcase his ivory talent is well worth the applause. Leading into the appropriately flamboyant "Through the Veil", the main melody is world class, the never surrender vocal delivery is off the charts, as the underlying arrangement is full of bravado, transition, and complex variations, as highlighted by the furious rhythmic maelstrom displayed by Jowitt and Smith, who sound like they have played together for decades. Darn professionals!

The unambiguous attraction of "The Old Man" is self-evident, as the delicate melody is like a balm of comfort, immediately effective and instantly addictive. With poignant lyrics such as 'the old man weeping on the floor, knows his time has come, he stands still bruised and broken hearted, when the hour strikes, one more taste of bygone days', how can anyone be left indifferent, blasť, or bored? The 'frailty' of this slice of magnificence was presented as a pre-release video and it hit me then very hard as I pass beyond the golden years into the final countdown. Ralph peels off an extended and utterly wicked solo, right on the heels of a fluttering synth. My favourite track here and easily, one of DS's crowning achievements. I gulp in genuine admiration.

The finale "Cirkus", as befits the title, is a tortuous cavalcade of emotions depicting the absurdity of life: 'desire, foul sin clad in insanity', or 'time fades away, we live and you die, in the blinking of an eye'. Disjointed organ harassed by a damaging bass, carnival sonorities that transmit a sense of playful discord through the quavering vocals, the choir in full echo mode, rapid fire choppy rhythmic upheavals, all combining to exhibit all the contradictions of the human experience, including the good, the bad and the ugly. When Jargon exalts 'minds burning we know what we must do, plunge to depths of heaven or hell' and the choir expels the air in their lungs, only the sudden stop of the piano announces the silence of eternity.

The Covid isolation has provided him perhaps unwanted opportunity to introspect, and he has had more than enough time to reflect on the human condition during this solitary period (as many thinkers and artists have), finding inspiration in both word and sound. Easily a top candidate for 2024 honours.

5 Hidden Crab Salads (internal joke)

tszirmay | 5/5 |

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