Reviews: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
Sombre Holiday - The Sea Of Distance
Musical Style: Progressive/Gothic Hard Rock Produced By: Sombre Holiday
Record Label: Independent Country Of Origin: USA & Canada
Year Released: 2017 Artist Website: Sombre Holiday
Tracks: 10 Rating: 85%
Running Time: 48:55

Sombre Holiday - The Sea Of Distance

We understand Sombre Holiday because it subscribes to our musical and lyrical worldview.  A multinational act consisting of brothers Terry (Canada) and Trevor (California) Friesen, Sombre Holiday has impressed us over the years with its outside the box and inventive approach to the hard music scene- traversing dark and moody musical territory few if any dare to tread.  Consider how the group aligns multifarious forms of metal and hard rock to create a sound both melancholic and subdued (sort of like mid-period Deliverance) but also strongly slanted towards a Gothic influenced progressiveness (think Saviour Machine).  Further blend an equal emphasizing of the intricately woven and doom-like (Veni Domine comes to mind) with the richly melodic (somewhat akin to Stryper) and the Sombre Holiday portrait is complete.

Helping lend to the contemplative Sombre Holiday sound are the resonant vocals of Terry Friesen, whose deep and somber style suggests of Jimmy P. Brown (Deliverance) and Eric Clayton (Saviour Machine) or Matt Smith (Theocracy) singing in a lower register.  Terry also delivers the goods guitar wise, with a mode of playing rooted in at times emphatic riffs but also tightly woven melodies and harmonies.  Yet, at a moments notice, his deft acoustic guitar takes Sombre Holiday into atmospheric and ethereal territory.  Soloing wise, he ranges from blistering and boisterous moments to those that stray into the realm of the bluesy. 

Sombre Holiday is not a one-man show in that Trevor Friesen capably fills in on drums with a mode of playing both fleet and technical.  He also contributes the Sombre Holiday lyrics.  This is where the groups reflective side comes into play in that its first two albums, In Search Of Understanding (2009) and Four Shadows (2012), conceptually draw upon the Book of Proverbs in detailing one man’s struggle to choose between lady wisdom and lady folly.  Third Sombre Holiday third length An Hour Of Light (2014) might not be concept related but did touch upon subjects such as grace during weakness, crying out to God in times of struggle and the purpose of the Cross.  The groups fourth album, The Sea Of Distance from the spring of 2017, represents a return to concept territory in revolving around  our modern struggles with relationships- with God and the people in our lives (more on this following the track by track).

The Sea Of Distances opens to the exquisite seven-minute progressiveness to “The Death Of Eve”.  The song begins to a minute and a half instrumental build up in transitioning from waves washing upon the shore and piano to effervescent guitars and buffeting drums.  The boisterous stance is maintained as “The Death Of Eve” romps through its opening verse, not lightening until acoustic guitar steps forward to temper the impassioned refrain.  Final half is mostly instrumental as frenetic lead guitar, acoustic guitar and bluesy sentiments trade off with occasional piano-laced verses. 

“Rain Before Me”, a more compact four and a half minutes, comes across in the form of a mournful ballad.  The song proves richly orchestrated, airy with its accenting piano and keyboards but also not afraid to pick up impetus as forward rhythm guitars make a decisive statement.  Yet, a worshipful element comes into play from the haunting, ‘You’re beautiful, I know’ refrain. 

Back to progressive territory with "A Sea Of Distance".  What we have is a piece that gives rise to a composed and serene feel, opening to celestial keyboards prior to drifting ahead as bluesy guitars decorate the backdrop.  Clear-cut guitars step forward at the half-minute mark, with the remaining distance maintaining the amicable demeanor as imposing harmonies, palatial keyboards and violin hold sway.  Impetus, however, does pick up briefly for the heightened instrumental interlude only for things to descend back to a calmer and stately form.

One of the albums shortest at just under three-minutes, “Fall” draws upon a ballad sentiment in forlornly drifting its distance to piano, acoustic lacings and violin.  Terry lends to the somber scene with his emotional vocal abilities.

“Desire” stands out as a much-needed up-tempo hard rocker.  The song slowly fades in to keyboards before brash rhythm guitars take over, powering things ahead in emphatic fashion as Trevor wails away with his heavy hitting double bass.  Impetus briefly decelerates for a melodic based passage, which gives way to the scintillatingly smooth harmony driven instrumental moments.

The heavier focus carries over onto the varied “To Be Complete” but in a slower, mid-paced package.  Guitars lend a doom-ish quality as they maneuver in and out of the mix, joining with luxurious keyboards that point towards a symphonic aspect.  Of equal note is how the lush vocal melodies that help fortify the sober scene.  Also standing out is the instrumental final minute as guitars take a forthright position and Terry lets loose with a furious guitar solo.

“Reconnect”, albums shortest at 2:15, is an all out metal slugfest with the battering drums and walloping guitars that go hand in hand.  Momentum only slows for the reflective refrain interlaced with more of the choice Sombre Holiday vocal melodies.

