Beneath The Waves
added: 14 Mar 2013
// release date: 11 Feb 2013 // label: 7 Stones Records
reviewer: Claudia A
is what you may call a Gesamtkunstwerk
(a total work of art), a dark and sad tale of the sea, love, death, and the afterlife, involving a high-calibre collective of musical talent.Beneath The Waves
takes us back to February in the year 1902. An excerpt from The Irish Express informs of a young villager, Connor MacGregor, who has gone missing. It’s presumed that he took his own life, after his wife Lilly had committed suicide following their baby’s death. For reasons not entirely clear, the tragedy left Connor riddled with guilt and he tried to put his demons aside by devoting himself to fishing. We then learn that one day, his fishing boat was caught in a heavy storm and it sank, with Connor as the only survivor but convinced that his late wife was calling for him from beneath the waves. After the incident, he retreated further and engaged in long, lonely walks along the shores. Until he failed to return…
This sorry saga is the premise for the concept album, fusing classical, rock and strong Celtic folk music into melancholy, emotional, powerful and atmospheric tracks (twelve in total).
The musical talent responsible includes Steve Balsamo (lead vocals), Steve Hackett (nylon guitar), Gavin Harrison (drums), Nick Beggs (stick), Troy Donockley (Uileann pipes and whistles), Nick Barrett, Neil Taylor, Jakko Jackzyk, Francis Dunnery, Chris Fry, and John Mitchell (guitars), BJ Cole (pedal steele), Mel Collins (sax), including the participation of opera singers Rhys Merion and Shan Cothi, with additional input by the English Chamber Choir and the London Session Orchestra. We also have Angharad Bryn taking on the vocal role of ‘Lily’, and Christina Booth on backing vocals.
Co-ordinating and putting it all together must have been one hell of a challenge for producer/composer Rob Reed, and the result is astonishing!
Opening track ‘Exordium’ (with the male voice of the missing Connor McGregor) sets the tone – it’s a gentle piece dominated by Celtic whistles, gradually turning more symphonic and operatic in structure before it goes slightly folky.
‘Lost’, ‘Lilly’ and ‘Mercy Of The Sea’ are the calm before ‘The Storm’, an epic and raging rock track with thunder effects and piano, interspersed with a dramatic chorus and Uilleann pipes.
There’s an almost ethereal quality to ‘Beneath The Waves’ with its intriguing blend of Celtic and slight Middle Eastern influences, made more intriguing still due to some underlying jazz-rock hues.
‘Sole Survivor’ is melancholia pure, heart-rendering performed by Balsamo; whereas the drama rises on ‘Alone’ with its operatic arrangement. The prophetic ‘Il Tempo E Giunto’ (‘Time And Coupling’) feels like you’re listening to Pavarotti and grand Italian opera – heavy, pompous, and it totally draws you in!
Listeners get an inkling of what’s coming in ‘One Small Step’: “Creeping Sea, it rises fast / Forward To My Love At Last / Body cold, no turning back, walk on / Hold your head high, the pain will end…”
If the mood throughout the number is suitably stirred up, then peace and redemption arrive on final track ‘Reunion’ – suggesting that Connor is now reunited again with wife and child for all eternity, beneath the waves.
The concluding words “I can feel our hearts burn, feel a new start, a whole new world as one” bring the journey to an end.
The CD comes in a hardcover booklet which furthermore contains a DVD (with accompanying music videos, and various audio options). The booklet itself is comprised of info text, photos of the recording sessions, as well as artwork by Geoff Taylor (War Of The Worlds
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