Advent, SILENT SENTINEL (released on August 11, 2015).
Tracks: In Illo Tempore; On the Wings of an Ant (Verse 1); Voices from California; The Uncharted Path; Reloj de Sol; On the Wings of an Ant (Verse 2); The Silent Sentinel; 12/12; Sentinel’s Reprise: The Exit Interview; Second Thoughts; On the Wings of an Ant (Verse 3); and Romanitas.
Birzer Rating: 10/10
Without question, this is one of the most interesting releases I’ve heard in a long, long time. I don’t mean there aren’t or haven’t been other incredible releases in the recent past. There’s no question that 2015 has turned out to be one of the finest years in the history of prog. This is high praise, indeed, as the last five or so years have been nothing short of mind-bogglingly good.
By claiming that SILENT SENTINEL is interesting, I mean INTERESTING. Really interesting. There’s never a shortage of musicians doing the tried and true, just as there’s never a shortage of musicians trying to do something radically new. It’s rare that the former last long, and it’s equally rare that the latter can create something of beauty. The best art is always that which honors the past while making the old palatable to the present. This is where Advent admirably succeeds. SILENT SENTINEL is art, pure and simple. It’s also well-executed and beautiful art. It honors the past while making something old new.
Over four decades of listening to prog, I’ve never heard anything quite like this new Advent album. I hear elements of Genesis, ELP, Gentle Giant, and A LOT of what sounds like Glass Hammer—at least in terms of music composition. What makes SILENT SENTINEL so fascinating is 1) its vocal lines; and 2) the intersection of its vocals and Glass Hammer like music.
As it turns out, this is Advent’s third album. I must admit, I thought it was the band’s second. And, I’m more than a bit embarrassed about this mistake. I’ve been listening to what I thought was the band’s first, CANTUS FIRMUS, rather lovingly for years. I’m now eager to get the first album. My loss, and soon my gain.
Regardless. . . .
If I had to compare this new album to anything on the current music scene, I would definitely name it the cousin of the work of Babb and Schendel, as mentioned above. But, SILENT SENTINEL not a clone, by any means. And, I hope this doesn’t turn off any readers, but it must be said. This is Glass Hammer if someone were writing really artsy and innovative jazz mixed with some really good (not Marty Haugen!) liturgical music. There’s an element of Hebraic chant, but there’s an even stronger element of Palestrina-like music. Don’t worry: no one is screaming scripture at you. The religious element—as far as I can tell (as I don’t have the lyric sheet)—is in the music and vocal lines, not the words.
I’ve said in half-seriousness for several years that CANTUS FIRMUS is Chestertonian prog. SILENT SENTINEL is more Tolkienian prog. I could easily imagine this music being sung in the First Age of Beleriand, most likely under the protection of Melian. It’s Sindarin Elvish, to be sure.
As you can see—even from a cursory glance at the track listing—this is a joy, pure and whole. There are a lot of themes that repeat throughout the album, and there’s playfulness intermixed with intensity passages of beauty. The production of the album is especially crisp, with every instrument really shining forth as a part and as a part of a whole. Really, everything—drums, keyboards, guitar, and bass—sound perfect. And, it’s clear that the producer and sound engineer gave everything to make this cd work so beautifully. I have a feeling that no matter how many times I listen to this, I’ll be rewarded with hearing something new.
While there’s nothing half-way done on the album, and I like it all, I’m most drawn to the epic title track, The Silent Sentinel. I’m not exactly sure what the context of the story is, but the music flows mysteriously and cinematically. I presume it’s a play on the title of the band, as Advent is a time of watchful waiting. Thus, the Silent Sentinel is a guard over time as well as space.
Again, I don’t have the lyric sheet, but it sounds like there’s some real Homeric evil happening as well, with the guardian protecting the crossroads of this world and the next.
I really can’t exaggerate or overstate how much SILENT SENTINEL grabs and intrigues me. It’s the kind of release that makes me not only proud to be a prog fan, but it actually makes me proud to be alive–to live at a time that produces such artists. This is the equal of Big Big Train and The Tangent in terms of quality, innovation, and beauty.
Progarchists, SILENT SENTINEL is something truly special. Don’t let this release pass you by. Pre-order and prepare to be dazzled and downright overwhelmed.
For more information and pre-ordering, make sure to visit Advent’s website: http://www.adventmusic.net
Order the Silent Sentinel pre-sale bundle
NOTE: Shipping/handling included in all prices.
