Some albums take time to absorb. I’ve been musing over the new Warmrain album for a couple months now, and I think I’m finally ready to say some words about it. I’m having some mixed feelings, to say the least. “Back Above the Clouds” released on June 7th, and it definitely has the qualities you would expect from an album by this name created by a band of that name.
Warmrain hails from the UK. The lineup includes Leon Russell on vocals and acoustic guitars, Simon Bradshaw on bass and keys, Steve Beatty on drums, and Matt Lerwill on electric guitar, sitar, ukulele, and mandolin. You can probably tell that the lute family of instruments are at the forefront here, and that definitely plays into their overall sound.
The band offers music that is mellow, usually slower in pace, and rife with soulful electric and acoustic guitar work, similar in style to Airbag. Yes, I would call it progressive rock, but just know that this is not a head-banging album. The music is subtle and nuanced, and the guitar work emotes very well, using expressive central licks and vivid melodies. So, this is an album of introspection and thoughtfulness, and the music reflects that. This fact is simultaneously the album’s greatest strength and also the most detracting weakness.
Let me just address the elephant in the room: this album is 90 minutes and 15 tracks long. It is way, way too long for its own good, especially for music that floats along gently for the most part. The band, being artists, can do whatever they’d like, but this could have been two albums, and there are even moments that feel like the end of an album, only for you to realize that you are only halfway home. To put it bluntly, this album is really difficult to hear in one sitting.
Is all of that a bad thing? That is for the listener to decide. For myself, the tone of the album does not change much from beginning to end, so I end up having to switch it off halfway through, and then return to it the next day. There may be listeners, though, who love that tone so much that they are happy to exist in its light for 90 minutes.
And, believe me, this album is full of light. You really do feel like you are wandering among the clouds, lamenting lost love and friends, experiencing personal changes, and looking to the future with hopeful eyes. Warmrain has done a great job capturing human emotions and that spark of life in our hearts. The tone of this album is rich, glowing, and very human. And the band as musicians really exemplify this and ooze emotion all over the place.
There are definitely some strong points throughout the album. “Fading Star” and “Absent Friends” begin the album on a high note. The latter, especially, feels illustrious and potent. “Alone in Silent Harmony” is a great instrumental that picks up some speed. “Here Comes the Rain Again” is a cover of the Eurythmics song, and I like it pretty well. They inject warmth and flow into the song, though the nostalgia from the original is lost. “A Hundred Miles High” and “Flying Dreams” are two more songs that feature great choruses and are pretty memorable.
Remember how I said that the album is too long for its own good? Well, here is a consolation: the last two songs are the best on the album, and so they are worth the wait. “Luminous Star” has some amazing guitar work and a very addictive rhythm. “Equilibrium”, however, is an absolutely stunning piece. The guitar lick is one that will embed itself into your soul, and the last half of the song is the best part of the entire album as the song fades into the skies in cinematic fashion. It gives me goosebumps.
As you can see, my feelings are divided on this one. Warmrain has plenty to offer, and the sheer light and atmosphere on “Back Above the Clouds” is something you need to hear. I do think the band could be a bit heavier-handed with editing themselves, though, as cutting this album into two, or even just cutting some of the filler, could have resulted in a much stronger album. As it stands, I’ll definitely have individual songs in my playlists, but I doubt I’ll take the plunge very often to hear the whole thing in one sitting.
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