[ SHORT REVIEWS | DETAILED REVIEWS
TRACK LIST: 1. To the Unknown God 4:11 2. Chapter and Verse 2:55 3. Chapter 3 0:17 4. Words Across the Sky 1:13 5. In Dreams of Egypt 1:21 6. Of Night and Day 4:58 7. The Word That Was 3:27 8. The Turning 5:17 9. Truth's a Lady 3:09 10. Backburner 6:50 11. Unto Rome 4:15 12. Another Story Told 7:16 13. To Be Continued? 1:23 LINEUP: Geoff Dawes vocals; keyboards; guitars Daniel Moloney - drums, percussion; keyboards With: Ross Kroger bass Trevor Carter guitars Dave O'Toole guitars Bec Sian vocals Teleri Holton vocals Jessica Nabb vocals Shakira Searle vocals Dylan Stevenson vocals
Prolusion. The Australian band THE MERLIN BIRD has a history going back a decade or so, but without too much recorded material to their name so far. They released an initial EP back in 2003, and then a lapse of more than a decade occurred before they were ready with their debut album, "Chapter and Verse", which was self-released in 2014.
Analysis. One of the refreshing facts of life is to encounter a band that doesn't take itself all that seriously. The manner in which The Merlin Bird describes themselves at least indicates that this is a band that has a fairly relaxed attitude about what they are doing: "Our music is like Pink Floyd meeting a bad-tempered Enya in an Irish pub, as sung by classically trained singers, who have somehow ended up in a rock band that listens to Radiohead". While a lot can be drawn out of such a description, one of the notable items from it that stays true is that this is a band that knows their folk music, as influenced by and oriented towards, without ever being called a folk band. Their use of both acoustic guitar and wandering piano motifs indicate an inspiration from traditional folk music, not so much in the use of the instruments themselves as in how they are used. That they blend in and out of those expressions, as they are able to and indeed opts for a more contemporary expression on at least an equal basis is something one can say about the vocals as well. Singular and multiple, male and female vocals are a key feature, separate as well as joined, with old traditional choir arrangements with a distinct sacral character to them combined with the more loose folk traditions of singing, some classically inspired takes on vocals and vocal arrangements, spoken voices, as well as more traditional lead vocals rock styles. And while, perhaps, needless to say, one of the assets of this band and this album are some rather stunning vocal harmonies, delivered by excellent vocalists across the board. The folkier details are supplemented quite nicely by keyboards, bass, drums and electric guitars, alongside some theatrical effects, wind synths and cinematic mood samples, all combining in various manners to craft strong and distinct moods and atmospheres. Most striking in nature at the start of this CD for some reason, but with a generally high quality throughout. In a not all that uncommon approach to composing, the longer compositions tend to open as fairly delicate affairs, gradually developing towards a richer expression, which then ebbs and flows in richness and intensity, following the initial showing of the fully developed theme. With occasional theme variations obviously, we are talking about progressive rock after all. The shorter tracks tend to revolve more around atmospheric, mood-laden constructions somewhat more one-dimensional in nature, the brevity of those pieces used to explore one or a very select few styles or approaches more in depth, often with a striking and at times breathtaking end result. A case in point is the beautiful sacral a cappella named Words Across the Sky.
Conclusion. With something of a foundation in folk rock, The Merlin Bird is a band that perhaps will have the greatest appeal amongst those, who generally tend to favor the more folk-oriented varieties of progressive rock. At the same time, their style isn't such that it can be described as a conventional band in that part of the progressive rock universe either, and their compositions include a fair share of classic progressive rock elements as well. But as far as a key audience is concerned, those with a taste for bands blending elements from folk music with progressive rock should be the ones that most easily will be swayed by the charms of this recording.
[ SHORT REVIEWS | DETAILED REVIEWS - LIST | BANDLISTS ]