“Pinnacle Of Remembrance” rates with the groups heaviest pieces ever.  The song takes a decided mid-paced stance, doom-ish with its nebulous bottom heavy qualities but also thrash-like in terms of the ‘chugga-chugga’ riffs that make every bit the momentous statement.  Instrumental proclivity prevails as well, as found in the fiery left to right channel soloing and the final trenchant minutes featuring narration from the Book of Genesis.

“Follow Me” distinguishes itself as another sublime ballad.  The song exudes the highest emotion, with piano and violin contributing to the empyreal scene and acoustic guitar helping underpin the firmly entrenched melody.  An alluring classical guitar solo tops off one of the albums finest artistic statements (Theocracy could not do this any better).

The Sea Of Distance closes to its final epic, the seven and a half minute play on words “The Eve Of Death”.  Time signatures galore prevail, ranging from all out turbulent in which bruising guitars hold sway to others that temper to softer acoustic guitar and keyboards or slow further to an almost complete standstill. Tying the far-reaching scene together is how the melody to “Rain Before Me” periodically rises above the surface.  In the end, I am reminded of Neal Morse from how “The Eve Of Death” joins so many differing pieces to form a cohesive and logical whole.

One common theme to previous Sombre Holiday reviews is how production could use some refinement.  The same holds true with The Sea Of Distance, noting the improvement the group has made in the area and how production does not distract from or hold back the listening experience.  That said, I would also like to encourage Sombre Holiday to bring in an outside mixing and mastering technician - an unbiased and neutral participant who might take an objective approach to the groups art if you will - to help put the ‘finishing touches’ on any project it might record in the future.

That outside the box inventiveness to Sombre Holiday extends to not just music but also lyrics.  As already noted, The Sea Of Distance is a concept album dealing with our modern struggles with relationships.  Terry Friesen offers further detail:

“Using the Garden of Eden as a starting point, the lyrics in The Sea Of Distance are written from the viewpoint of Adam.  The Garden of Eden was a perfect place for Adam and Eve to live: they had a perfect, open, transparent relationship with their Creator (walking with God in the garden), and they also had a perfect, open, transparent relationship with each other as husband and wife.  When sin entered the picture, however, it caused a rift between their relationship with God and each other.  Suddenly relationships were difficult.  Suddenly life was challenging (even to survive).

“The Bible says that Adam lived over 900 years, but it does not mention Eve’s lifespan.  Trevor wondered what if Adam outlived Eve?  What if Adam lived even a few hundred years longer than Eve?  That would mean Adam was left alone with his regrets.  Not knowing if there was life after death; not knowing if he’d ever see Eve again; not knowing how to restore that perfect relationship with his Creator.  So some of the lyrics reflect Adam’s lonely journey at the end of his life.

“I believe Trevor has painted an amazing picture with his poetry, and really, it reflects our modern struggles with relationships- with God and people in our lives.  The challenge to be completely transparent, the difficult way to see ‘eye to eye’ with people, and the separation that we still feel with our Creator.”

According to the artist, The Sea Of Distance is the first part of a two album concept series:

“Ultimately, there is hope in Christ (the Second Adam) who came to this planet to begin the restoration process for all people and their Maker.  This has impact on all our relationships as well.  So Trevor has already begun work on 10 more poems that will complete the picture.  This album, The Sea Of Distance, describes the hard spot humanity is in- we are distant from God.  And Sombre Holiday has already begun work on another album that will focus on this Second Adam (as Paul describes in the Bible), that came to restore our relationship with our Creator and bring blessing to all of humanity in the process.”

The Sea Of Distance finds Sombre Holiday hitting its creative stride in that it features several of my favorite songs from the group, including “Pinnacle Of Remembrance”, “Follow Me”, “To Be Complete” and “The Death Of Eve”.  Of course, helping lend to said creativity is the Sombre Holiday focus on dark and melancholic music that walks a fine line between the Gothic and doom-like while allowing room for a staunchly rooted progressiveness.  One could also say the Sea Of Distance is the group’s most progressive release in light of how three of its tracks exceed seven minutes and that intricate time signatures define several others.  Hence, similar to past Sombre Holiday releases The Sea Of Distance takes several listens to fully grow on you.  Further compounding matters is that the albums tempered first half can lag somewhat- so further patience is a must!  In the end, those looking for something different or into any of the musical forms presented would do themselves a favor by checking out Sombre Holiday and its fourth album The Sea Of Distance.

Review by Andrew Rockwell

Track Listing: “The Death Of Eve” (7:04), “Rain Before Me” (4:20), “A Sea Of Distance” (7:40), “Fall” (2:55) , “Desire” (4:03), “To Be Complete” (3:49), “Reconnect” (2:15), “Pinnacle Of Remembrance” (5:35), “Follow Me” (3:43), “The Eve Of Death” (7:37)                          

Terry Friesen - Lead Vocals, Guitars & Keyboards
Trevor Friesen - Drums & Percussion

Additional Musicians
Isaac Friesen - Violin


Reviews: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
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