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Craven, Ben: Monsters From The Id

Although his work as a solo artist (briefly under the name Tunisia) stretches back over 15 years, the clamour round Ben Craven’s latest album Monsters From The Id feels like it’s almost come out of nowhere. It’s also my first encounter with the multi-instrumentalist and on the strength of what I’ve encountered it certainly won’t be my last. Yes, symphonic prog albums are almost ten-a-penny these days but ones this good certainly are not.

Handling all of the instrumentation and production himself, Craven undoubtedly created a concoction that in the wrong hands could have spelled a recipe for disaster but thankfully the exact opposite is true. The album itself is split into two multi-section parts, both just under twenty minutes in length, and about their themes Craven states on his bandcamp page “Lyrics are incredibly important to me, but this music was not driven by words or language. It’s pure other-worldly escapism. It’s playing dress-up, wanting to make the world look much bigger than it seems right now, trying to recall the feeling that anything is possible, no matter how unlikely that might be,” So while it might not appear so from those comments, allegedly there is an otherworldly concept in play and a nod to a movie of old in the title. Musically, however, things are much less veiled, a glorious, far reaching sound lush, yet forceful as Craven builds soundscapes to crash them tumbling down once more. The CD itself doesn’t split the tracks into their sections as it spins, so telling exactly which part belongs to which section becomes virtually impossible, but the guitar solo that hits around a third of the way into “Die Before You Wake” is sublime in the extreme. What comes before and immediately after at times takes you into prime symphonic prog territory and at others veers deeper into genuinely classical music structuring, as crescendos rise and fall with breathtaking intensities. One moment a mighty riff is bolstered by darting keys, the next a piano is dragging you in a different direction altogether, but the flow from idea to idea is seamless and sublime.

And track two continues the heady mix, although with a more foreboding atmosphere and a willingness to ask different questions from that which came before. Again though, the conversation between sections is expertly crafted, with a splash of Yes busily chatting away with a Genesis led section. A hint of King Crimson also appears, and the occasional structure - but not sound - that ELP might have called their own. However, that Craven has managed to pull together these strands and much more besides into a modern setting, without landing in the same traps that a lot of the current Symph crop appear unable to avoid, is to his huge credit, and sets him apart from the pack for me - and by quite some distance.

If Monsters From The Id ended there, I’d be slobbering wildly in excitement about it, but Craven isn’t content and instead provides edits of four song sections as little stand alone bonus tracks. Yes, we’ve heard the music already, but in these settings they become something different. Obviously not so grand in scope and not, maybe, quite so breathtaking, but they are proof that Craven has not only constructed two swooping, swirling soundscapes here, he’s also written concise, hugely engaging songs within them. Very clever indeed. Add in a 5.1 DVD disc of all of the above and pretty fabulous album art and, put simply, Monsters From The Id is the real deal. It’s maybe taken him over a decade and half, but suddenly Ben Craven is a name to watch, and then some.

Track Listing
1. Die Before You Wake (19:32) :
- a. Sleeping Spectre 
- b. Ancient Majesty 
- c. Die Before You Wake Part 1
- d. Warming Glow 
- e. Wicked Delights 
- f. Die Before You Wake Part 2 
- g. Endless Night 

2. Amnis Flows Aeternum (19:11) :
- a. Amnis Flows Aeternum Part 1
- b. Guiding Voice Part 1 
- c. Sound and Light 
- d. Guiding Voice Part 2 
- e. Royal Rewards Part 1 
- f. Blessed Stream Part 1 
- g. Amnis Flows Aeternum Part 2 
- h. Earthly Dues
- i. Amnis Flows Aeternum Part 3 
- j. Blessed Stream Part 2 
- k. Royal Rewards Part 2 
- l. Guiding Voice Part 3 

Bonus tracks:

3. Die Before You Wake (single edit) 

4. Wicked Delights (single edit) 

5. Guiding Voice (single edit) 

6. Amnis Flows Aeternum (single edit)

Added: October 29th 2023
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Related Link: Ben Craven @ bandcamp
Hits: 1875
Language: english

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» SoT Staff Roundtable Reviews:

Craven, Ben: Monsters From The Id
Posted by Jon Neudorf, SoT Staff Writer on 2023-10-29 21:53:18
My Score:

I became familiar with Australian progressive rock musician Ben Craven a few years ago after digging into his 2016 release Last Chance To Hear, followed by his 2017 compilation album The Single Edits. Fow a while now I have sat with Craven’s latest album Monsters From The Id.

When first gazing upon the album artwork and logo, it is hard not to recall prog giants Yes, and for good reason since the logo is designed by Roger Dean and the cover painting is from his daughter, Freyja Dean. I have to say the look is great.

So, what about the music? Craven is a true artist and like all his albums he sings and plays all instruments, as well as taking on engineering, production, and mastering duties. This album exudes quality and if you enjoy symphonic progressive rock with an inkling towards some of the greats like Yes, Genesis, and Pink Floyd, but with its own unique spin, you will want to give this some attention.

The first track is the near twenty-minute beast “Die Before You Wake”, a seven-part journey through majestic symphonic progressive rock expertly crafted with beautiful use of choirs, violin, soaring guitar work, dramatic builds and a super catchy chorus. Craven adds seamless change ups, with effective contrast between heavy and lighter soundscapes.

“Amnis Flows Aeternum” is almost as long, just over nineteen minutes, and is another fantastic slice of progressive music. The song builds from a wonderful acoustic intro, evolving through different themes and moods with seamless transitions, the keyboards and guitars crafted with meticulous care, with the sound merging retro (think Pink Floyd) and modern approaches, culminating in Craven’s wonderfully emotive axe slinging.

Also included is a DVD, containing six tracks, both epics and four videos - single edit versions culled from the two long tracks, the videos relating the themes with some interesting visuals.

Overall, this is a great package, with lovely artwork spread over a tri-fold digipack and of course the music is absolutely outstanding. Folks, you just cannot go wrong with this one. You know what you have to do!

Craven, Ben: Monsters From The Id
Posted by Pete Pardo, SoT Staff Writer on 2022-09-05 12:51:27
My Score:

Proving that epic, symphonic prog rock certainly isn't dead, Ben Craven's latest solo album Monsters From the Id busts out of the gate with not one, but two near 20-minute tracks, each one chock full of huge, orchestral keyboard swells, bombastic percussion, and loads of soaring guitar solos. Images of Mike Oldfield, Yes, ELP, and Pink Floyd pop up frequently across these 40 minutes, and for those that hear little bits and sections that seem more memorable than others, Craven has even pulled those parts out and given us those passages as 'single edits', which I think is a pretty bold move that really works in this instance. Kind of like what Yes did with the "Soon" section of "The Gates of Delirium" from the Relayer album. The vocals here are outstanding, and all the instrumentation top notch, making this a highly recommended prog release that you'll want to seek out here in 2022.

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