The previous album “Fall of the Watcher” released in 2022 made my heart flutter so deeply that an EKG was not necessary in determining the workings of my arteries. So, what… I fell in love again! That is what romantic progressive ‘pop’ music can do to the melancholic soul, if so inclined. Not only did I place that album very high on the 2022 altar, with a rather emotional review on my trio of sites, I also chased down the previous albums, especially the equally stunning “Erebus” from 2019. What seduced me thoroughly were the unimpeachable (excuse the pun) melodies that seemed to be created with divine inspiration, particularly when paired with a voice that scours the heavens. Robin Peachey has that rare talent in spades, as every word uttered is clear and poignant, tingling the senses way beyond the norm. One doesn’t need a lyric sheet to follow his utterances. When notified that a new album was in the works, I felt both exhilarated at the prospect of another sonic jewel waiting to be discovered and yet somewhat worried that the bar was too high and perhaps unattainable. I needn’t have bothered, as the new album is a gigantic winner. Both Robin and Paul Johnston have concocted a sophisticated shift in composing and arranging six dark tracks that ‘progress’ to an altogether denser and more distinctive level, perhaps even gloomier than before and reflective of the currently troubled state of humanity, individually and collectively. Just the song titles alone reflect this painful discourse, as both the music and the lyrics underline both tragic loss and wishful eternity.
Setting the sombre tone with the strenuous “Dark Morality”, a ghost emerging from the soul’s inner sanctum, waiting patiently as the mournful piano exposes the stark ethics, a rivulet of bass torch lighting the road ahead, Robin softly choosing his imperative words for maximum effect. His trusted electric guitar raises the bodily hairs with doomsday incandescence, the percussive pulse forges ahead as if leading a funeral procession. The outro ends in dissonant confusion and fatal surrender.
Maintaining the devastating melancholia, “The Final Time” is just too much for anyone to bear, a cello driving home the stake of despondence, an ultimate meeting of closed eyes. Resonant piano and trembling voice reiterate the bluish haze, as a fluid guitar seeks desperately some kind of positive closure. A heart squeezing melody once again.
The epic, nearly 10-minute title track is the epicentre of this remarkable recording, starting off as a simple story purely sung, with a dire piano as the only partner. The jarring electric guitar is the tool with which the arrangement gets ratcheted up into a whirlwind chorus of atmosphere, passion, and melodic acquiescence. The bleak, almost minimalist mid-section beats like a pained heart, a bass pumping a mild sedative as the pain permeates every pore and sinew. Its haunting, perplexing and brazen in its restrained agony. The duo made sure to keep things from being overproduced with any coats of syrupy gloss, a superb piece that has not a single second of fluff.
Hey, it gets worse. Maintaining the eerie shadows and the sinister sonics on “Meaningless to Worth”, the notion of trust is examined, at best a vanishing concept in today’s world, where everything is questioned for ulterior motives and agendas. Cannot have the truth without trust, so that means two are down, I am afraid. The second section serves as a hopeful apotheosis, where shimmering keyboards, shivering guitars, and shifting drums, mean more than money and fame.
The sublime vocal on “Die For Me” steps through the void, and is only matched with a sensationally anguished melody for the ages, a pleading declaration of salvation of any ilk. The mood is raised to a turbulent level with a shuddering guitar rant. The kindly Steven Wilson would be green with envy, as this is a dramatic 9-minute masterwork of melancholia with an extra dose of sorrow. The solemn piano mid-section could be either Barbieri or Holzman, with sparse, minimal but beautiful piano, like a soft echo in a fertile valley, as Robin intones ‘shouldn’t be this way’, paralleled all the way through by his querulous guitar. Beyond gorgeousness.
Looking out over the ocean where humanity’s destiny lies, the ebb and flow of “Raging Sea” connects land and sea, sky and earth, an ideal of peace where we need to return to. The wavering voice matches the fluctuating words, buoyed by a floating bass line and a surging melody not far removed from Tim Bowness’ style. Robin sings with his consuming guitar firmly aimed at the stars above, and letting it cry.
Returned to the Earth have proven persuasively that their musical path is now fully set, fine-tuning, and honing their precious craft towards a future farther from any overt pop sensibilities but also closing in on the apex, a proverbial peak where intelligent and meaningful art can and will prevail. Forever more.
A must have release …..
5 caveman spires