I love being able to follow an artist through their entire career. I was able to start listening to Bader Nana beginning a decade ago with 2011’s Wormwood. It was his debut, barring an acoustic tribute album to Michael Jackson. Anyways, he is back with Wormwood II, which released on September 29th, and his melodic sensibilities are as potent as ever.
Bader Nana comes to us from Kuwait. He has four true studio albums, but you will notice that he also produces rock versions of all sorts of video game and film music, from God of War to Star Wars, and from Gears of War to The Mandalorian. He’s quite busy making music all the time, honestly. He typically takes care of all the instruments and programming, though this album includes guests Nancy Alsafady on violin, Omar Afuni on backing vocals, and Adel Al-Qattan and Ramzi Ramman on a couple guitar solos.
His style of music is pretty straightforward. Bader Nana offers modern progressive rock, sometimes leaning into metal somewhat. He tends to write melodic, clean, interesting songs, as can be seen throughout his discography. He is a master of the vocal hook and guitar solo, I would specifically note, and his overall sound is probably in between Spock’s Beard and Porcupine Tree.
As I mentioned, Wormwood II is a sequel to Bader Nana’s debut album Wormwood. I’ve never delved into the story that much, though it is definitely a concept album. The overarching story for both albums includes a girl named Rose, a journey through time and space, and a spacecraft full of human survivors. They visit earth in the year 1348 on the debut, and then 1974 in this new record. If I’m right, I think Rose is stranded on Mercury at the end of the debut, and an astronaut finds her in this new album. I’m not entirely sure of the details, though, and the final track seems to indicate that everything is not as it seems. The albums have several parallels to discover, and overall the lyrical content is quite gripping.
Wormwood II is a rock solid record. I would probably put it on par with the debut, though I still like 2013’s Anthology best, with 2017’s Devolver right behind it. This album really hangs on the melodic hooks and emotional guitar work, though I don’t find each and every track to be as compelling as I’d hoped. I do find myself listening to it quite a bit, though, and Bader’s ear for amazing synth lines still draws me closer. The album rocks, too, with lots of grooving, proggy moments.
My favorite tracks are strewn throughout the album. First off, “Star Born” is definitely going to be one of my favorite songs of the year. This song has such a pure and heartfelt melody at its core, and I love the lyrics fiercely. I have been singing this song to myself since the day he released it as the single. It’s a brilliant song, and I love how the chorus gets a reprise later in the album on “The Dream”, the closer. This track shuffles through various proggy instrumentals, but the most captivating aspects are the story, tragedy, and emotion for me. I really like Bader’s tender vocals on this track.
I would point to “Awake” and “Desperate No More” as two more favorites. “Awake” has a great combination of rocking guitars and violin flourishes. It has a climactic second half with tons of beautiful strings and a big focus on the guitar work. “Desperate No More” is an instrumental parallel to “Desperate Measures” on the debut. It really rocks with plenty of anticipation and transition in its blood.
I am so happy that Bader Nana is still making progressive rock. Wormwood II is a solid album that really scratches the itch for his brand of ultra-melodic music. And the song “Star Born” proves that he has serious compositional chops. This album will certainly continue to grow on me, and I doubt I will get “Star Born” out of my head this year.
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