Progressive Rock is a genre that is, more than anything else, hit or miss. Many times bands have come along with great songs, great musicians, but poor execution. These bands are completely indiscernible from other bands, and frequently draw comparisons to other, more popular, or “bigger” bands within the same genre. While it’s ok to wear your influences proudly, some artists, particularly in prog, let their influences define them, rather than carving out their own special sound that will set them apart. Rarely does a band come around that can take a sound that’s been around for decades and turn it into something fresh and exciting. Iamthemorning, and their Kscope debut album Belighted, have a lot to prove with their first effort. The question is, does the band fall into old or new territory? The answer is not simple; it’s a little bit of both.
The first thing that any listener will notice after one listen to this record is that it is piano heavy. There is piano all over the place, and it’s not something to be taken lightly. The band, it seems, tend to think of themselves as a “classical” rock band. They use the piano as an instrument of choice simply because it adds something different. While there are some parts that could have used a synthesizer or keyboard, the band chose to stick with pure ebony and ivory, fluctuating from major to minor and creating an album that sounds as much rock as it does classical. Session drummer Gavin Harrison (Porcupine Tree, King Crimson) really stands out on this record, and while he is the most known name on this record, the band sometimes overshadow his fantastic playing with their own. It’s a shame he’s only their studio drummer; it would be great to see them gel together as a live act, and even as a full-fledged member.
The vocals on this record are also extremely difficult to understand, not in the sense that they are low in volume or in a foreign language, but because they seem like they’re from a different band. It almost sounds like something an alternative band would do, especially with the somber and melancholy portraits painted by vocalist Marjana Semkina. It almost sounds reminiscent of Evanescence, except without the horrible music behind it. Marjana’s voice is also extremely delicate sounding. She rarely uses long sustained notes or sings higher than a certain volume which sound mid-range. Instead, she uses her voice as an instrument of sorts, letting it blend into the music, particularly with the keyboards, to create an eclipsing sound overall. The confluence of her vocals with piano creates a dismal landscape, but also something beautiful, being that she is obviously an incredibly talented vocalist.
The record makes an effort to set itself apart from its progressive rock contemporaries by various means, but the problem here is that the band are still trying to find their voice. The band is young. Lest we forget this is still their major label debut record. It is a good one, but there seems to be an absence of voice at times. The problem can be rectified easily on the band’s next outing, but for now, there is one key element missing, and that is its ability to make itself standout tremendously. While the album is certainly a breath of fresh air for a genre that seems to be made up of artists that all sound the same or play off each other, the band still have a little more refinement before becoming one of the leading prog bands the world over.
So where does this leave Belighted? In short, the album is definitely an interesting listen. It is a great start for a young and promising band that still has many great years ahead of them. The next task for the band is to get their name out there, play shows, and further refine their sound, so that one day we will all be waiting anxiously for their next album to come out the same way we do with bands like Anathema and Devin Townsend. The band don’t have very far to go, but the next steps in their musical career will be critical, because it would really be a shame to let their talent go to waste.
Iamthemorning’s Belighted gets…