Haven of Echoes, The Indifferent Stars, 2022
Tracks: Sirensong (6:11), The Orator’s Gift (4:49), Stasis (5:31), Endtime (9:03), The Lord Giveth… (6:02), Let Them In (12:15)
UK and German duo Haven of Echoes have created a compelling blend of moody synth and bass-based prog. The group is a new project featuring UK-based Paul Sadler on vocals and electric guitar and Germany-based Andreas Hack on all other instruments. Sadler wrote the lyrics and vocal lines while Hack wrote and arranged the music, as well as produced and mixed the album. Their music is perhaps best described as melancholic progressive rock. Sadler is known for his work with progressive metal band Spires, while Hack is known for his work with Frequency Drift. The band was joined by electric harpist Nerissa Schwarz (Frequency Drift) on “Stasis” and “The Lord Giveth…”, the latter of which she wrote.
The opening of the record quickly shows how Hack has no intention of making “The Indifferent Stars” sound like a typical “prog” album. While one might be tempted to start the record with some soaring guitars, Hack chose a wall of drums with strings filling in the rest of the space. As the album progresses, it becomes clear that the approach to rock music is a bit more roundabout. Bass and drums create a solid rhythm section, but even the bass is very understated. The layers of synth sounds and Sadler’s layered vocals are what drive the record forward. The balance of delicate sounds with heavier broodiness create a unique and compelling sound.
“Endtime” has a melancholic brood to it with an interesting chant style to the singing in the second half. The song starts more upbeat before taking a dramatic turn in the second half. Sadler’s voice really shines, with his vocal layering done very well. A lot of times a singer harmonizing with himself doesn’t work very well, for me at least because it sounds so obvious, but Sadler sings in a couple different styles, which almost makes it sound like there are multiple vocalists. As such the vocal performances on the entire record stand out and make it an album worth listening to. On top of that, Sadler’s lyrics are interesting and intelligent, drawing the listener into reflection.
All man’s desire is nothing but fire“Endtime”
As the longest track on the album, “Let Them In” has room to move through various musical themes. It can be elegant and gentle one minute with vocals over calm piano, while the next minute it’s building on top of heavier guitar, bass, darker piano, and a wall of synths. Before you know it, it’s back in a calmer space built on a layer of cleaner piano, bass, and guitars. The closing guitar solo real seals the deal.
The album was superbly mixed by Hack. There’s a lot of depth and clarity in the mix. There is a layered effect to it that invites you to dig deeper on repeated listens. There’s much to uncover in the subtle bass, dancing cymbals, and myriad keyboard sounds.
If I had a complaint, it would be the lack of electric guitar leads. Sadler only plays on the last track, and his solo is very good. I think it would have added another layer to the album if he played throughout. The record gets its depth and heaviness from a mix of moody synths and low bass. There’s nothing wrong with that – in fact the result is very interesting. But some more guitar solos wouldn’t have hurt either.
It’s clear that Sadler and Hack are an extremely dynamic duo. Sadler’s lyrics and vocal talent are a perfect match to Hack’s musicianship and skill as a producer and mixer. The band’s sound is built by a wall of sound, combining all the instruments to create an effect, rather than any particular instrument standing at the forefront. Their goal is more about the overall sound than the individual parts, as it should be. The result is worthy of your time and attention.