The Emerald Dawn are back with their fifth album, on the heels of 2021’s crowning achievement, the highly acclaimed “To Touch the Sky”. The bar is set very high as that was quite a release, especially in view of the fact that it was a Covid baby, created under difficult circumstances especially for band fond of touring. Staying true to their unshakable style and the commitment shown by all members of the band, their imminently released “In Time” album should consecrate the group among the progressive rock elite, though these musicians are the most down to earth anywhere. While they perhaps do listen to the Ramones in their spare time, the 3 gargantuan tracks here are extended non-radio friendly epics that showcase their ongoing staying power, even within one single piece of music. Ever since I got my hands on their debut “Searching for the Lost Key” back in 2014, I have admired their steadfast devotion to progress WITHIN the parameters they had set out from the onset, unwavering in sticking to their guns. We at Prog Rogue love rebels!
There is immediate comfort with the sound remaining deliberately haunting, as this is what distinguishes the band from all the other prog groups out there, making them instantly recognizable, a tree among the forests if you will. Speaking of which, Tree Stewart still uses her echo-laden voice to vaporous effect, while her keyboard skills just keep on impressing, being a sound sculptor instead of a flamboyant virtuoso wizard. Ally Carter wields dual weapons of distinction, a moaning, wailing, squeaking guitar tone on one hand and a saxophone that can blare with the best horn blowers on the other, using both judiciously when needed. Being a bass fetishist, the fretless meanderings are always on my radar, searching out each blip with brazen enthusiasm. Finally, an active drum kit is seriously needed to propel the arrangements forward, lest they all bog down into a sea of churning sonic mud.
Opening track is a 23 minute + behemoth that sets the tone right from the opening notes, “Out of Time” is an adventurous splurge of sound and fury, with an ornate piano departure, followed by Ally (Cat) Carter’s meowing leads sensing his whiskers into defining the environment, like a famished panther looking for a much-needed lunch. Tree can scale the notes with ease and conviction, I am somehow reminded of Illusion’s majestic album ‘Out of the Mist” and Jane Relf’s singing in the pastoral style. As befits a very progressive band, David Greenaway’s bass takes the momentary spotlight with an athletic cruise, carving delicious slabs of low-end melody, drummer Tom Jackson keeping the pace eloquently, just setting up another guitar and keyboard flurry. Halfway through the piece, things eventually slow down to a whisper, giving off a classic Gong sheen, as proposed by the wailing voice, exotic drum fills, synths in the background and Ally doing a Didier Malherbe-like workout on sax. It’s an experimental, slightly Middle Eastern, slow-burn slice of genius. All that would be missing is a belly dancer and a clarinet to make the cobra appear from its woven basket and fall under the spell of the hypnotic swoon. Imperceptibly, the return to the main theme occurs without a hitch, spearheaded by an insistent and repetitive melody that sears into the nodes, reaching a plateau of grandiose bliss. The serenity of the opening wistful anthem is restored, the ‘whooshingly’ beautiful voice, the purring guitar seemingly content and a silky final few ticks of the clock. Utterly exquisite piece, easily their finest opus yet.
How the heck can you follow that one? Well, perhaps something “Timeless” and just as epic, packing in another nearly 15 minutes of filigree delight, a soft groove, and a chatty sax! The smoky atmospherics are their claim to fame, unflinchingly utilizing purposefully echo-laden production so as to create tons of captivating atmosphere, almost spooky at times, which pretty much defines most of British prog. Images of foggy marshes, dark forests, both surely enchanted and magical, quaint pastures turning to darker green amid the endless rain swaths, that is what you imagine while listening to these modern-day minstrels. The haunting keyboard work is guided judiciously by the rhythm section, as the brassy sax goes for another round, directing the listener to have a pint or three after this one at the local pub.
Leading the procession to the nearest watering hole, “The March of Time” galvanizes the thirst for more adventurous interplay, as the marshalling drums keep the line, a slick contrast between the rigid and the flowing develops musically. The meandering bass is very much set in its ways, quite flamboyant amid all the rhythmic jazz overtones, playfully scouring the heavens for inspiration and the final part is another psychedelic frolic, with a carping guitar lead that begs, cries, pleads and implores for some kind of deliverance, as Tree’s unflinching voice waves a mournful goodbye. Kind off speechless, which is okay because I am typing after all.
That was the main menu, three whopping tracks that define this band better than ever before, and will comprise the album . I also received, as a secondary chapter, 2 snippets of varying length, “A Moment of Time” both based on the same ultra beautiful opening melody, reworked for those fussy fans out there, for whom a written page is a book, and an epic piece of prog, a huge burden on their attention span. One is “Extended”, adding quite humorously I am sure, an extra minute to the 3 minute and 30 seconds running time. Tongue firmly in cheek.
The five album covers are actually all one larger fresco of sorts, proving that these rebellious artists had a master plan all along….and persevered, in time.
5 Everlasting Rolexes