LIMITED-TIME OFFER (expires 9 PM EDT on August 1st)
Pre-sale bundle of Advent’s Silent Sentinel album includes:
- A copy of the 77.5-minute Silent Sentinel CD
- 24-bit/96-kHz audiophile files of the entire album (sent electronically)
- An exclusive 29-minute bonus CD-R featuring:
- Classical guitar duet from “On the Wings of an Ant (verse 2)”
- Vocals-up mix of “Voices from California” (first half)
- Vocals-up highlights from the “The Silent Sentinel”
- Vocals-up highlights from the “Sentinel’s Reprise: The Exit Interview”
- “Canto XXVI (The Evil Counselors)”
- “Awaiting the Call …” live at MARPROG
NOTES: Includes early shipment of physical media unless autographs are requested*. Audiophile (24/96) files to be delivered electronically via the Internet on or before date CDs are mailed. The Silent Sentinel album (CD and corresponding 24/96 audiophile files) mastered by Bob Katz at Digital Domain.
I hope you’ve all had a chance to read Erik Heter’s excellent review of the new RIVERSIDE album. From the listens I’ve had of it, LOVE, FEAR, AND THE TIME MACHINE lives up to everything any fan of the band would want and desire.
I agree with Erik’s assessment—as I almost always do! I have to say, though, that I hope Riverside brings all of its music together.
Let me try to explain.
One of the things I loved most about the first three albums of Riverside is how well they tied together. By design, Riverside wrote and produced their first three albums to delve deeply into the soul and mind. One is never sure if the protagonist of the three albums is insane or trapped in a purgatorial world. Either way, the emotional flow is nothing short of astounding. Everything works perfectly on these three albums, and each member of the band is truly a member of a friendship of artists, a meaningful part of a whole.
The live album, REALITY DREAM, is one of the finest concerts ever recorded. Even the name of the show reveals how much mystery exists in the topic. The words flow like poetry.
When ADHD came out, I fell in love with it immediately. It has a much harder edge to it, of course. In my mind, I saw a huge project.
- Chapter 1: Out of Myself; Second Life Syndrome; and REM.
- Interlude: Lunatic Soul I
- Chapter 2: ADHD
- Interlude: Lunatic Soul II
The problem, of course, is that the following Riverside releases, SHRINE and LFTM, don’t fit the plan! [Queue Geddy Lee’s voice]
Ok, so it’s my plan. But, still. . . .
I think Riverside is one of the best of the best. By simply writing great albums, though, they diminish the chances of achieving rock immortality. They’ve traded the extraordinary for the good. Let’s hope they come back to a grand plan and, thus, achieve something divine.
It’s not enough to pump out great albums. A truly extraordinary band demands a vision of the whole, not merely particulars of the moment.
VIP Gold Package includes:
As I look back on the last seventeen years of my life, there are a number of things that amaze me and humble me: marriage; children; career. . . and, well just plain life.
I’m also shocked that an art form I’ve loved for the vast majority of my life–progressive rock–has grown so successful and diverse over the past two decades.
And, the year 2000: SPACE REVOLVER by the Flower Kings; SMPTe by Transatlantic; V by Spock’s Beard. I’ve had the privilege of writing about each of these albums at some length. Then, there was also LIGHTBULB SUN by Porcupine Tree and UNIVERSAL MIGRATOR by Ayreon as well. Really, just pause and think about the year 2000 for a moment. What a vital year.
One I’ve not noticed yet, however, is another favorite from that rather delightful year of prog, Glass Hammer’s CHRONOMETREE. I didn’t come to Glass Hammer until 2001, but I quickly went backward in their catalogue.
August 22, 2015, will be the fifteenth anniversary of this astounding work of art. As some point in the next week or so, I’ll examine it at length. For now, though, I reached out to my good friend and hero, Steve Babb. Here’s what he kindly wrote back to me.
I remember my wife and I left town for a week’s vacation and when we returned a lot of Chronometree’s music had already been written by Fred [Schendel]. He wanted it to be an instrumental solo project, but the sound of that Hammond organ and the retro style of the music was such that I insisted we make it a full blown Glass Hammer project with a storyline. We never imagined it would be such a turning point for us. That’s the moment we embraced our roots and we have never truly repented of it. Prog fans couldn’t resist the storyline, as everyone could relate to our character “Tom” and his slacker friends. Chronometree was a prog album about taking prog albums too seriously. We’re all guilty of it. Leave it to Glass Hammer to call attention to that.
