I’m always excited to see a new musical project from an artist I already know. I’ve reviewed the last couple Isgaard albums, and Jens Lück has been a contributor and producer on both of those albums. His new progressive rock project is called Single Celled Organism, and the debut album “Splinter in the Eye” is set to release on October 20th.
SCO has been described by Jens as progressive rock, and that is definitely what it is, in all its glory. The music is in the vein of Pink Floyd or Porcupine Tree, but it feels much more modern and refined. The album features fantastic guitars (always expected from something Jens produces), sublime keys, and some twists here and there that you might not expect. Jens provides vocals, as does Isgaard, as she plays one of the main characters. Both of them put in a wonderful and convincing performance. The album also features Jens on bass, drums, keys, and programming; along with several guests on various types of guitar, recorder, viola, and violin.
Any review of this album, however, must first begin with the concept, as it is a character in and of itself. The concept is an intriguing, though familiar idea. The album revolves around a scientific experiment in which a human girl is kept secluded for her entire life; fed and raising by robots, and taught by screens. The concept, however, does have an added twist where the outside world experiences catastrophic bio-weapon deployment, and this girl is left to uncover the world outside her cage on her own after the rest of humanity dies. I have to say that this is one of the best concepts I’ve heard this year, and it is delivered with poetry, excellent lyrics, and great pacing. The ending to the story gives me goosebumps just thinking about it. This poor girl finally gets a chance to experience the world, but what she finds is nothingness. It is sad and thought-provoking end to a well-structured concept.
This album is a complete package, and you can tell much heart and soul went into creating it. Jens masterfully combines the longings and dreams of the imprisoned girl with the heartache and despair of the humans that are watching their world collapse. All of this is played out alongside music that can be hopeful or somber, adventurous or claustrophobic. The performances are top notch, with splendid vocals and soaring guitar work that accents the emotional content of the album. Jens’ keys are outstanding, with several enjoyable solos and lots of atmosphere. His bass, too, complements everything with feeling and darkness. I also love the strings and recorders that are used, as they bring brightness and clarity when they appear.
The album begins with “The Mark of Cain”, which is mainly a way to present the concept through the scientific presentation of one Dr. Abbott Barnaby, the one performing the experiment. “Growing Up” follows and is a wonderful song with catchy melodies and a great synth solo to show us the poor girl’s world as she matures.
Other favorites are “Flying Home”, which has a nice folksy twist; and “New Horizons” (my favorite), in which Jens and Isgaard trade vocal lines while the girl’s emotions start to wonder about what might be outside her little world. Another favorite is “I Can’t Feel”, a genius track that contrasts the status of the outside world with the world inside the girl’s head. It is very well written and pivotal to the album.
“Splinter in the Eye”, the title track, is perhaps the centerpiece of this album: It is emotional and somber and is one of those songs that will grow on you every time you hear it. The album closes with a couple tracks that solidify the concept and its finale where the world is dying and the doctor decides to release his experiment as he himself dies from the weaponized disease. “I See You” is an emotional song where Dr. Barnaby writes a farewell note for the girl as he prepares to release her into the world, and the subsequent “Her Poem” is a fitting and haunting end to an album that already pricks my heart strings. The words of the newly freed girl are hopeful and also despairing. She is finally free to pursue her dreams of the outside world, only to find nothing at all. The writing here is masterful and the music ends off on a thoughtful note.
Single Celled Organism is a project that I hope to see produce another album someday. Jens has crafted an experience, not just an album of songs, that strikes a chord in me, both lyrically and musically. While the music is somewhat familiar and beautiful in style, the concept is what brings it all together into a riveting work of art. You need to hear this album!
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