Progressive music is a great place to find quirky concepts and projects. Sometimes, they are mere novelty, but sometimes they pan out into something with real potential. The Bardic Depths are releasing their debut album on March 20th, and it is an enjoyable affair with some real highlights.
The Bardic Depths is less of a “new” band and more of a rebooted form of the band Birzer Bandana. Both projects include Dave Bandana on vocals and multiple instruments, and then the esteemed professor Bradley Birzer writing the lyrics and concepts. This particular album also features Peter Jones (Camel, Tiger Moth Tales) on sax and vocals, Gareth Cole (Fractal Mirror) on guitar, Robin Armstrong (Cosmograf) on keys and programming, Paolo Limoli on piano and mellotron, and various other performers.
One other thing to note is that “The Bardic Depths” is the first release from the new record label Gravity Dream Music. Robin of Cosmograf started this label, and I believe he has signed two bands in addition to his own music. If you get the chance, follow the label on social media, as I’m sure plenty of new projects will be announced.
Anyways, The Bardic Depths offers an interesting combination of genres. At its core, the band plays a progressive rock that revels in subtlety, as even the heavier riffs are gentle and easy on the ears. However, you will find that some of the tracks are akin to progressive electronic/ambient, so not “rock” at all. Even further, and as the album progresses, you will find a huge portion of jazz fusion in the mix, so be ready for quite a lot of saxophone and bassy grooves. Somehow, the band puts this all together and makes it work well.
As I mentioned, Brad is the lyricist on the album, and so having a band member who only writes the overall ideas is an immediate clue that the lyrics are important. The album as a whole is about friendship and the power it has to overcome even the worst storms (quite appropriate right now in the world, I must admit). More specifically, the album explores this concept by examining the famous friendship between J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis. I find the lyrics to be well written and closely related to the music at hand.
“The Bardic Depths” is an album of pastoral pleasures, just in ways that I’m not used to hearing. Each of its seven tracks is pleasant, hopeful, and immersed in melody. You will hear ambiance, like the opener “The Trenches”, which buries itself in electronic atmosphere, though it transitions into a nice, dark, guitar-driven ending. You will hear hovering, almost cinematic songs like “Biting Coals”, which fills the void with organs and voiceovers and auras. Still other moments will feel more like true prog rock, such as “Depths of Imagination”. The closer, “Legacies”, brings all of these moods and sounds together into a sort of off-kilter epic, and it doesn’t disappoint.
Right now, my favorites are “Depths of Time” and “Depths of Soul”. The former reminds me of something from the Blade Runner album from Vangelis, specifically the “Blade Runner Blues” portion. Halfway through the song, though, it transitions into an illustrious, magnificent, sax-driven affair that feels vivid and groovy. The later song has quite a bit of soaring guitar musings, though it ends with a jazzy punch of hope and truth. Both songs are brilliant.
The Bardic Depths have a great debut on their hands, and it is a joy to hear. I think fans of the more pastoral side of prog will immediately love this, but I also think there is plenty here for almost anyone to enjoy. It’ll be interesting to see if and how this project evolves.
Find The Bardic Depths online: