|Musical Style: Progressive Metal||Produced By: Sombre Holiday|
|Record Label: Independent||Country Of Origin: USA|
|Year Released: 2012||Artist Website: Sombre Holiday|
|Tracks: 11||Rating: 85%|
|Running Time: 52:30|
The sound of Sombre Holiday is a unique one. A joining of siblings Terry (guitars & vocals) and Trevor (drums) Friesen, Sombre Holiday got its start in 2009 when it independently released its acclaimed full length debut In Search Of Understanding…. That uniqueness in question manifests itself in how the albums brings a “joining of metal and hard rock with some heavy progressive underpinnings” (as taken from the 80% Angelic Warlord review) while hinting of a “heavier and harder rocking version Saviour Machine” but with some “darker and lower key moments not unlike Learn and Camelot In Smithereens era Deliverance”.
Sombre Holiday maintains its “Saviour Machine meets Deliverance” sound on its 2012 sophomore release Four Shadows but with a twist. The difference is how the duo takes the next step in terms of their songwriting by heading in the heavier progressive based direction. You will find the songs here, for instance, to be highly intricate and complex - there is so much going on to Four Shadows musically it is almost too difficult to describe - but richly orchestrated at the same time (ambient and ethereal moments abound, reflected in the group’s added use of classical instrumentation).
Examples of the choice Sombre Holiday songwriting abilities can be found in the albums lengthier and more progressive material, including “A Forgotten Memory”, with its abounding shifts and changes in tempo, and “The Heart Returns”, running the gamut from the moody to the all out animated. The sweeping nine minute “Silhouette” even breaks down into three distinct but coherent parts (sort of line a Neal Morse epic).
The progressiveness (and quality) is maintained when Sombre Holiday heads in the heavier direction. “Fall From Heaven” brings a joining of the mercurial and melodic, while “Lies In Secret” takes a straight on metal approach but mixed with bluesy slide guitar. “I Turn To You In Sorrow” and “A Figurative Revolution” both start calmly only to end in storms of aggression and heavy set guitars.
Sombre Holiday can also calm things when need calls for it, as found in the haunting ballad “Silent Chambers” and acoustic based “The Sadness”. A no-nonsense hard rocker is present as well, “There Is Something More”.
Yes, you will encounter your share of variety, but it works in that the Four Shadows material is so well constructed that it lends to a complementary “whole” that is greater than the sum of its parts. In other words, each song - regardless of differences in style - works well together while able to stand on its own at the same time. Hence, the key to the unique Sombre Holiday sound.
The point being that there is much more to Sombre Holiday than just “Saviour Machine meets Deliverance”. You will also find melodic undertones not unlike Stryper and heavier guitar driven moments that border on traditional metal or even thrash (think Saint and early Deliverance, respectively). All the while there is a moody and subdued side to Sombre Holiday that speaks of the more low-key Veni Domine material such as The Album Of Labour and 23:59. Yet, when the group stretches in the progressive department, Theocracy and Neal Morse come to mind.
Tying everything together is the Sombre Holiday performance, which starts with the deep and somber - almost Gothic tinged - vocal qualities of Terry Friesen. His resonant style suggests of Jimmy P. Brown (Deliverance) and Eric Clayton (Saviour Machine) or Matt Smith (Theocracy) singing in a lower register. Either way it represents another aspect to the uniqueness that is Sombre Holiday.
His rhythm guitar playing is also exquisitely done, ranging from bone crushing riffs (the heaviness to Sombre Holiday is very understated) to melodies and harmonies that are tight as all get out. Yet, at the stop of a dime he can calm things by heading in an atmospheric and ethereal direction or adding some fitting acoustic guitar. Soloing shines as well with blistering and boisterous moments joining with some relaxed flavorings hinting of the bluesy.
Trevor Friesen remains a standout drummer with a heavy hitting but versatile style. He proves adept at adding complementary double bass for the albums more aggressive moments but can temper his playing when things head in a more tempered direction.
The only thing constructive to offer - and I also mentioned this in my In Search Of Understanding… review - is some slight thinness to production. No, nothing overriding or distracting but noticeable nonetheless. As with many independent bands, with time and attention to detail, I can see this area turning into a strong point.
Four Shadows is the second disc in a concept series that started with In Search Of Understanding… Lyrics prove introspective as they weave a story of one mans struggle to choose between lady wisdom and lady folly. The groups press material expands upon things further: “The antagonistic character is the proverbial strange woman (Proverbs 7 & 8) who entices many and then eventually leads those following her on a path to destruction. Through determined effort, the protagonist eventually moves away from his own desires and back toward what he knows to be true and wise.”
