|Musical Style: Progressive Hard Rock||Produced By: Sombre Holiday|
|Record Label: Independent||Country Of Origin: USA|
|Year Released: 2009||Artist Website: Sombre Holiday|
|Tracks: 10||Rating: 80%|
|Running Time: 43:04|
Someone needs to say it, and it’s going to be me: Sombre Holiday is one of the overlooked gems in the Christian metal and hard rock scene.
Now, by “overlooked gem” I am thinking in terms of a band that possesses a great deal of musical ability but does not always get the credit and recognition that it deserves. And that would be the best way to describe Sombre Holiday, a two man project led by brothers Terry (guitars, vocals & keyboards) and Trevor Friesen (drums).
No, Sombre Holiday might not be a household name, and I was in the dark about the group until they contacted me about reviewing their 2009 full length debut In Search Of Understanding… But I am glad that they did because what we have here is a quality work reflecting the potential of an act with a very promising future ahead of it. Overlooked? Perhaps for the moment but I am certain not for long.
Specifically, Sombre Holiday brings a joining of metal and hard rock with some heavy progressive underpinnings. In its press material, as a matter of fact, the group describes itself as “sounding somewhat like Fates Warning, Saviour Machine, and Porcupine Tree (but with) inspirations by Metallica and Stryper showing through periodically”. I cannot help but agree, particularly the Saviour Machine comparison- at least a heavier and harder rocking version of the group. Deliverance also comes to mind. Some of the darker and lower key moments here hint at the Learn and Camelot In Smithereens era of Deliverance’s career but with a bit more of a progressive edge.
The albums first three songs, “The Break Of A New Beginning”, “Recognizable Mystery” and “Stories End”, with their moody mid-paced leanings and immediately accessible hooks, best reflect the Deliverance comparison. At this point it must be reinforced the amount of melody Sombre Holiday imbues its material. This stands out best on “Nowhere”, “Blinded Eyes” and “Sun Fade”, three of the albums more progressive (and stronger) tracks. Other choice pieces include “Breath: New World” and “Still”, as a result of their mellow-to-heavy and back again time changes, and the bluesy hard rocker “Today Staying Away”. An acoustic based number can be found as well, “Respite”.
Some of the Deliverance and Saviour Machine comparisons come about as a result of the deep and somber – at times Gothic tinged – vocal style of Terry Friesen. Of course, Jimmy P. Brown (Deliverance) and Eric Clayton (Saviour Machine) come to mind but so does Matt Smith (Theocracy) singing in a lower key. If anything, the emotion here matches that of the Theocracy front man.
If you are going to perform music of this capacity then you also need a guitarist that can deliver the goods rhythm guitar wise. And that would also be the way to describe Terry Friesen, who does not disappoint with his balanced blend of driving riffs and tight sounding melodies that would do Jimmy P. Brown proud. But when the artist slows things down on “Still” and “Blinded Eyes” many of his quieter guitar moments almost hint at U2. Amazing. Some generous instrumental moments are allowed as well, as can be found on “The Break Of A New Beginning”, “Stories End” and “Sun Fade”, which finds the artist cutting loose with his adept soloing.
Brother Trevor Friesen, it must be noted, fills in capably with his heavy footed drum style.
The only complaint I have regarding the project revolves around production, which is a bit thin in places. The low end can be murky while vocals are placed somewhat forward in the mix. That said, production does not hold back the listening experience- far from it in that the songwriting here is of too high a quality for such misgivings.
The title In Search Of Understanding… references the book of Proverbs with the overall concept revolving around one man’s struggle to choose between lady wisdom and lady folly. Lyrics represent a strength and prove you can communicate significant truth without hitting the listener over the head in the process. Also, In Search Of Understanding is the first disc in a two disc series with the second, Four Shadows, due out in 2011.
Track By Track
“The Break Of A New Beginning” fades in acoustically prior to a sledgehammer rhythm guitar taking over. The song proves a high emotion piece the rest of the way, merging riffs of a stalwart variety with a pulsating low end but emphasizing a copious melody certain to pull you in with repeated listen. The message here revolves around someone looking for answers:
Your beating heart on the break of a new beginning
Your breath hot with feelings undiscovered
Your soul searching for a reflection
In someone who looks just like you
Deception keeps the breeze from breathing out
Our flickering matchflame story
We discover nothing amid the parameters
And wisdom holds them in place
“Recognizable Mystery” proves another fiery piece, starting slowly but breaking out as a metal edged guitar kicks in and impels things forward in full force. Contrasting the dominant environs is an expertly executed chorus – curt, too the point and catchy as all get out – and hints of keyboards adding an atmospheric touch. Lyrics are introspective:
It’s the situation
It’s the lonely way I find meaning
It’s the way the days end and I take
My thoughts and arrange their capture
Finding their flaws lair by lair
And make a mountain out of insecurities
And wonder why I’m not a conqueror for someone
And wonder maybe that I am
Then I consider how ludicrous this is
Me, wandering alone, inside the mirror-
Recognizable without the mystery
Elements of the heavy and melodic can be found on “Stories End”. Heavy in terms of the walls of heavy duty – almost thrash-like – guitars and powering drums that layer the song; melodic from the standpoint of its acoustic based opening and catchy chorus that borders on the sweeping in form.
