It does my heart good to see bands debut strongly and then continue producing music for years. I had the privilege of watching Iamthemorning release their debut back in 2012, and then get signed with Kscope, and then become something of a household name within progressive music nowadays. I had high hopes for them, and they continue to release strong albums of great maturity. “The Bell” releases on August 2nd, and it is one of the best albums they have created yet.
Iamthemorning still consists of Marjana Semkina on vocals and acoustic guitar, and Gleb Kolyadin on grand piano and keyboards. The rest of the line up for this album includes: Vlad Avy on guitars, Zoltan Renaldi on bass, and Svetlana Shumkova and Evan Carson on drums. There are many other guests present, as well, playing a wide variety of instruments; including harp, marimba, sax, trumpet, bells, and accordion, plus the St. Petersburg Orchestra provides orchestrations. All in all, you can tell that it is a momentous album.
The music here is what I still want to call “chamber prog”. Kscope specializes in post-prog, meaning that the music is progressive, but takes the elements to new places. Iamthemorning certainly does this. On this album particularly, they really focus on atmosphere and ambiance, expanding their vision possibly even outside the chamber setting and more into the concert hall sound. Some of the songs feel like something out of a macabre dream, hovering around your mind like haunting visions of another life. Gleb’s rich and expertly performed piano is the backbone of all this, and Marjana’s emotional vocals take that foundation and make it flourish and grow. Neo-classical influences are present, as well as modern progressive rock elements, but overall they don’t really sound like anyone else.
You will notice that, as expected, the lyrics are very human and even painful topically. “The Bell” ponders topics of human cruelty and pain, and the way that we should consider ourselves in this modern world. In fact, the basic hypothesis here is that humanity might not be making as much progress emotionally as we might suppose. The album has a Victorian aura to it, but it really does make you look at yourself in the mirror a little closer.
I think that is what Iamthemorning is really all about, too. The band want to pair delicate, rich beauty with painful, introspective themes. And I don’t really think it is meant to be a contrast. It’s meant to be realistic and genuine since life is both darkness and light oftentimes. There are other musicians out there who do this, too, but not in the same classical and expressive ways that Iamthemorning does.
The album flows really well, feeling complete and unified. Some songs explore progressive rock a little more, like “Freak Show” and “Salute”. The latter actually has a bit of a playful carnival vibe to it, and when it opens up, the depth is amazing. It has some of the most interesting sounds and atmospheres of the whole album, and you’ll even hear some guitar soloing, which isn’t typical for this band.
Other songs are more personal and even abstract. “Black and Blue” might be one of the band’s best songs on any record. It is catchy and mysterious with lots of vocal expression. “Six Feet” is another example, though it is quite morbid, and I love the rising tide of piano rhythms that Gleb produces. One of the best songs here, though, is “Ghost of a Story”. Somehow, it feels more whimsical than the rest of the album, almost like a wonderful narrative playing out before your eyes.
Iamthemorning seemingly can do no wrong. “The Bell” is yet another album of strong melodies and haunting lyrics. This album hits me a bit more lyrically than their other records, and I think it is because I can recognize the pain and scars in each song. The album, then, is a remarkably human affair, one that will pierce your heart with both poetry and with song. I would still say that “Lighthouse” is my favorite album from them, but this one is probably a close second.