Track By Track
Things start with the over the top progressiveness of “A Forgotten Memory”. The song maneuvers a literal maze of time signatures, starting with the ethereally done opening but also encompassing quieter passages carried by stilly done guitars and others in which a staunch rhythm guitar plays the lead role. All the while we are treated to pumping bass lines, occasional acoustic guitar, ripping guitar leads and pummeling drums.
“Fall From Heaven” takes off at a near speed metal romp to mercurial riffing and hyperactive drumming. Things settle down as the song descends into its hulking verses and melodically tinged chorus, with the radiant outbursts from the beginning making the periodic return. Interestingly, momentum slows to a near standstill at the halfway point as all instrumentation drops from the mix only for the forceful impetus to be regained several seconds later. Lyric snippet:
I don’t want seasons in heaven
I don’t want an end to spring
Falling from heaven
You leave these dreams
To be burned forever after eternity
If it’s taken away
Am I to love what I have today?
And what does that leave tomorrow?
Do I look forward to transience with sorrow?
“Lies In Secret” proves a three minute energy outburst. By far the albums most upbeat, the song might also be its most creative in how it weaves heavy as all get out guitar riffs with a bluesy slide guitar. “Lies In Secret”, in between, is a hulking monster with its unrelenting initiative and weighty low end.
Sweeping and ballad-like is the best description of “Silent Chambers”. The violin and piano at the start of the song give rise to a haunting feel, the ominous setting reinforces as a swarthy rhythm guitar crashes in just past the one minute mark. “Silent Chambers” proves eerie its remaining distance with a staunch mid-paced tempo and emotional vocals putting things over the top. The blistering guitar leads fit the swarthy nature of the music at hand. Lyric snippet:
Reflecting upon the future
And the moments we’ve left
And we have left
Sorrow returns to make amends
Writing dark lines where the soul pretends
Still wondering what we’ve left
Realizing there must be more
But what are we fighting for?
“I Turn To You In Sorrow” breaks down into two parts. The first starts to narration and violin that gives way to a hard rocking rhythm guitar. The second proves all out heavier, starting after a minute and a half when guitars move to the forefront of the mix and assertively carry things ahead to pounding double bass and a radiant lead guitar run. What we have here is another stunning progressive metal example. Lyric snippet:
I turn to you in sorrow
As daylight passes my eyes, unconsciously smearing
The canvas in its rain
I turn to you in sorrow
And you’re always there it seems
A comfort from the world
Because I turned you into my dreams
I turn to you in sorrow
“Silhouette”, the albums nine minute epic, also breaks down, this time into three parts. The first takes a heavier stance with acoustic guitars interwoven with swarthy rhythm guitars carried over an upbeat tempo. Keyboards add an airy effect to the backdrop. Impetus stops dead in its tracks after three minutes at the start of the second, as gentle acoustic guitars slowly transition to some frenzied soloing. Part three is tranquilly done with more acoustic guitars and keyboards carrying things to their climactic close.
“The Sadness” is the albums most laid back with keyboards, acoustic guitars, piano and violin upholding its brief (2:40) distance.
The keyboards and stilly done guitars sustaining the first minute to “A Figurative Revolution” give rise to a serene feel. Abruptly picking up in pace at once, the song takes off to edgy guitars that gradually switchover to several runs of vibrantly done lead guitar. Progressive, creative and engaging are the first words to come to mind. Lyric snippet:
You are the personification of everything good
I’m repelled by
My reaction to your soul
The pain of the revolution
Making me what I should be
Nothing remains in this evolution
But the counterfeit of me
Initiative picks up for “There Is Something More”, a focused heavy hitter that storms front to back in aggressive fashion. No, not as progressive as some here but essential nonetheless with its stalwart momentum and predominate mentality. An eighties traditional metal feel prevails as a result.
The album closes to the atmospheric “The Heart Returns”. This is perhaps the albums most sublime with violin, keyboards and piano carrying the first minute and a half until a decisive guitar batters in. The more forthright heading is taken moving forward, as initiative gradually builds until things culminate for another seething stretch of soloing. We then head back to calmer territory for the final minute. Lyric snippet:
You’re here (my Lady Wisdom)
Now, like you’ve always been
Love, you’ve been faithful, and I’ve always known
Dust, now on your petals shows-
From experience to extremes
I’m where I’ll always need to be
Love, in your arms eternally
Trust, you are the faithful one
Loving me hating
From experience too extreme
The heat returns.
Review by Andrew Rockwell
Track Listing: “A Forgotten Memory” (6:13), “Fall From Heaven” (4:49), “Lies In Secret” (2:48), “Silent Chambers” (4:43), “I Turn To You In Sorrow” (4:23), “Silhouette” (9:08), “The Sadness” (2:40), “A Figurative Revolution” (4:21), “There Is Something More” (3:00), “The Heart Returns” (7:00)
Terry Friesen - Lead Vocals, Guitars & Keyboards
Trevor Friesen - Drums & Percussion