Cobweb Strange - A Breath Of October

Year of Release: 2002
Label: Genterine Records
Catalog Number: CPR 1003
Format: CD
Total Time: 49:50:00

What hath Porcupine Tree wrought? Is the new style of prog gloomy, dark, understated pieces that are maudlin, morose and moody? I mean, Steven Wilson influenced -- directly or indirectly -- the harsh metal band Opeth to change gears for their Damnation (though maybe even before that with Blackwater Park), and now we get this gloomy, dark and understated album from Cobweb Strange. Maybe the suggestion that P Tree had anything to do with is farfetched and nevermind the plethora of Swedish dark metal bands whose stock and trade is in the examining depression from the inside out -- without the influence of P Tree. Except for a few spots here and there (?Giant? and ?Pure?), things are played pretty much in a sullen fashion. No less sullen than on the dreary ?The Empty Shell? and the fragile, gloomy and atmospheric ?Tea For The Sleepless.? All this means that band needs a swinging, loose, and breezy piece like ?Giant,? (a replay, redone, from their first album) and the more laid back, but no less jazzy ?Pure? -- at least for it's first five minutes or so. Cobweb Strange are from Atlanta, GA, but sound as if they come from the colder, starker climes of Northern Europe. And this is a departure from their first two, where the comparisons I made were to King Crimson (Temptation?) and Rush (Sounds?).

Ah, but look at this album's title: A Breath Of October. Not a title that suggests breezy, cheery, summery pieces, but rather just exactly what you get here. The Cobweb Strange that recorded their first two Cds is no more, as only bassist/vocalist Wade Summerlin remains. He is joined By are Holly Williams on guitar, Brandi Byrum on keyboards and backing vocals, and Soumen Talukder on drums.

The highlight of this CD is the music and especially the guitar playing of Williams and bass of Summerlin, though Williams doesn't get to play a lot of leads here, given the nature of the arrangements. There are some, and done very well, but just not a whole lot. There is a nice, though moody instrumental section during the opening track, ?The Drowing Pulse Of The Cold Green Sea? that's quite interesting, too. What mars this track and keeps this from being a stellar release, however, is the rather flat and monotone vocals of Summerlin. Though one imagines he trying for the disaffected dreariness that Steven Wilson does well with P Tree, unfortunately Summerlin can't quite carry it off [Ouch. Sorry, Wade -ed.]. Where they work best is on dark and gloomy ?The Empty Shell,? a track that features a sparse arrangement consisting only of voice and strummed acoustic guitar - what I thought of was a stripped down version of Metallica's ?Nothing Else Matters.? The band get even more subtle and gloomier on ?Tea For The Sleepless,? which reminds me of something Porcupine Tree might do, circa Stupid Dream. And there's a lot more going on the arrangement - some interesting keyboard effects from Byrum for example -- that provides additional interest in this track. In it's artiness, it becomes one of the better tracks on this album.

These come after ?Giant,? a piece that demonstrates the good interplay between Summerlin and Williams. Vocally, the track that works best is the dark ?Currents Of Nightshade.? It's another piece that puts guitar and vocals up front, but the breathy way Summerlin sings for most of the piece, adds ghostly etherealness to the piece. I imagined a cloudless, moonlight filled scene out in the Old West, as apparitions of long dead cowboys ride in silence over the flat and still terrain. There is a western feel to ?On With The Show? in Williams delicate guitar work, before things are kicked into a higher gear where Williams lets loose on some nice guitar leads.

It is a valiant effort from Cobweb Strange, but it falls short of getting full marks. An overall stronger vocal performance would have added something to the album, as on the first track, where Summerlin and Byrum are singing with voices intertwined, she proves to be the stronger of the two. How she would fair as lead, I don't know. Not to go on about the vocals, of course. But for the first couple of tracks, they are settled into the mix (and in the case of ?Currents? back in the mix) and work okay. But other than that, a A Breath Of October is a good release.

The Drowning Pulse Of The Cold Green Sea (9:02) / Giant (5:14) / The Empty Shell (5:08) / Tea For The Sleepless (6:34) / Pure (11:50) / Currents Of Nightshade (4:00) / On With The Show (6:43) / With Evening Falling (1:17)

Wade Summerlin - bass ,acoustic guitar, vocals
Holly Williams - guitar
Brandi Byrum- keyboards
Soumen Talukder - drums

Thoughts Under Glass (ep) (1995)
The Temptation Of Successive Hours (1996)
Sounds From The Gathering (1998)
Seamless Selections (2002)
A Breath Of October (2002)

Genre: Progressive Rock

Origin US

Added: July 27th 2003
Reviewer: Stephanie Sollow
Artist website:
Hits: 724
Language: english


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