Ephemeral Sun - Broken Door

Year of Release: 2004
Label: self-released
Catalog Number: ESCD200401
Format: CD
Total Time: 71:37:00

When Ephemeral Sun were first announced for ProgDay 2005's pre-show, I expected the band to be a progressive rock band. Well, not expected, exactly; assumed. Not any particular type of progressive rock, though the lineup of a ProgDay festival tends towards a certain type that is less about rock, per se, and more about avant-garde, jazzy, fusion, RIO ... Please, don't start quibbling with me and throwing out all the exceptions, I said tends... Sorry, didn't mean to snap, dear reader.

I wasn't able to attend the festival, so my expectations were not confirmed or denied. They are now scheduled for the RoSFest 2006 pre-show - a festival that tends towards a certain type that is more about rock and less about avant-garde, jazzy, fusion, RIO... So, I figured, still not having yet played their debut Broken Door... well, they must be progressive rock. I'm thinking in the vein of Echolyn, Land Of Chocolate, New Sun ... hmm, maybe the latter's why ... I don't read many reviews these days, you see (aside from those published here), so I had no expectations... assumptions otherwise.

I probably should have*. Here are some facts about Ephemeral Sun - they are a progressive rock band, from Virginia, but not of the sort I was expecting. Though had I done the homework, I'd know exactly what to expect. Most of the members of ES were in the short-lived Rain Fell Within, who released the fabulous Refuge in 2002. I gave that CD near perfect marks. From the RFW line up, we find in ES vocalist Laurie Ann Haus, whose high, sweet, earthy vocals - a style that is ethereal and operatic - characterize this band's music; bassist Charles Gore; and drummer Tim Miller. Gore, along with O'Neill, provides an often chugging sound that gives this band a somewhat prog metal sound; but O'Neill's lyrical guitar playing elsewhere, brings in a more prog rock aspect (and only once did I think of Rothery, by the way, on "Approaching Acheron"**). Then there's the keyboards of John Batterna - at times atmospheric sonicscapes, at times in the lead - listen to his organ showcase "...Winter Has No Mercy" - it's a violent, swirling blizzard that is a dangerous as it is beautiful (or the progtastic parpy solo in "A Song For Twilight"). This in "...Winter..." comes in stark contrast to the track that precedes it, "Fall Betrays The Earth..." which is a tender vocal and piano piece (a mood repeated in "Interlude", sans vocals).

Reference points would be, besides Rain Fell Within naturally, Nightwish, The Gathering, and perhaps mostly, Persephone's Dream ... We can definitely say that Broken Door doesn't tend toward avant-garde, jazzy, fusion, RIO... Or can we? Well, not entirely. "A Blanket Of Darkness" is a bit experimental - actually sounding like a soundbyte from Star Wars, the scene inside the Jawa Trawler after C3PO and R2 have been "rescued" from the desert by the Jawas. Blurps and beeps and swoops... And we'll find wind chime percussion, sustained atmospheres and audio grunts in the title track "Broken Door," which eases almost seamlessly into "Walking With Frightened Angels." And if you think the squelching sound is your audio equipment going haywire, don't panic - it's just what the first track, "Discovery," starts life as. It will soon resolve into a sleek, spacey atmosphere and then when Haus' vocals kick in, so do chugging guitars, drums and keyboards. I think this a cool track, the middle section most especially; there's a particularly... dramatic phrase, a descending scale that I just find... I don't know... quite appealing. It's brief, but... it's that cool moment that I wait for.

There is something special about every track, really... "Hands Of Fire" is mix of gothic, opera and middle-eastern style vocalizations, an open arrangement allows for lots of atmosphere. There are passages that are just voice and clouds of keyboards; others are dense with taut percussion and softly chugging, shimmering guitars. The instrumental "Walking With Frightened Angels" begins with a miasma of bass; keening, haunting vocalizations; and guitar or keyboard swoops... the keyboard swoops and swirls are retained when the chugging guitars and taut drums resolved into solid forms. It's too bright tonally to be gothic, but I see a darkened room with towering glass windows, sunlight streaming through, reflecting lots of dust and dirt in the air, and ghostly forms swooshing about... all shown in sepia***. "The Dance" is a rumbling, churning, crunchy piece; containing maybe the heaviest moments on the album... It's dramatic, well, more so than other pieces, but also airy with feathery vocals and fluttery keyboards. This dance is a mix of romance and violence. "Rats" is another powerful track, maybe the heaviest piece here - distorted guitars and vocals, keyboard effects, and forceful drumming... "A Song For Twilight" is dark and broody, bass taking the lead. It almost sounds as if it's nudging at the edges of "Silent Night" there for a moment. Lacy guitar, breathy vocals, and electronic percussion take over for a time, cede control back to the bass... and later we get a particularly parpy keyboard solo. This is a song that will lend itself to an extended jam session live, only because it's a jam session already. The end of the piece, isn't the end of the track, as we get another sonicscape after a few moments of silence).

This is a terrific album, where there something appealing about every moment. One can tell it was crafted with care and attention to detail ... symphonic and rich, it envelopes you and draws you in. It's a stellar re-debut for a band that deserves the attention they're getting and more. April can't come soon enough.

*I did chance to see a comment made by Duncan, I believe, at ProgressiveEars that mentioned The Gathering and similar artists... but that was just prior to the CD reaching the player, so I've not counted that as "foreknowledge" for the purposes of this review... ** I say this because regular readers know my love for Rothery's playing and my ears' attraction to similiarly styled guitarists; not exclusively that style, but including that style... ***Yes, another footnote. Sorry. I'm not sure if I'm thinking of an album cover I saw once, a painting or photograph, or what, but this image is quite vivid. And no, I don't think it's the Haunted Mansion at Disneyland (though it did come to mind briefly).
Discovery (8:11) / Hands Of Fire (7:53) / A Blanket Of Darkness (2:04) / Fall Betrays The Earth... (2:29) / ...Winter Has No Mercy (7:53) / Broken Door (1:22) / Walking With Frightened Angels (5:15) / The Dance (6:03) / Interlude (0:43) / Rats (5:29) / Approaching Acheron (6:59) / A Song For Twilight (17:12)

Laurie Ann Haus - vocals
John Batterna - keyboards
Charles Gore - bass
Tim Miller - drums
Brian O'Neill - guitar

Prototype 19.5 (ep) (2003)
Broken Door (2004)

Genre: Progressive Rock

Origin US

Added: December 18th 2005
Reviewer: Stephanie Sollow
Artist website: www.ephemeralsun.com
Hits: 1509
Language: english


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