Divine In Sight - Sorrow & Promise


Year of Release: 2001
Label: self-released
Catalog Number: n/a
Format: CD
Total Time: 64:21:00

Illinois' Divine In Sight are a band that would fit quite nicely on the Dark Symphonies label, especially when you consider their similarity, in some respects, to Maudlin Of The Well. I was listening to Sorrow & Promise at the same time I was playing the already reviewed Maudlin Of The Well discs, and so this correspondence was immediate. I have also been listening to Persephone's Dream as well, and find some similarities there, too. The other artist that comes to mind as I listen to this album is Lana Lane (and thus, by extension, Ann Wilson). What all this means is beautiful vocals with both ethereal and rock qualities over both layers of synth and driving rock. Progressive rock and metal are the style, as you might have guessed, with a touch of Pink Floyd like influences --- the lead guitar work of Bartholomew Boge on the instrumental "By Leaps And Bounds" has David Gilmour-like cadences. Johnathan Dexter pumps away on bass here, too. In the harsher aspects of this track, I hear the influence of Rush, as we get driving rock with bass at the forefront. Rounding out this trio is Frank Ralls on percussion. This is a terrific concept album, well played and well produced. The sound is stunning, clear, crisp and very warm. The concluding track of the suite, "Make Me More Like You" is a gentle and subtle piece to begin with - a lattice work of guitar figures. We hear echoes of earlier themes, as we get a quick waltz like passages that refers back to the earlier "Waltz Of The Plastic Dolls." The guitar tones in this passage sound to me like those often heard from Queen's Brian May.

What is immediately apparent with Divine In Sight is the Christian themes to their music, no less because the core of the album is the 8 track suite "Sorrow & Promise" which is a "Christian Progressive Rock Opera." Now, before I get to much further into the music, I need to mention something two things -- and not what you think I might need to mention. Firstly, the band refers to themselves as a "spiritual progressive art rock" group. While it is a term I would say applies more to a band like Yes, who I don't feel were quite so concrete about which spirit they were following, I understand the band's decision to use it. As they say, calling yourself a "Christian rock band" can be an "alienating barrier." I will say that on a musical level (instrumentation, structure, style, sound, etc.), that those of different faiths or beliefs will enjoy this CD. The second thing I need to mention is that those high, sweet, Lane/Wilson-like vocals are from Boge. While unexpected, it doesn't make this any less of a release. It works on the level it was intended to.

The album opens with "Black River" which is heavy on the bass and keys, the former having a very deep tone, the latter very lyrical -- the kind of thing you find in so-called "neo-prog" bands. This gives way to the ethereal vocals I mentioned over musing guitar lines -- I personally thought of Rothery (again) circa 1985-1988. There is an acoustic quality to this opening piece as well. The lyrics in the second section of this track, "Shallows," are rather Anderson like, and maybe the only reference one can make to Yes, especially as the next segment kicks it into that middle ground between progressive rock and metal that...well, that Lana Lane trades in. Can't help but make that comparison since Boge high vocals aren't in the same form as Jon Anderson's high vocals.

The suite itself is one part A Christmas Carol, one part The Pied Piper, and one part parable. The protagonist has a dream -- or vision -- that includes a silent figure guiding him through different parts of the vision (much as the ghosts took Scrooge from point in time to point in time). The underlying theme is about, essentially, who are the true Christians, who are the "chosen ones." In "March Of The Damned" we have the non-Christians (presumeably) marching off to some yet-to-be determined point, led by a piper. The arrangement is funereal, a slow march accented by rich, gently throbbing bass tones and death knells. The song is very dreary in feel, and perfect for the mood it is creating. On par with your dark metal bands who trade in gloomy and dark themes. In "Waltz Of The Plastic Dolls," we see those with "false faith" -- dancing as if they are happy, but in fact have painted on smiles. This truly is a waltz, and because of that, sounds vaguely familiar. But then, maybe it's just that I've listened to this CD a lot (and I mean a lot). In "Viper's Brood" it is those who argue the meaning of scripture (though I also thought of televangelists, which I'm certain was intentional). The voices of the vipers are, well, slinky and slithery. All the voices are Boge in harmony with himself, which gives the multi-voiced choruses a great dynamic. In "Sleep" it is those who eschew everything else for their faith. That is, turning a blind eye to that around them, thinking faith alone will suffice. While I don't know if Boge, who wrote all the lyrics, was thinking at all of the Christian Scientists who refuse medical treatment on the belief that faith will cure all ills, but I certainly did. "Into The Abyss" catches us up with the marching damned as they are herded over a cliff, though not quite like lemmings (and yet like the lemmings, end up going over anyway). This is the "sorrow" aspect to the suite, and this track makes me think of Metallica's "Fade To Black" (again, as it did with Maudlin Of The Well), but also of Marillion, as the bass work here is very like Trewavas'. And, so, too, Genesis' "Apocalypse in 7/8" ("Supper's Ready," Foxtrot). What then follows is the "promise" as the parable ends with the protagonist coming to the self-realization that he is among one of the groups he has seen. In the end, he finds that he must let "the Holy Spirit of God to take complete control of [his] life..." This leads to a rallying cry to all Christians to bring those who lapsed back into the fold.

This is a good, solid debut. The band's intention was to create a work that worked on two levels - as a musical document that would appeal the to a "secular" audience as well as to a Christian audience with "progressive rock tastes [... looking for] a real alternative to Christian pop." Well, that is certainly accomplished here, as this will appeal to those both of the Christian faith and those not. And I say this as someone firmly in the latter category.


Tracklisting:
Black River i. At The Shore - ii. Shallows - iii. Tempest - iv. Into The Flow (12:45) / By Leaps And Bounds (6:39) / Sorrow & Promise i. In A Box (4:39)- ii. Sorrow & Promise Overture (4:32) - iii. March Of The Damned (5:03) - iv. Waltz Of The Plastic Dolls (4:14) - v. Viper's Brood (6:28) - vi. Sleep (6:07) - vii. Into The Abyss (7:40) - viii. Soul Of Mine (2:43) - ix. Make Me More Like You (9:31)

Musicians:
Bartholomew Boge - guitars and vocals
Johnathan Dexter - bass guitar, keyboards and footpedals
Frank Ralls - percussion

Discography:
Sorrow & Promise (2001)

Genre: Progresive Rock

Origin US

Added: March 9th 2002
Reviewer: Stephanie Sollow
Score:
Artist website: www.divineinsightmusic.net
Hits: 555
Language: english

  

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