reviewed by Cory McCrindle
Picture yourself coming home this evening and sitting down to your favourite meal. Maybe tonight you’ll have spaghetti, or maybe chicken, or perhaps your favourite salad…just for the hell of it, let’s say it’s pizza. So you sit down and enjoy your pizza. Mmmmmm. It’s tasty, filling and oh so satisfying. You have enjoyed the meal because it makes you happy, hitting all the right buttons in your pleasure centres. The next night, what’s for supper? Again, it’s pizza…in fact, the exact same pizza. Yay! You get to experience those joys again. The third night, the fourth night, and every night that week, guess what you’re eating? It’s that very same pizza. Let’s face it, no matter how much you love that pizza, eventually you are going to want to have something else. That’s sort of what it’s like listening to the debut release from Toronto band Red Nightfall.
Let’s set the record straight right from the top. There are a lot of things to be excited about with this album. Upon first listening, I was delighted with the mellow, hypnotic tone of the first song, titled “Forever Leaving.” It brought back pleasant memories of early King Crimson, Peter Gabriel-era Genesis, and even Marillion in comparison. If you enjoy Prog Rock like I do, this album will bring a smile to your ears. And if indeed Prog Rock is your thing, the term “bring a smile to your ears” will make sense. After all, it’s all about the creative imagery. The instrumentation on this track helps set a mood and paint a picture, although disappointingly the vocals seem to get lost in the mix somewhat. But hey, we’re off to a good start. Yummy! What’s next?
“Coloured Dreams” seems to follow the album’s textural blueprint. I really like the bass and drum work here, although again I am concerned because they seem to come out muddied in the mix. The same can be said for the vocals, which takes away from any emotional power the lyrics might have. And what may be most troubling is that this song seems to sound similar to the first one. No, it isn’t a carbon copy, but there isn’t enough differentiation between the two in my opinion. I trace that at least in part to the guitar playing, which seems to follow a fairly narrow path in terms of the strumming pattern. U2 guitar whiz The Edge has made a fortune with his fret work, but the reason I own a grand total of zero U2 CDs is because I find his playing too repetitive. It works wonders for some people, but I just find it a bit grating. U2 fans can send your hate mail to me in care of: RR1,Notimpressed, Ontario, O0O 0O0.
The third song on this release is called “Forever Wanting,” which had me thinking we had a suite going on within the album. It’s an atmospheric number and I am happy to say the vocals sound a bit clearer. The downside is that it sounds enough like the first two songs to put listeners off, and to me, that again traces back to the strumming pattern. I enjoy Addison Siemko’s vocals now that I can hear them better, and once again am taken with the drumming of Welland Sin. I also think Welland Sin is a great name for anyone in a band located in Southern Ontario, and if it wasn’t an actual name it would make for a great stage name. But I digress.
My favourite track on the Red Nightfall album is “Her Passing.” It benefits from a good sound mix, with much cleaner vocals and once again crisp drumming. The song brings echoes (if you’ll excuse the pun) of Pink Floyd’s earlier, more psychedelic material, even veering into Tool territory. These are good things in my humble opinion. The song begins with drums built up and carried over from the song previous to it and then which recede part way through. The effect is aurally gratifying. I also have to give a nod to the bass work here, which helps build a solid sonic foundation. This tune is good enough to help me put aside my previously mentioned concerns about the lack of variety in the guitar work…at least temporarily.
“Wind Scene” is the next number, and has a semi-Celtic flavour. It’s a wonderfully upbeat yet still moody tune featuring solid drumming. But once again Jason McLean doesn’t offer us much in the way of variety when it comes to his guitar work, and that unfortunately takes the polish off an otherwise serviceable song. It isn’t that the playing is bad, far from it. It’s actually pretty good. It’s just that a good thing can transition in to a bad thing if repeated too much. McLean just needs to work on expanding his repertoire of licks.
Next up is “Windmills,” a nice mellow, ethereal, mood-driven song. It features some sweet background vocals, and kind of puts me in mind of something Grapes of Wrath might tackle. A close listen may conjure up themes of helplessness, even disaffectedness. Music is meant to inspire emotion, and thankfully that seems to have happened here.
There isn’t a lot to separate the song “Bonfire” from the others on the album – including the song directly before it – and therefore it kind of gets stuck in the rut. You sense there is some unfocused and perhaps unrealised power here, but the effort comes across as mostly wasted. And that is a pity. If there is a track that could have been left off the album to no ill effect, this is it.
I really like the next song, titled “1812.” Musically, this is where the band shines its best. Given the song’s title, I was expecting some kind of historical perspective about how Canada beat the U.S. and changed the course of our history, but the song isn’t that far reaching. It’s powerful, but at the same time sparse, coming in at less than 3 minutes. The beauty here is that the track stands out from the rest of the album, and for that I give it full marks.
“Forever Yours” is the closing track and the third in the “Forever” series on the album. It slips back into the familiar guitar patterns, albeit with a better mix. Patrick Illian does an impressive job on bass with the song, and the drumming is solid if a bit overbearing at times. It’s a promising track for the most part. However, the song ends with more of a whimper than a bang, giving the impression the album has limped to the finish line instead of crossing it triumphantly.
Red Nightfall released their eponymous debut October 20th. For more on the band, you can check out their website,rednightfall.com Being a music reviewer is a thankless task. In a lot of ways, it’s like telling new parents you don’t like their children. And it isn’t like I DON’T like Red Nightfall, I do see a lot of positive things going on. Individually, the band members have a lot of strengths. I also sincerely hope the band can build on this first effort. I wish the album would have been mixed better for starters. That could have helped. The gist is that most of these songs would stand out fairly well on their own, but when collected together in this album, they aren’t different enough from each other to result in a varied, well-flowing and cohesive disk. It’s kind of like having pizza every day. Eventually, no matter how much you love it, you want more variety in your diet.
Top Tracks: “1812;” “Her Passing”
Rating: Strong Hoot (good)