I was going to wait and incorporate Steve’s quote into the larger article, but it seems simply too good for me to hold back from our progarchy audience! So, enjoy.
And, much more to come.
It’s often said that one cannot judge a book by its cover. Of course, as someone once reminded me, short of reading the book, the cover is about all upon which it can be judged. An album is the same way – short of hearing it, the cover is one of the few things upon which you can form an opinion. If this seems a bit silly, please bear with me.
Of all the genres of music, progressive rock imparts an added importance in the cover art. If you don’t believe me, well go take a look at almost any Yes album cover. For that matter, take a look at the cover of ELP’s Brain Salad Surgery, King Crimson’s In The Court of The Crimson King, or Foxtrot by Genesis. For more recent prog, take a look at any Flower Kings cover, any album from The Tangent, or more generally just about any cover artwork by Ed Unitsky (who is rapidly becoming this generation’s Roger Dean). Of course, a bad cover doesn’t preclude an album from being good, nor does a good cover make up for lackluster music. Still, at least as often as not, in progressive rock the album cover and the music are reflections of one another.
On Riverside’s previous album, Shrine of New Generation Slaves, the music was very reflective of its cover – gray and harsh (do not mistake this for a critique, I very much liked it). Similarly, the cover of Riverside’s latest, Love, Fear and the Time Machine, also reflects the album’s music. The front artwork for Love, Fear and the Time Machine is bracketed with various shades of blue on top and bottom, gradually getting brighter as one progresses toward a band of bright color that cuts across the middle. The brightness is most intense toward the center. While not necessarily a chronological description of the album or any particular song, this is nevertheless a good description of the music as a whole.
Love, Fear and the Time Machine finds Riverside moving into what is for them musically uncharted territory. While parts of the music retain some of their trademark moodiness, if not darkness, there are also parts that convey a very comforting warmth – much like the center of the album cover. This album has a looser, more melodic feel than any previous Riverside release. Some of those who were attracted to Riverside for the metallic aspects of their sound might be disappointed that they seem to have dispensed with those here. Nevertheless, this album still rocks in many places, metal sounds or not. But most of all, it is stunningly good, quite possibly the best Riverside album yet.
Some songs draw on 80’s influences such as The Cure, others draw on 70’s prog influences. That is not to say that these songs are derivative, and in fact they are anything but. Instead, they take those influences, mold it with their own style, and still manage to come up with something that is uniquely Riverside. And like the best progressive rock out there, this album has a sound that is very identifiable with its creators, and yet it sounds like nothing they have ever done before.
The album opens strongly with Lost, a song which encapsulates my previous comments regarding the cover and the music reflecting one another. Melancholy overtones are punctuated in the latter half of the song by some intensely emotional guitar work by Piotr Grudziński (IMO, one of the absolute best guitarists in the current prog wave). Under the Pillow seems like a three-way hybrid of 70’s and 80’s music combined with current prog. On the other hand, Addicted has a very strong 80’s sound. Mariusz Duda mentioned The Cure as a musical influence for this album, and it certainly shows through here. Afloat exhibits the most intense and consistent sadness of any song on the album, conveying a sense of regret or remorse and reflecting the darkest blue one the cover. The influence from Duda’s more recent Lunatic Soul projects is strong on Afloat than anywhere else on the album. Meanwhile, Saturate Me is the proggiest track of the bunch, with simultaneous excellence on guitar, keyboards, bass, and drums. Without listing the others, there no bad tracks here, only good ones and great ones.
I have to apologize that his review is somewhat incomplete, as I do not have the lyrics in front of me, and probably will not until my CD copy of the album arrives in early September. Nevertheless, Duda has stated that Love, Fear and the Time Machine is “about everything that pushes us to make the most important decisions in our life.” One gets that sense from the opening lyrics of Lost. Still, a full digesting of the lyrics will have to wait.
In what is shaping up to be another incredible year of progressive rock music, Riverside has returned with one of the best, most emotional, and most satisfying releases of the year. Far from resting on the laurels of their previous accomplishments, Love, Fear, and the Time Machine shows a band evolving, stretching, and pushing their sound in new directions. Still, the basic essence of Riverside remains fully intact. That is the mark of both a great progressive rock band and a great progressive rock album.
For two weeks only, you can get an advanced review copy of NEIL PEART: CULTURAL (RE)PERCUSSIONS.
