Tracks: 1. Prelude – The Stories (1:40), 2. Blood, Bones and Fear (5:08), 3. Mara (3:38), 4. Someone With No Name (6:55), 5. Our Promise (4:07), 6. Interlude I – Covenant (1:07), 7. The Fallen One (8:33), 8. You and I (6:00), 9. The Midnight Bell (5:21), 10. The Crystal Mountain (4:29), 11. Interlude II – Winter (1:14), 12. The Old Forest (14:49)
Classically-trained Spanish guitarist, composer, and music teacher Raúl Lupiañez has long held a love for rock and metal. His formal training in both guitar and composition is immediately clear on his latest SomeWhereOut album, Deep in the Old Forest. He is the primary musician for the group, handling guitar, all of the keyboards, and most of the bass. Francisco Garoz plays all of the drums, and there are a few other players who contribute guitar and bass solos as well as violin and other string work. There are also eight vocalists featured on the album.
Deep in the Old Forest transcends progressive and atmospheric elements while remaining a thoroughly metal album. At points the verses on songs will be more sedate before pounding into a more straight-forward metal or prog metal chorus. There are symphonic elements as well, but I wouldn’t label SomeWhereOut a symphonic metal band because the strings are used more in the way Steve Hackett uses them on his albums. They add atmosphere when needed, but they aren’t the driving force in the music. I think a symphonic metal band places almost equal importance on the symphonic elements and the metal elements.
The album is full of musical surprises. For instance the light accent of Spanish-style acoustic guitar strumming behind the wall of metal guitars on parts of “Bloods, Bones and Fear” is a nice touch. The solo violin parts add a calmer reflective touch. The violin on “Our Promise” even reminds me of Rachel Hall’s work with Big Big Train. There are many moments across the album, particularly in the keyboards, bass, and some of the guitar solos, that remind me of Steven Wilson’s more progressive solo albums. Apart from the vocals, which sound nothing like Wilson, the track “The Fallen One” could have come off Hand. Cannot. Erase.
The musical variety is expanded further by the use of multiple vocalists. Eight people, both male and female, sing over the course of the album, and they all sing very well. The vocal duet by Abraham Linares and Alba Bermejo on “The Midnight Bell” is particularly beautiful. Their voices work so well together, and the balance of male and female voices blends well with the calmer notes of this track. A song like this shows how hard it is to pin this band down to any one genre. This isn’t a metal track at all. If you heard it by itself you’d think there was no way it could fit with other metal songs, yet it does. The bass and drums kick in with a guitar solo towards the end, and the final result is certainly satisfying. It’s another song that reminds me of Steven Wilson’s work, but it doesn’t have Wilson’s lyrical negativity. “The Midnight Bell” may be my favorite song on the record.
What’s funny is the absolutely killer metal punch Lupiañez gives us with the next song, “The Crystal Mountain.” It’s almost as if he said “ok that’s enough relaxing – it’s time for some shredding.” And shred they do. These two songs right next to each other clearly display the various musical genres the band delves into and excels in.
Thematically the songs on the album are based on various European folk tales with themes connected to forests and mountains. Hope, rebirth, and the conflicting ideas of reflection and living in the moment stand out as well. The CD booklet artwork matches the overall theme with black and white and sepia-toned images of forests and mountain-scapes.
Perhaps the album could use a few more long stand-out guitar solos that really grab the listener’s attention, but as it is the record really delivers as a mildly melancholic prog and prog metal album. I think the album would have been better served with fewer tracks with some of the songs being developed into longer tracks with longer instrumental sections. The final track, “The Old Forest” is almost 15 minutes long, and it feels much more developed. It has more room to build and breathe, which really allows the symphonic elements to shine towards the end.
I suppose I have thrown the word “metal” around a few times when trying to describe Deep in the Old Forest, but looking over the album as a whole I think it fits nicely as a progressive rock album. It selectively pulls from various aspects of the diverse genre labeled “prog” precisely when it needs to. The music is well-composed, with all the elements working together to create a cohesive sound. It offers a pleasant listening experience with many layers to the music to keep your attention. While there are metal moments, I don’t think they’ll be overbearing for people who aren’t into metal. Definitely give SomeWhereOut a try.