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DarWin: DarWin 2 - A Frozen War

The ecology of the Earth is exhausted and the human population of the planet rapidly diminishing as world order collapses through the impacts of climate change. Conflict, chaos and disorder reign as the everyday lives of the people descend into catastrophe after catastrophe. The year is 2028 and this, according to the first two albums from DarWin, is our fate.

It’s a story told through an incredible cast of talent who embellish a prog rock framework with elements more akin to AOR and others that veer muscularly into prog metal and hard rock. Guitarist DarWin himself is the main player here, but with drummer extraordinaire Simon Phillips adding some percussive flair and his considerable production talents, rest assured that the whole thing sounds sumptuous. Take in a list of musicians that includes Matt Bissonette on vocals, Greg Howe and Guthrie Govan also on guitar, Billy Sheehan handling bass, Derek Sherinian at the keyboards along with Jeff Babko, Alex Sill playing acoustic guitar and Peter Nickalls providing string arrangements which are performed by the Reykjavik String Quartet and it’s plain that we’re not mucking about here.

Conversely to its predecessor - the double disc debut, Origin Of Species (see what DarWin did there?) - A Frozen War barely squeaks past 30 minutes, but that still leaves this album/EP with time to get its message across both lyrically (we’re all going to hell in a hand basket if we don’t get our shit together regarding the environment and many other things) and musically, where the performances are off the charts. Just dial into the opening “Nightmare Of My Dreams” to sample the chunky riffs that alternate with much more melody based interjections to understand the scope of what’s at play. Vocally Bissonette convinces from the off, combining an excellent clean voice to something a little grittier and while never shouty, or growly, he certainly offers up dynamic variances that work well within the setting. Not content with that conglomerative coming together, the string quartet breaks things up further - as do numerous guitar solos that border on shred without overstepping the mark.

That impressive variety remains throughout, “Future History” opening on acoustic strums and a plaintive electric guitar solo as rumbles of drums usher a gargantuan riff into play which then eases off to allow wonderful harmony vocals to edge into view. At pace, proceedings move on from there, more restrained moments stabbed through with aggression and a near rap-vocal, before the jazz-fusion-electro-AOR of “Eternal Life” asks the ever underrated Guthrie Govan to have some fret fun - which he duly revels in. The title track adds a dreamy edge, some clever spoken word sections and oodles of atmosphere, although it might just be an uncredited female vocal on the closing “Another Year” that just about steals the show. Although with the overall standard of song writing, arranging and performance right across this mini-album as incredibly high as it is, focusing on purely one aspect here would be folly. Followers of melodic prog that can both beef things up and rein things in should most definitely take note.

Track Listing
1. Nightmare of My Dreams
2. Future History
3. Eternal Life
4. A Frozen War
5. Another Year

Added: October 7th 2021
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Related Link: DarWin online
Hits: 1115
Language: english

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DarWin: DarWin 2 - A Frozen War
Posted by Jon Neudorf, SoT Staff Writer on 2021-10-07 19:53:31
My Score:

I have said this many times in the past but one of the benefits being a music reviewer is the constant exposure to new music. It doesn’t always reveal excellent music but there is a lot of talent out there and with the changes in the music industry, more and more musicians are getting their music out there. One such artist is DarWin, a British musician who released his debut album Origin Of Species in 2019. I have yet to hear it, but I have been enjoying his follow up titled A Frozen War, released in late 2020.

The concept continues the story developed in the first release, taking place in the near future where the Earth has suffered the impact of climate change and the socio-economic impact that has on humanity. It’s not a pretty picture but in reality, it would seem we, as a species, are on the precipice and our present actions will have lasting consequences for the planet and everything that lives on it.

A Frozen War is a short album, clocking in at only thirty-one minutes but what it lacks in length makes up for in quality. Sure, I wish there were another few tracks to dig into but five tracks is what we have beginning with “Nightmare Of My Dreams”, where light and heavy offer varying moods, built upon delicate acoustic guitar and progressive metal riffage. Add to that the orchestral elements of synths and violin and you have a successful start to the album. The next track “Future History” begins with acoustic guitar, soon joined by fluid electric leads and faster, heavier riffs. The middle guitar solo is as sweet as it gets. Another excellent slice of progressive metal. The soaring and melodic part ballad/part rocker “Eternal Life”, the edgy riffage in the catchy title track, and the irresistible male/female vocal arrangement in the catchy AOR of “Another Year” round out the disc.

DarWin has put together some excellent musicians, bringing this album to life in a big way. A great mix of AOR and melodic progressive rock/metal. Easily recommended.

The Players:
DarWin (guitars, string arrangements)
Simon Phillips (drums, percussion, keyboards)
Matt Bissonette (vocals)
Greg Howe (guitar on tracks 2 and 5)
Billy Sheehan (bass on tracks 1,2, 4 and 5)
Guthrie Govan (guitar on tracks 1 and 3)
Derek Sherinian (keyboards on track 4)
Alex Sill (acoustic guitar)
Jeff Babko (keyboards)
Peter Nichalls (string arrangements)

Origin Of Species (2019)
A Frozen War (2020)
Unplugged (2021)

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