NEIL PEART: CULTURAL (RE)PERCUSSIONS is now available in early form. As an e-book, a part of the Humble Bundle. For two weeks only!
$15 and you get tons of books, including an advanced review copy of the Peart bio.
The final paperback and ebook (all formats) version will be out September 15.
Maybe it’s the professional historian in me, but I love dates, and I love anniversaries.
This year is the fifteenth anniversary of Transatlantic’s first album, the rather stunning and never aging SMPTe.
I’d not heard of the project until one of my students handed me a copy of the CD in the fall of 2000, about six months or so after its release. I knew Morse (I’d been one of the first–if not the first–persons in Bloomington, Indiana, to purchase THE LIGHT from Spock’s Beard), I knew Trewavas (having been a Marillion fan since BRAVE), and I knew Mike Portnoy, having purchased every Dream Theater release since 1992’s IMAGES AND WORDS. Roine Stolt? Didn’t have a clue at that point, though I’d heard of The Flower Kings.
My first reaction upon seeing the CD cover was one of elation. This looked like a very modernized Yes cover. And, of course, I loved the starship/blimp. I thought the album title, SMPTe, was kind of weird, as I didn’t quite get why the names of the members were so important, but, then, it was a “supergroup.”
Looking at the credits, I thought, “Ok, this is a Morse project. I wonder why he isn’t finding enough fulfillment in Spock’s Beard?” Not that I knew much about anything going on in any of the bands represented in Transatlantic. I knew the music, but I didn’t know any details about any of the bands.
In fact, the only real music news I kept up on at the time was for Rush, Yes, Tears for Fears, and Talk Talk. Admittedly, I did a very good job of keeping up with these bands, but I was aided by some really good user groups and news groups (remember those?!!?).
When I put the Transatlantic cd on my stereo, I was completely floored. The first minute of sound effects not only grabbed me, but all 31 minutes of the epic rooted me in place. I was utterly blown away. Yes had given us songs at 22-24 minutes, and Rush had come close, but 31 minutes? Holy schnikees. This was flat out amazing. Then, “We All Need Some Light,” which I thought sounded much like a Spock’s Beard song. Thus, I Iiked it. And, it was the perfect breather after “All of the Above.” I didn’t fall in love with this track, though, until I heard it live on LIVE IN AMERICA.
The third track, “Mystery Train,” really caught my attention as well, pulling me back into the depths of the album. I loved the psychedelia of it, and I was especially taken with the Beatle-esque refrain. This was an updated version of something off of the MAGICAL MYSTERY TOUR–yet it was an homage not a mimicry.
If I’d been captivated by tracks 1 and 3, I was once again thrown into a tizzy as I listened to the sixteen minutes of “My New World.” The references to the Doors and Jimi Hendrix sold me. And, I’m a sucker for Stolt’s voice. As soon as I heard this album, I immediately purchased all of The Flower Kings up to that point.
SPACE REVOLVER, by the way, became and remains one of my top ten favorite all-time albums.
As I looked back over the first four tracks of SMPTe, I came to realize how very different each song had been. There was no distinctive “Transatlantic” song. They each hit me in different ways.
Then, as though I deserved dessert (which I didn’t!), Transatlantic gave me a remake of one of the best Procol Harum songs ever written. Granted, it wasn’t “Simple Sister” but it was the next best thing.
When Transatlantic played live over the internet, I listened. When the live album of that recording, LIVE IN AMERICA, came out, I bought it–the day it came out. And, I’ve done the same with every single live or studio CD since. I will admit that I was horribly shocked by Portnoy’s language on the live releases. At the time, I was only recently married. My wife comes from a very conservative Texas family, and she knew nothing about prog. As I was listening and Portnoy said inappropriate things, I cringed. Astoundingly, my wife either didn’t hear Portnoy or chose not to hear. She’s now as much a Morse/Portnoy fan as I am. So, all’s well that ends well!
I will admit that it’s a bit hard for me to accept that I first heard SMPTe fifteen years ago. At that point, I was newly married, and my oldest child was just a year old! Now, he’s sixteen, and he has six siblings! Sheesh.
And, my wife is now a prog fan. Again, the times do change.
A huge thank you to Morse, Portnoy, Trewavas, and Stolt. That one album from a decade and a half ago introduced me to the Flower Kings, and it made me realize that third-wave prog was and remains pure, unadulterated love and beauty.