|Musical Style: Progressive Metal||Produced By:|
|Record Label: Ulterium||Country Of Origin: Sweden|
|Year Released: 2007||Artist Website:|
|Tracks: 9||Rating: 90%|
|Running Time: 63:21|
You have to admire the versatility of guitarist Markus Sigfridsson. After getting started in 2003 with Harmony and the melodic metal of its stunning debut Dreaming Awake, the artist followed up three years later with 7 Days and the more symphonic power/progressive based sounds of its initial offering The Weight Of The World. Darkwater, the latest project to feature Sigfridsson, takes a foundation of progressive rock and joins it with elements of metal and hard rock on its 2007 full length debut Calling The Earth To Witness. While “progressive metal” is the first label that comes to mind when describing Darkwater, that would only be telling part of the story. Don’t get me wrong, the band delivers a more than ample amount of rhythm guitar to fall within the metal category, and the progressiveness it displays is over the top; on the other hand, you will find influences of classic rock, melodic rock and AOR here along with some jazz fusion and jam band flavorings as well. What is the end result? A versatile but consistent work certain to appeal to fans of Threshold, Dream Theater, Shadow Gallery and Symphony X in addition to those into Neal Morse, Proto-Kaw, Kansas and Yes. All in all, my overall feeling is that it is not necessary to be a fan of metal to enjoy Darkwater. And that is to the bands credit.
Darkwater, a band that initially came together in Sweden in late 2003 and spent the next several years perfecting its material before signing with Ulterium Records in early 2007, features four of the five original members of Harmony. Henrik Bath perfectly complements the material here with his clean sounding and smooth – at times emotional – lead vocal style. It is worth noting the steps and strides made by Henrik in terms of his range and delivery, improving upon what was already a very fine performance on Dreaming Awake. Henrik also fills in on rhythm guitar and is joined by Markus Sigfridsson on lead guitar. An accomplished player who is not afraid to cut loose and extend the length of his soloing, Markus provides the needed backbone for the confidence Darkwater displays in its instrumental sound. When playing music of such a progressive nature, at the same time, it is important to posses a keyboardist of an adept variety. And such is the case with Magnus Holberg, whose work adds the right accentuating touch – particularly his balanced use of piano and organ – without unnecessarily dominating the music. Drummer Tobias Enbert and bassist Karl Wasshold round out the rhythm section.
As previously stated, the music here is over the top in its progressiveness with seven of the albums full length songs averaging at around just over nine minutes each. One of the reasons the album features such lengthy material is that Darkwater takes every opportunity to showcase its instrumental sound. But the bands approach is tasteful and complementary without coming across indulgent in that every time a song transitions to instrumental territory you cannot help but get the feeling a natural progression is being made. To understand my point, please give the epic “Habit” and “All Eyes On Me” – a nine minute piece which is roughly half instrumental – several spins. “Tallest Tree”, a creative progressive rock number, and the metal laced “Again”, in addition, all feature significant instrumental portions as well.
Production values pristinely allow all the instrumentation to rise above the mix.
The album gets underway with “2534167 (Intro)”, a short (:32) distorted sounding instrumental.
“All Eyes On Me” commences to a near perfect melding of rhythm guitar and keyboards. Drifting ahead in a laid back manner to a highlighting trace of piano, the song picks up in pace as it obtains a chorus guaranteed to draw you in with its resonant and uplifting appeal. “All Eyes On Me” proves a near virtual jam session as nearly half its nine minutes are instrumental.
A jazz fusion-like feeling is reflecting in the instrumental based opening to “Again”. The song gains momentum as the rhythm guitar moves to the front of the mix for its first verse, sustaining the vibrant atmosphere on its way to a melodic based chorus that will have you singing along in no time. Darkwater displays the strength of its musicianship throughout a three and a half minute long instrumental section.
“Habit”, the albums “epic” at 12:46, is a highly complex and technical number introduced to vocal harmonies that give way to the instrumental section that covers its first minute and a half. “Habit” proceeds to traverse a literal maze of time changes, some creative and other intricate, all the while giving rise to a melody of a copious nature. An occasional touch of organ only adds to the majestic scene. Beautiful song.
“The Play – I” is a fleeting (2:34) ballad that reflects a Kansas influence as a result of the piano that shores up its entire length.
“The Play – II” begins its first minute and a half in instrumental territory as a forward mix of rhythm guitar dominates the fusion based setting. Maintaining the guitar driven initiative during its verse portions, “The Play – II” evens out upon reaching a chorus reflecting a smooth sounding but euphonic touch. Sigfridsson steps forward with a display of his signature radiant work on lead guitar.
A symphonic aura is exuded during the two minute instrumental based opening to “Shattered”. The driving rhythm guitar that steps forward pushes the song ahead in aggressive fashion, further impetus gained as a chorus advancing at a scintillating, upbeat tempo is obtained. Another extensive instrumental section allows Sigfridsson to show off his abilities on lead guitar.
The ten minute “Tallest Tree” embarks quietly to an acoustic guitar before a crunchy rhythm guitar takes over the mix. Slowing to a trace of piano prior to its first verse, the song regains its determination as the rhythm guitar returns and leads the way to a swiftly moving chorus in which an authoritative setting is established. A near perfect mix of rhythm guitar highlights an imposing three and a half minute long instrumental section.
At “just” six minutes “In My Dreams” is the shortest of the albums full length tracks. The piano at the start of the song soon gives way to an even blend of rhythm guitar and keyboards. Leveling off at the start of its first verse, momentum is gradually gained by “In My Dreams” on its way to an arresting chorus fortified by Bath’s emotionally charged vocal delivery. The abundant backing vocals found throughout the song help to give it an AOR feel.
Review by: Andrew Rockwell
Track Listing: “2534167 (Intro)” (:32), “All Eyes On Me” (8:48), “Again” (9:01), “Habit” (12:46), “The Play – I” (2:34), “The Play –II” (8:39), “Shattered” (9:38), “Tallest Tree” (10:14), “In My Dreams” (6:09)
Henrik Bath – Lead Vocals & Guitars
Markus Sigfridsson – Guitars
Magnus Holmberg – Keyboards
Karl Wasshold – Bass
Tobias Enbert – Drums