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Sonus Umbra - 2005 - "Digging for Zeros"

(61 min, 'Sonus Umbra')

TRACK LIST:                             
1.  Zero 2:03
2.  Scream 2:53
3.  Sleepwalkers 2:16
4.  Children of Cain 0:53
5.  The Laughter of the Dead 2:08
6.  Foreshadows 2:16
7.  Invisible World 4:44
8.  Serial Grounds 1:46
9.  Infestation 7:09
10. Spleen 2:54
11. Bloodstains in Paradise 5:59
12. Meme Puppet Waltz 3:12
13. Dead Numbers 1:53
14. Devil's Promise 1:52
15. Aleph 3:28
16. The Great Fall Inwards 4:57
17. The Music of the Primes 4:26
18. From the Ashes 0:54
19. Pariah 3:26
20. Infinity 2:10


Luis Nasser - bass, guitars; keyboards
Ricardo Gomez - acoustic & electric guitars
Jeff Laramee - drums; lead vocals
Lisa Francis - lead vocals
Pablo Garcia - piano & keyboards; vocals
Andy Tillotson - acoustic & electric guitars
Adam Zygmunt - French horn (20)

Prolusion. "Digging for Zeros" is the third album by the Mexicano American band SONUS UMBRA, following "A Spiritual Vertigo" (2003) and "Snapshot from Limbo" (2000). Some changes have touched the group's personnel, which was stable until now. Original vocalist Andres Aullet has quit. Jeff Laramee appears now as drummer and lead singer rolled into one. Female singer Lisa Francis has become a staff member. In addition, there are two novices in the lineup (which, thus, has transformed from a quartet into a sextet): Pablo Garcia on keyboards and Andy Tillotson, who now shares the duties of lead guitar player with Ricardo Gomez. As ever, bassist / multi-instrumentalist Luis Nasser has penned most of the music and lyrics for the new album, too. Kindred band: Kurgan's Bane. Relatively related band: Might Could.

Analysis. Here is one more concept suite-like album (third in this review series), coming with no pauses between its 20 tracks. Stylistically, there are not many differences between "Digging for Zeros" and Sonus Umbra's previous two output, but nevertheless, "Snapshot from Limbo" and "A Spiritual Vertigo" have more common ground between themselves than with the new album. While bass, electric and acoustic guitars still retain their lead positions in the arrangements, as ever, the overall sound has acquired a more pronounced symphonic sense, which is certainly due to the appearance of a free keyboardist. But since Garcia gives more preference to piano than to synthesizers, the trademark Sonus Umbra sound, representing a well-balanced combination of beauty and intricacy with an amazing sense of fragility, remains prevalent and is especially striking in the sections built without the use of big guns, e.g. guitar riffs and harsh textures in general. The acoustic guitar and piano-laden Sleepwalkers, Children of Cain (both with Lisa behind the microphone), Meme Puppet Waltz and Infinity, the latter two being instrumental pieces, are fully devoid of heaviness, referring to the purely Art-Rock sector of the band's overall style. The Great Fall Inwards, Bloodstains in Paradise The Music of the Primes and Pariah, sung either by Lisa alone or together with Jeff (on the latter two), are structurally similar, but there also are distinct elements of heavy Prog in places. Still Lisa's, The Laughter of the Dead and Dead Numbers are mainly intense, the music moving back and forth between symphonic Art-Rock and Cathedral Metal. Some episodes of that very fragile beauty can also be found on each of the remaining five tracks belonging to Sonus Umbra's traditional stylistic spectrum. Overall however, these (Scream, Invisible World, Infestation, Spleen and Aleph) are the heaviest tracks on the album. Sung by Jeff, they reveal the most aggressive intonations of his pretty flexible vocals. Four more tracks still need to be described: Devil's Promise, Zero, Serial Grounds and Foreshadows, the latter three being instrumentals. The music is very atypical for Sonus Umbra and is either Space Rock resembling to The Alan Parsons Project, as on the first two, or just space music, Foreshadows consisting mainly of various naturalistic effects (steps, beating the glass, etc) and people's voices.

Conclusion. From album to album, Sonus Umbra slowly, yet, steadily improves the quality of their musical production, and I am certain that their latest is their best effort to date. Highly recommended. If the two space music-related instrumental sketches weren't included in the CD, I would have rated it as a complete masterpiece, with the addition of an exclamation mark.

VM: January 12, 2006

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