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(43:14; Sonus Umbra)
Track list: 1. Grotesquerie 6:33 2. Alone Together Alone 8:52 3. Blood and Diamonds 9:00 4. Paramnesia 5:06 5. Love Undone 4:33 6. Channel Zero 9:10 LINEUP: Roey Ben-Yoseph - vocals, percussion Tim McCaskey - guitars Brittany Moffitt - vocals Luis Nasser - bass, effects, percussion Rich Poston - guitars, keyboards Steve Royce - flute, keyboards Andy Tillotson - drums, guitars with : Colleen Corning - clarinets David Keller - cello
Prolusion. US band SONUS UMBRA, while initially starting out down in Mexico, have been a feature in the US progressive rock scene for close to two decades by now, releasing their first album under the Sonus Umbra moniker back in the year 2000. "Beyond the Panopticon" is the fifth of their six studio albums so far, and was self released in 2016.
Analysis. Sonus Umbra is one more of those bands that can be challenging to pigeonhole into one specific tradition of progressive rock, and personally I'd like to attach the good, old art rock tag to this band and how they come across as of 2016. This because the band, while rather solid placed inside a progressive rock context, truly isn't neither here nor there. The common denominator, or most striking recurring detail if you like, is how the band combines the flute, the acoustic guitar and the occasional guitar riffs this time around. More often than not coming across as exploring a slightly modernized classic Jethro Tull-oriented sound when these elements combine. Clean, undistorted guitars and acoustic guitars are rather prevalent throughout the rest of the album as well, but not explored in all that much of a folk music tradition nor a singer / songwriter one, but rather staying closer to acoustic rock when guitar riffs aren't featured. Occasionally with a few Latin touches tossed in here and there. The more traditional and often darker guitar riffs obviously make their appearances throughout as well, for depth, contrast and impact purposes, and there are quite a few fiery guitar solo runs to be enjoyed as well. On some of the compositions the cello and the clarinet are given roles, and in these cases the songs may at times gain something of a chamber music vibe, but then as more of a case of possibly inspired by this tradition and adding a touch of classical music to the proceedings and not as much a case of replicating this style or tradition. Further expanding the palette here are occasional jazz-tinged instrument details, most often by way of the bass guitar. That being said, the opening instrumental 'Grotesquerie' is something of a token one-off in this context. It does feature most of the above described elements, but is also the one creation here where the band stretch their explorations a bit further, adding impulses from blues, symphonic progressive rock and arguably even progressive metal. Hence this is a band with a wider repertoire than what is showcased on the rest of the album. Outside of what is mentioned, quirky instrument details is something of a trademark feature throughout, and those that are fond of well crafted lyrics will also find a lot to enjoy on this album.
Conclusion. There is much to like and enjoy on this five year old studio album by Sonus Umbra, but for me at least this is a case of a good album rather than a great one. The songs are pleasant and suitably challenging, the mix and production is adequate, but for me and my taste in music I miss that factor that manages to draw me in further and deeper. Many fans of classic era progressive rock will enjoy this album immensely though, but to my mind at least those who know and love Jethro Tull up until 1975 or thereabouts may possibly be something of a core audience for this production. Even if they probably should skip the opening song on their first inspection of this album, and that a certain affection for music that is a bit darker and frayed probably will be needed too.
Progmessor: February 2021
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