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Mostly Autumn: Graveyard Star

OK. Let’s just put this out there. I’m nothing if not persistent. I’ve tried hard with Mostly Autumn, I really have, owning at least four of their albums over the years and catching them live on a couple of occasions. And while all of that exposure has left me admiring them, I’ve never really clicked with this band; their inability to outshine even a stubbornly dour performance by Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow when they opened for them a few years back leaving me at the conclusion that never were our twains to meet…

And then I encountered the universal praise for Graveyard Star. The band’s most recent album is one where the last few years have been studied to create a reaction that’s both honest and heartfelt from the band’s leader, Bryan Josh. Should I jump back into autumn? After all, I’m always willing to admit that I was wrong, and with the album opening title track, I will hands up, mea-culpa, forgive me for I have sinned, fall on my sword and confess the error of my ways. As far as neo-prog monsters go, “Graveyard Star” is up there with the best of them. Sprawling, majestic, involving, atmospheric and utterly mesmerising. It also helps that Josh’s vocals strongly remind of the all too fleeting Arena singer, Rob Sowden.

So, time to settle in, as the “Plague Ball” proves a less exhilarating but still interesting change of pace as it offers a more enigmatic take on what the opener conjured. But when “Skin Of Mankind” becomes a deep resonating country meets The Shadows (ain’t nothing wrong with The Shadows) twang, I’m already becoming a little concerned. As tambourine shaking, violin infused, uilleann pipes parping rock stabs at an Ennio Morricone soundtrack go, I’ll happily never hear it again. Even if co-vocalist Olivia Sparnenn-Josh sings the hell out of it.

And so it goes (for me anyway, everyone else seems to love it) on this album, with “Shadows” sounding needlessly like folk-Floyd, and “The Harder That You Hurt” a left over from a Johnny Cash session that Sparnenn-Josh again shines on, even if she’s the only real high point. “Razor Blade”, however, shows what this album is capable of - enigmatic, atmospheric, forceful and insistent, that it never even attempts to pull out of second gear in terms of pace simply emphasising its innate force. Honestly, when this album is good, it’s stunning! Something that the closing “Turn Around Slowly” can also lay claim to, with guitars that sting in a way that other songs on this album have been utterly crying out for and a confidence not to rely on tropes to get its message across. “The Endless War”, which admittedly, sounds a little like an 80s pop ballad, also impresses hugely and “Free To Fly” is just beautiful in its string, piano and vocal construction. The sound on this track is also outstanding, which makes the bluster of the pushier fare, such as “Back In These Arms”, which sounds like budget Nightwish when it gets going, all the more baffling.

It would be easy for me to tell you, as I have in the past, that sometimes you just have to admit that a band, while good, simply don’t do it for me. However, I’ll freely admit that there are one or two songs on this album that are as good as anything I’ve heard in the entirety of 2021. However, that they are surrounded by a collection of oddly off kilter asides makes the journey from this album’s beginning to its end hugely unrewarding - for me. And again I’ll emphasise that, because most people I speak to seem to love this album, but then they also have long adored this band. I can lay claim to neither of those statements and yet, even this non-believer has to admit that when Graveyard Star is good, it’s blindly brilliant. When it isn’t, however, it really is worryingly close to the other end of the spectrum - or it is, at least, to me.

Track Listing
1. Graveyard Star
2. The Plague Bell
3. Skin of Mankind
4. Shadows
5. The Harder That You Hurt
6. Razor Blade
7. This Endless War
8. Spirit of Mankind
9. Back in These Arms
10. Free to Fly
11. The Diamond
12. Turn Around Slowly

Added: October 15th 2021
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Related Link: Mostly Autumn online
Hits: 313
Language: english

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» Reader Comments:

Mostly Autumn: Graveyard Star
Posted by Molly Whipple on 2021-11-21 03:06:24
My Score:

I've been exploring a lot of Mostly Autumn this year and this effort, while perhaps not the best, is a fine one. I really like that Mostly Autumn embraces being melodic. The songs are crafted so that the guitar leads are earned. And when they come they really evocative and soaring. There are instances when the lyrics border on becoming borderline adolescent, but the music carries them with its sincerity. For the very best Mostly Autumn I suggest hunting down the "Catch the Spirit" two CD set of re-recordings of the best selections from their first four albums. Most enjoyable two and a half hours ever. But this new album is a most worthy addition the catalogue.

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