Dark Aether Project - The Gentle Art Of Firewalking

Year of Release: 2002
Label: self-released
Catalog Number: DAP03
Format: CD
Total Time: 42:52:00

While I didn't have all good things to say about The Dark Aether Project's 1998 self-titled debut release -- I haven't reviewed their second release -- my general opinion was positive. But, two years and another vocalist change later, The Dark Aether Project release The Gentle Art Of Firewalking. This is a stunningly beautiful album. I am blown away by it. All the changes in the band since 1998 - the mainstay member being Adam Levin (Warr 8-String touch style guitar, bass, guitar, keys, and loops) -- have been for the best. Not to dis' his previous cohorts, but the quartet he has brought in this time - Jennifer Huff on vocals; Allen Brunelle on drums, backing vocals, and keyboards; John McCloskey on guitar, and Marty Saletta on keyboards and stick -- have made this year's Dark Aether Project the best yet.

New vocalist Huff has a wonderfully warm voice, though it doesn't quite work for me on "Shades." Yaman Aksu has been replaced by McCloskey on guitar and I have to say that I fell for this album just based on the first track, the instrumental "Crossing The Threshold." While Levin and Brunelle are not absent here, their sparse, measured, moody lines provide the perfect backdrop to McCloskey's guitar excursions. It's the kind of mellow and yet energetic piece that would sound sublime live, at dusk, under a slowly darkening sky. Beautiful. These very same words could describe the title track as well, as the clear notes from McCloskey speak with the same voice -- saying something different, a little lighter, a little more upbeat, but the same voice.

"Night Embrace" is the second track and the first with vocals. Here Levin on touch guitar is the lead instrument. Huff's vocal delivery is part sung, part spoken, and while it may seem I over use this word (I think I used it above) this is very very moody ... recalling for me at once a merging of The Motels, Berlin, and mellow The Gathering and Brave. Oh, yes, and more tasty guitar from McCloskey.

Musically, the "aether" part of their name is very strong, reminding me also of many a Dark Symphonies artist - which I guess has now become shorthand for a particular type of music. My impression of Dark Aether Project has never been that of darkwave, and yet here they easily could qualify. Not that they would need to for any reason. But, looking at the lyrics, we do not have a happy bunch of folks... most of the lyrics deal with the pain, anguish, anger, and dark thoughts that come to pass when a relationship hits the skids...or disintegrates...

Did I say this was mellow darkwave? Well, not entirely, as one just needs to listen to the searing guitar of McCloskey -- hmm, I must have a McCloskey fixation. Nah, I just love guitar and McCloskey gives the listener lots to love. I mean, there aren't highlights - nearly the whole album is a highlight. The band's playing is so tight, so perfect (or near enough to me that I can't find anything to quibble about). "Shades" is angular, jazz-fusiony and, at times, reminded me of Echolyn ("Carpe Diem," I think) -- the interesting note here for those who are A) unfamiliar with DAP or B) haven't read my previous review yet is that during Echolyn's extended hiatus, bassist/vocalist Ray Weston was DAP's vocalist for Feed The Silence, their second release.

Did I say jazz fusion? How about some metallic ferocity by way of "Sparks Fly"? No misnomer that, as the sparks do fly - off grungy, acid guitar (McCloskey, of course, but also Levin -- one for each ear), great "proggy" keyboards, a bit Emersonian ... a bit of a Middle Eastern flavour during a solo, funky bass... does it sound like they're having fun? It's like a tightly organized jam...

"Embers" is a very ambient, atmospheric track with Brunelle's spoken words playing against Huff's ethereal vocals. Levin's 8-string touchstyle guitar playing circular, bass-deep phrases beneath keyboard washes and loops of sound. The synth solo from Brunelle has an almost violin sound at times, pitched a little higher than "usual," but certainly fills the same role, sounding sweet, but melancholy... especially during the outro.

Wow! This is one of the best releases for 2002, for sure. It's quite reluctant to leave my player, perhaps knowing that there's more to absorb than what I shared already. This is one disk not to miss.

Crossing The Threshold (7:06) / Night Embrace (4:24) / The Gentle Art Of Firewalking (4:49) / Mask (4:34) / 3rd Degree (4:04) / Shades (4:17) / Sparks Fly (4:39) / Embers (8:58)

Allen Brunelle - drums, keyboards
Jennifer Huff - vocals
Adam Levin - 8-string touchstyle guitar, bass, guitars, keyboards, loops
John McCloskey - guitars
Marty Saletta - keyboards, stick

The Dark Aether Project (1998)
Feed The Silence (1999)
The Gentle Art Of Firewalking (2002)

Genre: Progressive Rock

Origin US

Added: August 25th 2002
Reviewer: Stephanie Sollow
Artist website: www.darkaether.net
Hits: 728
Language: english


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