UK composer and musician Kevin LAWRY has a solid past in metal, with tenures in the bands Silent Winter, Khthon and Crowned in Earth respectively. Come 2016 and he has decided to leave his band projects behind for a bit to release his first ever solo album. “The Shadows Stole the Dawn” is the name of the album, which was self-released in the late fall.
While I’m not all that aware of Lawry’s past, I understand that doom metal is something of a common denominator in his past ventures. As a solo artist he has chosen a rather brand new turf to explore however, as he makes an attempt at the undefinable and currently fairly popular niche genre of progressive rock.
He does have a lot going for him, I’ll grant him that. He knows his way around song structures that deviates from the mainstream and common, yet manage to avoid being overly complex in doing so. His foundation into these landscapes appears to be from a singer/songwriter perspective, I’d hazard a guess that a lot of the material was created by way of acoustic guitar and vocals alone. While many of the compositions operate out of that or a similar context, he does add a few bits and pieces along the way. Bass-lines and guitar details that gives me a slight feel of new wave at times, some basic keyboard additions, hovering but careful organ motifs and a liberal amount of Mellotron sounds: Flute, voice effects and mournful, nervous textures I’d guess are based on a violin. The latter a fairly common effect used by those who add Mellotron details to their songs.
Delicate passages and pastoral sequences sit side by side with movements of a subtly firmer nature, and as this album unfolds Lawry show that he isn’t a stranger to add in some subtle and some not so subtle psychedelic details either, ranging from delicate echoing guitar details to sharper, psychedelic-oriented guitar solo runs. The drum patterns and tempo can become a tad too pedestrian at times, but by and large all the instrument aspects of this album are at least enjoyable, and some are rather enchanting.
Lawry’s Achilles heel are his vocals however. I do not know how much actual schooling he has in terms of singing, but my perception is that he needs to learn how to use his voice to this type of music, and then the more delicate aspects of his material first and foremost. He breaks, wavers and goes off tune for too great an extent for the end result to be pleasing, at least for listeners with a sensible ear for harmonies and melodies. Which is too bad, as the album as such, aside from this aspect of it, is a rather charming one. Personally I do hope he will revisit this album at some point, either with an improved mastery of his own voice or with a vocalist better suited to handle this material.
All in all I do find the music on this album to be pleasantly enchanting. The combination of acoustic and otherwise careful guitars with organ and Mellotron is a time proven charming combination, and Lawry has a good ear for both compelling melodies, arrangements and moods. The vocals are the weak link here however, so those who know they are sensible to the quality of the lead vocals will most likely find this album lacking in that department. But those who aren’t overly concerned about that aspect of songs and who tend to enjoy progressive rock of a generally careful and delicate will most likely find this album to be a most charming one.
My rating: 60/100
Broken Arrow; Fracture; The River; Faith; Tale of the Drowning Man; The Bitter Winds; The Shadows Stole the Dawn