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Sonus Umbra: Digging for Zeros

Sonus Umbra is back with another winner. This band has yet to disappoint me. Whatever they release turns out to be an instant favourite of mine, and Digging for Zeros is no exception. Despite the departure of their unique vocalist Andres Aullet, which this album is dedicated to, they continue to write and record solid music. The band has enlisted the services of drummer Jeff Laramee who does a great job with a powerful delivery. Laramee shares the vocal duties with female vocalist Lisa Francis of Kurgan's Bane. Their roles in Sonus Umbra are quite different though, as Digging for Zeros embarks upon a dark progressive rock sound, punctuated with delicate acoustic arpeggios, daunting synth work, flickering electric guitar leads, and Luis Nasser's outstanding work of rhythm on bass. 2005 has been a great year for Nasser, as he first appeared on Might Could's instrumental album earlier in the summer, then on the new Kurgan's Bane record, and now his main band Sonus Umbra. Luis Nasser, besides being the main songwriter, is the absolute master of beat and pulse. His bass sound is always audible, throbbing loudly and generating dense sounds throughout.

Digging for Zeros was originally conceived as a single piece of music, but the rest of the band didn't really want it to be a Mei sort of thing, so they finally broke the music down into twenty tracks, for easier navigation purposes. However, the songs are all closely tied together as they seamlessly flow into each other, and unless you check your stereo, you may never know what track you're listening to. I really like the fluidity of this album, much like the new Sieges Even disc or perhaps Fates Warning's A Pleasant Shade of Gray. According Luis Nasser, Digging for Zeros is a dark concept album "about a mathematician who spends way too much time alone, and begins to hear and see things calling from a mirror in his room". As with the previous Sonus Umbra releases, this album is also quite intense lyrically. The protagonist's state of mind is perfectly conjured up on "Foreshadows", a cinematic track where you hear the footsteps of someone aimlessly walking in the streets and a distant heart beat that creates tension. Similarly the sound effects and muttered spoken vocals on "Serial Grounds" enrich the concept of the album. Musically, this could be their finest achievement as well. With all due respect to Andres Aullet, Lisa Francis and Jeff Laramee have come up with some of the most amazing vocal melodies ever. After a slow and haunting intro, "Scream" sets the tone of the album, with its ghostly acoustic guitar strokes, grey synth lines, and heavy bass bottom underpinned by a symphonic backdrop. The brooding tune then launches into a mesmerizing chorus sung by Laramee and the song reaches its climax with the arrival of a fantastic guitar solo courtesy of Ricardo Gomez whose tone and expression really matches Lisa Francis' voice on the following piece "Sleepwalkers".

There are also heavier, rocking tracks like the melodic and catchy "Children of Cain", the despondent "The Laughter of the Dead" brimming with emotional power and mind-belting bass work and rhythm guitar in the end, as well as "Aleph" with fierce keyboard and guitar duels, rhythmic explosions, and an assertive vocal performance. Laramee and Francis also sing together on some songs like "Devil's Promise" and "Pariah", lending the album a fitting sense of contrast. Much like "Scream", the vocal harmonies on "Spleen" are also gold and could easily compete with the most amazing melodies written by the likes of Neal Morse or Steven Wilson. The album also features two brief instrumentals: "Meme Puppet Waltz" is an acoustic-driven composition marked by subtle harmonic and rhythmic developments, whilst "Infinity" is the album finale graced by an ominous piano melody and churning English horn motif. Together with Eyestrings' recent output Consumption, this album is among the best American prog rock releases of the year and will definitely be in my favourites list of 2005.

Track Listing

  1. Zero (2:03)
  2. Scream (2:53)
  3. Sleepwalkers (2:16)
  4. Children of Cain (0:53)
  5. The Laughter of the Dead (2:08)
  6. Foreshadows (2:16)
  7. Invisible World (4:44)
  8. Serial Grounds (1:46)
  9. Infestation (7:09)
  10. Spleen (2:54)
  11. Bloodstains in Paradise (5:59)
  12. Meme Puppet Waltz (3:12)
  13. Dead Numbers (1:53)
  14. Devil's Promise (1:52)
  15. Aleph (3:28)
  16. The Great Fall Inwards (4:57)
  17. The Music of the Primes (4:26)
  18. From the Ashes (0:54)
  19. Pariah (3:26)
  20. Infinity (2:10)

Added: December 4th 2005
Reviewer: Murat Batmaz
Related Link: Sonus Umbra website
Hits: 3136
Language: english

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