Some albums impress me based on technical merit. Others grab hold of me through pure composition or vocal hook skills. Some albums, though, elevate me to another realm altogether, and they become unforgettable because of this. Daniel Cavanagh is releasing his solo album “Monochrome” on October 13th, and to call this album anything less than a masterful experience of light and peace is to do it a grave disservice.
Daniel Cavanagh is best known as the guitarist for Anathema. He has long been the force behind that band, especially in composition. In “Monochrome”, we find him writing and performing everything, with guests Anna Phoebe on violin and Anneke Van Giersbergen on vocals.
The music is definitely in the vein of Anathema, specifically the “Weather Systems” album. However, Daniel utilizes folk music, mainly Irish, to add new textures and tones to that elevated and beautiful sound. There are also more guitar solos, like in older Anathema material, and the music never really reaches a fevered pitch: This album is meant to be a tranquil, emotional journey with lots of ambient moments and picturesque melodies. So, instead of the huge climaxes of Anathema’s music, Daniel mainly explores the more serene moments in brilliant fashion. It creates an album that is peaceful, introspective, and full of wonder.
Daniel’s keys and vocals are front and center on this album. His piano, especially, is illustrious and magnificent in scale. Being the driving factor behind many of the tracks, it sounds bright, crisp, and instantly attractive. On top of that, Daniel’s guitar work is gentle and soothing like few other performances this year. Daniel’s vocals, too, are emotional and sincere, but also manage to impress in sheer quality and style. “Monochrome” is indeed striking in its pure beauty and sincerity of vocals. It’s difficult to come away from this album without feeling something from both Daniel and Anneke’s performances.
Paired with the ponderous nature of the music and tone, the lyrics seem pretty connected with “Weather Systems”, as the themes revolve around love and loss. There are even allusions to feeling your loved one near you all the time, which is familiar territory for Anathema fans. I’m sure there is more to it than that, but the words feel very homey and warm overall.
The album opens with the emotional “The Exorcist”. Daniel actually sang this on the recent US tour. He came out before the rest of the band and absolutely killed it, especially vocally. Because of this bit of nostalgia, this song is one of my favorites on the album. It is slower with some outstanding vocals.
After two wonderful songs sung with Anneke, “The Music” and “Soho”, which both feature delicious melodies and feelings of wonder and longing; Daniel gifts us with the astounding “The Silent Flight of the Raven Winged Hours”. This instrumental song is, in short, a masterpiece of subtlety, folksy textures, and glorious feelings. Whether in its quiet chirping moments or in its percussive synthetic segments, the whole song stuns me. Every time I hear it, the song weighs on my mind with how truly magnificent and exquisite it really is.
“Dawn” feels like something right out of “The Secret of Kells”, if you have ever seen that fantastic film. Irish folk music is the very center of this song, and it is a joy to hear the beautiful tones that do indeed evoke feelings of the rising of the sun and the flourishing of life and movement. I see the last two songs, “Oceans of Time” and “Some Dreams Come True”, as one song. The former is a leap into the pool of love and time, and is so emotional. The latter feels like an audible expression of that love, with sounds of the ocean waves crashing and gentle piano panning out the picture of love and peace that is so palpable here, ending with the laughter of a young child. It is truly a peaceful, beautiful way to end an album that already awakens the senses with the purity and sincerity of its art.
Serene. Tender. Subtle. Heartfelt. Tragic. Romantic. Daniel’s “Monochrome” can be described using many adjectives due to its depth and breadth of melody and emotion. Fans of Anathema will be thrilled with this album because some of these songs could be on any of that band’s releases. However, I’m so happy that Daniel elected to release this on its own. “Monochrome” is a divine journey of color and feeling, and the place it takes you will leave you thirsting for more.