Thomas Bergersen – Humanity: Chapter III

It’s time again for another chapter of Thomas Bergersen’s Humanity series.  He seems to drop these whenever he feels like it, usually with minimal warning.  And there is no way to buy a physical copy currently, though a box set of all seven chapters will be available after they all release (boy, that is going to be expensive).  Humanity: Chapter III released on May 6th, and I do think it is the weakest thus far, though it is certainly still solid.

If you aren’t in the know, Thomas Bergersen is the co-owner of Two Steps from Hell, a company that makes music for movies and movie trailers, among other things.  He is a classical composer, and a good one at that, offering a modern sound injected with rock, pop, folk, and other elements.  His style is epic and cinematic to the furthest reaches of those terms.

Yet, Humanity: Chapter III is different.  It is a new side to Bergersen’s iconic sound.  The difference in sound is directly related to the topic at hand, as well, which happens to be Love.  We’re talking love between individuals and love in general, and more specifically the journey of first sight to first kiss to growing old together to rising as one into the grand cosmic void of love, time, and being.  It’s a magical vision, and one that you can feel through each track.

That might be a good adjective to describe the mood and spirit of this record: magical.  The sound, prompted by Love, is much gentler than normal.  Bergersen really restrained himself here.  In fact, the sound is notably more ambient, hovering, and atmospheric, as if we are watching two people join together in the most sacred of human interactions.  The strings whisper to us, even Bergersen’s cello, which is put to good use here (especially on “Sparks”).  And the entire point seems to be that of storytelling rather than abstraction, like on the previous two albums.

From my description, this album should be exactly my style.  That’s what I expected.  However, I find that Chapter III is a little less imaginative and a little less varied than the first couple chapters.  I appreciate every single song on this album, but most of them sound very similar, however strong the central melodies may be.  I am sure this is on purpose, but it does make the album less interesting, and therefore less impactful for me.  Sure, there are still moments of bombast and climax, but they are few and somehow not as potent as I expected.

This album also feels nostalgic, but to a fault.  It feels too familiar.  It sounds like the emotional, endearing moments in every drama you’ve ever seen.  In fact, there are moments that remind me of everything from The Family Stone to Home Alone 2.  I know that is a weird comment to make, but again and again this album just sounds like reworked versions of scores from movies we all know and love.  That isn’t exactly a bad thing, but it does make the album less of a draw in the long run.

There are some moments that pop, though.  I really like the cello in “Sparks” and the overall feeling it brings.  I like the hovering uncertainty and attraction of “Butterflies”.  I really like the climactic “Magic”.  I even love the subtle and traditional classical nature of “Growing Old Together”.   I think “Love Suite” and “Sunshower” are probably the best tracks on the album, the former having great melodies and highlights, and the latter being a ten-minute slow burn that launches into an emotional finale that is really something to behold.  So good.

I should mention that this chapter has probably the weakest tracks with vocals of the three thus far.  Some of the songs on the last two albums blew my mind with gigantic vocal performances, but here there isn’t much of that. Don’t get me wrong: both Audrey Karrasch and Kimera Morrell have excellent voices. It is the songs they are given that aren’t as good.  The centerpiece vocal performance is “You”, and while I do find it catchy, it isn’t all that memorable and the main melody is a bit too “mainstream pop” for my tastes.  In fact, it reminds me of a bunch of pop songs I’ve heard before, but I couldn’t name them if I tried.

Overall, the Humanity series continues to be a success, and I’m excited to hear Chapter IV when it releases in late summer (?).  I’m starting to wonder if this series could have been condensed into maybe three albums, rather than seven.  That remains to be seen, but I suspect it will be true.  Still, this is beautiful music, and there is nothing bad or amateur about any of it.


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