I’ve had a few disappointments so far this year, but also some surprise hits. You know how a band can release solid music to the point where you just know what to expect? But then sometimes they release something head and shoulders above their past work, and it creates a sort of excitement for you? That’s the new Single Celled Organism album. It’s called Event Horizon and it released on March 3rd.
SCO is a solo project from Jens Lueck. You may know him from Isgaard’s solo albums, or from his work with Sylvan, Eloy, and more. The SCO names comes from the fact that he produces everything himself, though there are typically guest musicians. Isgaard does join him on vocals here, too.
Here’s the thing: SCO has always been influenced by Pink Floyd, and that is no secret. The first two albums were solid to good affairs, ones that didn’t necessarily excite me, but that were beautifully made and definitely melodic. With Event Horizon, though, Jens really brings it. Not only is the Floydian atmosphere cranked up to 10, rather than feeling sheepish, but the keys and guitars on this album are also taken to new heights. The album simply feels more cohesive and inspired than the first two.
I can’t emphasize this enough. The instrumentation on this record is outstanding between excellent synth tones and crazy keyboard passages, and between emotional guitar solos and some meaty riffing here and there. I think one thing that sets this album apart from the first two is the inclusion of lengthy and brilliant instrumental portions; they seem to appear on most of the tracks, and they just rock so hard. I did not expect this from SCO, honestly.
The album itself is a continuation of the ongoing SCO story. As a refresher, the concept is one of a girl kept in laboratory confinement for her entire life. She learns all she knows from robots and screens. While this experiment is taking place, the outside world is devastated through war, and she emerges from her prison to learn the world on her own terms and in her own way. She escapes her prison at the end of the debut album, and Event Horizon seems to be a continuation of her self-discovery, both bad and good.
This album simply has great songs. There are nine of them, and there isn’t a stinker in the bunch. I will say, unequivocally, that the second half is the better half, though. I do really like the opener “Memories in a Box”, though I will also say it is the weakest song on the album. “Changes Are Coming” is extremely Floydian, so much so that I could almost mentally insert it in The Dark Side of the Moon somewhere, but this is not a bad thing—I love the song and its nostalgic melodies. “Thoughts” is where the rubber really meets the road, though, and between some great guitar work and some spacier and quirkier elements, it really gets interesting. “The Encounter” is closer to a ballad in style, and Isgaard’s vocals really shine here; the song as a whole is gorgeous, and I love the atmosphere of the final minutes. “Shifted” actually feels like an extension of it in some ways, being an ambient and electronic track for much of its runtime. It definitely seems “out there” at points, though.
The final four songs are all excellent. “Inhale What’s Forbidden” is probably my favorite on the album for its kinetic guitar portions, effervescent chorus, and general sense of mystery. “Keep My Faith in Humans” slows things down a bit with its attractive groove and emotional soloing, yet “Distorted Night” gets things going with its short and completely instrumental playtime—it has real grit and meat to it. The title track closes the record with a song that begins as a thoughtful and introspective piece, but soon launches a full scale progressive rock assault on the senses. This piece is a winding and tightly-composed work that ends the album on an extremely high note.
I didn’t expect to love this album as much as I do. The first two SCO albums were great for various reasons, one of which is that I love Isgaard’s vocals, but Event Horizon is clearly a stronger, deeper, and more exciting experience. Isgaard’s vocals jive with Jens’ more than ever, and the wicked instrumental portions raise the whole record to new heights. I hope fans of the classic prog rock sound will check out this excellent work.
Find SCO online: