Sometimes, my expectations are absolutely demolished by the works of art that come my way. I hope the band doesn’t mind a little honesty here: I wasn’t sure what to expect when I heard The Emerald Dawn’s debut album “Visions”, which released in 2017. Well, that’s not entirely true. I actually expected a 70’s prog rock rip off that would beg me to turn it off before even one play-through was finished. What I discovered, however, was music that was anything but derivative or flaccid. The band’s new album, “Nocturne”, is releasing on the 1st of February, and they have outdone themselves.
The Emerald Dawn hails from the UK. The band consists of Tree Stewart on vocals and keys; Alan Carter on guitar, sax, guitar synth, and screechy keys; David Greenaway on bass; and Tom Jackson on drums. These players are all massively talented at both performance and also emoting through their respective mediums.
The Emerald Dawn offers music that is truly poetic and immense, and also mostly instrumental. Just like on their first album, “Nocturne” displays musical prowess that will leave your heart in your throat. The first album accomplished this with sheer technical fireworks, but this album manages to impress through the weight of its evocative melodies and its ability to paint pictures in your mind. This album features amazing guitar and keyboard solos, impressive rhythms, and especially dark and poetic ideas.
I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that “Nocturne” is much more Moody Blues than it is Yes, Genesis, or any of the other retro prog bands. I say this because the album is based on the course of the night, similar to the focus on the daytime in “Days of Future Passed” from the Moody Blues. “Nocturne” reminds me of that album in some ways with the mysterious spoken word portions, the writing that really evokes parts of the theme, and the huge sound and scale of the music. This album is much darker, more like later Moody Blues albums, but you will hear a wide variety of concepts here.
“Nocturne” is a dark and solitary journey. There are moments of hope, especially near the end, but beauty plays a huge role throughout, regardless. Some portions may even seem scary or desperate, while others feel serene or peaceful. “Prologue” begins the album with a great spoken word segment, and launches into “As Darkness Falls”, which features guitar work reminiscent of Fates Warning’s “Disconnected”. That forlorn space is quite common in this album, and it feels fantastic as dusk progresses here. “Moonlight” follows and is a gorgeous, piano-led track that really does feel like darkness ruled by the silent moon. It is delicate, hushed, and melody-forward, but it gets more intense near the end.
The last two tracks feature vocals from Tree Stewart. “In the Dead of the Night” uses these vocals for atmospheric purposes, though, to go along with the dark and urban feelings of the songs. Saxophone plays a big part on this one to give it that extra nighttime feeling. The album ends in a big way, too. “The Child Within” is the “epic” on the album, clocking in at twenty minutes in length, though it certainly does not feel that long. The album obviously takes a more personal turn here, relating inner turmoil to the night we have been experiencing thus far. I think the cover art makes that twist incredibly potent and clear. The song itself offers layers of excellent guitar work, harmonizing vocals, eerie atmospheric keys, and lots of transitions that just seem to get better and better. The keys even get a bit Frost’s “Milliontown” on us a few times, even like Vangelis at times, too. In fact, the album ends with a bit of Vangelis flair, and I absolutely love it.
The Emerald Dawn may not have outplayed their first album with “Nocturne”, but they have certainly out-composed and emoted their debut. Their focus was a bit different this time around, and I like it more. This album is darker and more inviting in a strange sense, and it’s definitely one I will listen to more often. Be sure to check out their Bandcamp to buy a copy!
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