“Nowhere” immediately jump starts in frenetic fashion, a relentless guitar riff leading the way until things descend into a dark and doom-ish chorus interwoven with layered vocal melodies. The song slows further after several minutes to a still passage backed by an ominous (almost extreme) voice and violin, initiative not picking up until a bluesy stretch of soloing takes over. “Nowhere” returns to an incessant tempo its final minutes as the ominous voice again carries the backdrop. If this is not an example of progressiveness then I do not know what is. “Nowhere” focuses on dealing with the past:
“I’m left alone
Gathering dust like an old remembrance
I know you don’t believe me
I know you don’t really mean to be
But if there’s nowhere to go but down
I won’t climb the wall to the ground”
Left here now
Like an old remembrance
A memory of fire
“Blinded Eyes” maintains the progressive edge. The song starts gently to some wave-like guitar that almost hints at U2. A Spanish guitar soon adds to the calming effect, a doom-like atmosphere put in place as some ethereal guitar feedback makes its presence prior to a low-key chorus in which the haunting momentum is sustained. A metallic rhythm guitar closes out the final minute of the albums best track.
“Still” breaks down into two parts. The first, covering the two minute opening, is lightly done in featuring a joining of acoustic and electric guitar. The second, encompassing the songs remaining distance, delivers a hard rocking edge as a heavy duty guitar steps forward and adds to the poignant setting. This one might not be as melodic as those preceding it but still reflects elements of the progressive.
“Breath: New World” follows the same of its predecessor in starting to a quietly played opening before the rhythm guitar kicks into high gear. The song storms forward from this point, delivering some of the albums more up-tempo moments in being backed by quite the aggressive intent. Some emotional touches are added in the process. “Breath: New World” reflects upon creation:
The world is new
The world is made alive by Your breath
From the waters over the seas
Beauty is in You
Love calls Your name
“Love!” cries Your name
The attraction of endless energy
Periodic helplessness, the explorer
The pathfinder, a seeker, a doer-
One who needs leading-
Someone, answer the questions now forming on your lips!
Someone shout the cries of your heart
“Respite”, the albums shortest at 3:00, is upheld lushly by an acoustic guitar melded with a violin. The song brings a worshipful touch that hints at Supernal Endgame.
The acoustic based rock of “Sun Fade” proves a stylish piece, advancing at an upbeat tempo from the start but evenly flowing to a tasteful run of bluesy guitar. The engaging chorus that ensues is driven by a backbone of weighty rhythm guitar. This is by far the best track of the albums final five. The changing of seasons is the message at hand:
All the while the pot by the sill is still
Dust gathers and its red orange becomes brown
Faded by sunlight
Cracked by storm
Delicately petals open
Silently faces spring
Fragrantly air streams
Bathed with heavenly beams
And cooled by the moisture of my hand
“Today Staying Away” rocks hard from front to back, a storm of rhythm guitar and demanding low end carrying the day while Terry Friesen stretches throughout with plenty of blistering lead guitar. A bluesy element here invites comparison to early nineties Bride.
Sombre Holiday is certain not to remain overlooked for long when considering the quality delivered on In Search Of Understanding… That quality comes in the form of the groups “moody but melodic” approach to the progressive hard rock genre in that the music here is brimming with emotion but quite memorable at the same time. Credit must also go to the formidable songwriting team of Terry & Trevor Friesen. Somebody needs to sign these guys.
Review by Andrew Rockwell
Track Listing: “The Break Of A New Beginning” (4:48), “Recognizable Mystery” (4:22), “Stories End” (3:21), “Nowhere” (7:03), “Blinded Eyes” (3:55), “Still” (5:09), “Breath: New World” (4:24), “Sun Fade” (3:08), “Today Staying Away” (3:50)
Terry Friesen – Lead Vocals, Guitars & Keyboards
Trevor Friesen – Drums
Isaac Friesen - Violin