The first album review of the year is always somewhat exciting. It is like you are tasting the new blood, the new creation for the new year. My first review is for Moon Halo’s much anticipated debut. “Chroma” is set to release on January 13th, and think prog rock fans of all stripes can find something to love here.
Moon Halo hails from the UK. The band is primarily a collaboration between Marc Atkinson of Riversea and Iain Jennings of Mostly Autumn. The lineup also includes David Clements on bass, Alex Cromarty on drums, and Martin Ledger and Mikey Gibson on guitars. You will also hear guest vocalists, such as Anne-Marie Helder (of Panic Room) and Olivia Sparnenn-Josh (of Mostly Autumn), as well as Janine Atkinson and Tammy Pawson (Marc’s partner). Honestly, when I heard Marc was combining forces with Mostly Autumn members, I was ecstatic.
Moon Halo was a bit of a mystery until recently. Their original artwork and even the name made me think the music was going to be celestial, even otherworldly. Their music, however, is much more grounded than that. It is definitely progressive rock, but classic rock is what truly runs through the project’s veins. You’ll hear plenty of soul and blues, retro keyboard-led melodies, some world music, and funk rhythms. The guitars, though, are also very strong, with plenty of muscle behind them.
This album had some things I completed expected and other things I did not. For what I did expect, it was primarily Marc’s fantastic lyrics and gentle voice. Marc has a very spiritual, thoughtful way of writing, and his lyrics have honestly changed my life, specifically on Riversea’s “Out of an Ancient World”. Some of that appears on this album, too, particularly on the amazing “The Veil”, which is actually a reworked version of “Between God and Me”, a song off Marc’s last solo album. It feels bigger and more complex here, but those super personal lyrics are still there.
And, of course, Marc’s voice is as calming and wonderful as ever. He really does stretch his style here, though, diving right into the bluesy tracks with gusto and rhythm. In fact, he sings in ways that I’ve never heard him sing, and I love that.
What I did not expect, as I mentioned before, was the classic rock heart that this album has. I love classic rock as much as anyone, I suppose, and there are moments that seem reminiscent of bands like ZZ Top, Thin Lizzy, and that sort of crowd. That’s not really my thing, but I can appreciate it for what it is. I will say, though, that the band really brings out the catchy choruses, so the soul and classic styles are not wasted, as they are used to great effect.
The album has thirteen tracks and is almost an hour in length. In that span of time, the band does visit all kinds of genres and styles. You hear the evocative ballad in the aforementioned “The Veil”, a world music centered song in “Parachute”, and some pretty strong pop and electronic vibes on the last three tracks on the album. Several of the tracks have the soul, blues, and classic rock I mentioned, as well. All in all, it is a rather diverse album, and some of the songs are truly emotional.
My favorites are “The Web”, “The Veil” (obviously), “Chroma”, as well as the final three songs. “The Web” is a great opener for the album, and really gets the catchy melodies flowing. “Chroma” is a keyboard-led instrumental track that hits more on what I expected from the band; it feels majestic and celestial.
The final three songs are “Across the Great Divide”, “Rise Up”, and “Don’t Let It End Like This”. All three of them have strong beats, funky keyboards and electronic accents, and fantastic momentum. They feel colorful, human, and full of feeling. I really like that side of the band.
Moon Halo has a solid debut on their hands. They are obviously mature musicians with many different influences and ideas. The album is varied, but purposeful in which genres and tones it chooses to explore. And, when the moment is right, this is an album that simply knows how to bring the emotional guitar solo or the grand climax. I would be more than happy to see this project continue, and I think prog rock fans will like what they hear.
Find Moon Halo online: