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The Aaron Clift Experiment: Outer Light, Inner Darkness

Outer Light, Inner Darkness is the second album from the The Aaron Clift Experiment; the quartet returning with an ambitious concept piece that explores the themes lain out in its title. The first half of the release offers selections based round the ideas of 'individual versus group, hope versus despair', while the closing half hopes to illustrate the joining of these opposites and the human ability to show outer light through inner darkness.

"Kissed By The Sun" kicks the album off magnificently, a meaty riff from Eric Gutierrez ably backed by the roaming bass work of Devin North, a sublime violin contribution from Corina Santos adding an unavoidable splash of Kansas. However once the main melody builds, an altogether more contemporary prog bent is revealed, as the expert pacing of the song allows a host of sections and themes to come together with ease. Clift infuses proceedings with atmospheric washes of keyboards, while his vocals are engaging, if hardly startling, the feel that he's holding back overcome by the superb music and arrangements he's fronting. As album openings go, it's knock you off your feet stuff, the worry being that the momentum simply can't be kept up across the remaining seven tracks (and two "bonuses").

To say the album is all downhill from there would be unkind and inaccurate, and yet the bar is raised so high, that what follows was maybe always destined to underwhelm, at least a little. And so it proves, "Locked" an easy ride into AOR meets jazz via melodic prog, Clift's voice not quite holding the power needed to make the results uplifting, while the guitars suddenly seem to lose their bite. "Fragments Of The Sky" heads down a similar path, quiet, atmospheric sections almost managing to be Opeth meets Riverside at their melancholy best, yet the darkness and remoteness these bands somehow draw you in through is lacking, an all too chirpy-cheery interior always trying to break through the darkness. "Your Arms Hold Them To The Dark" and the lengthy, three part "Moonscape" redress the balance somewhat, the isolated air of hopelessness balanced by a slightly more snarling (almost Hetfield-lite) vocal, while Gutierrez's guitar is suddenly allowed out to play in full unabashed style again. Whereas the short violin, viola, cello infused "The Last Oasis" is indeed that spot of hope in the barren wastes.

In the end Outer Light, Inner Darkness feels almost as tumultuous as its name suggests, a battle between songs of dark depth, uneasily matched against a sometimes too happy go lucky exterior. When it comes off, as it does more than once, the payback is quite immense and yet when it doesn't you can almost forget this album is even vying for your attention. There are signs of greatness and yet the emotion this album leaves you with is frustration. If the stupendous ability to craft creative pieces of majesty as that shown on "Kissed By The Sun" can be repeated across a whole album, The Aaron Clift Experiment will undoubtedly become something very special indeed. As it is, the consistency isn't quite there, so lets revel in this album's many highlights and keep our fingers crossed for album number three.

Track Listing
1. Kissed By The Sun
2. Locked
3. Fragments Of Sleep
4. Your Arms Hold Them To The Dark
5. Aoide, Goddess Of Song
6. The Last Oasis (8:36)
7. Moonscape : I. The Frontline, II. Fool's Fate, III. Outer Light, Inner Darkness (12:05)
8. Bathed In Moonlight

Added: December 6th 2015
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Related Link: Aaron Clift Experiment online
Hits: 1325
Language: english

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