The fabulously named Celestial Oeuvre are a self-styled neo-progressive band from NYC playing, on the basis of This Mortal Coil, an exciting brand of Yes-derived rock, with elements from ELP. There will be other influences in there, but they were the main sonic elements that stood out: if you deduce from this that the keyboards play an essential and exciting, fast-tempo part, then you'd be right. Starcastle are another name that comes to mind for the "listening post", for those of you who use comparisons to decide whether or not to check out a new band.
As a result of the influences and compositional style, this might not be the most original album you've heard, but the execution is very good and therefore the music appealing. Good melody, good rhythm, good pace, good musicians, good composition – an album you can't go wrong with really! This Mortal Coil is the band's second album after 2004's independently released Second Chance: it's an album that does full justice both to Unicorn's faith in the band as well as to their statement that it is their "labor of love". Jose Damien (all keyboards, bass, guitar) and Joe Acaba (vocals) form the compositional team and are therefore the backbone and soul of the band, which is completed by Joe Nardulli (lead guitars) and Hector Lopez (drums, percussion, bells & whistles).
"The Meadows" kicks off the album in fine style at pace, the keyboards to the fore, alternating with Nardulli's meaty guitar. It's a fine sound and sets the tone for the album! The "Family Secrets" trio cements the album's qualities, Nardulli and Damien trading breaks and Acaba putting in a fine vocal performance. The music can be quieter and more ethereal too, such as on the opening to "This Mortal Coil", where the melodic control and the harmonies are both excellent before the song "opens up" to rock. "Melody Makers" has a catchy riff and would make a good single. "Encore" is that rare beast – an excellent rock instrumental. "Sold Out" has more delightful melodies and instrumental turns - and the album continues in strong fashion until virtually the end.
"In Ivory Dreams", the album's major opus and the song in effective "anchor" position, for me doesn't succeed as well as the previous ones; it's almost as if the band was trying too hard to create a "major opus". Perhaps it's an issue with the songs' running order, rather than the song itself; I felt the album needed a "kick" at this stage to really ram home its quality; instead the pace is slow throughout and the melody not sufficiently pretty to compensate. The a capella finish of "The Meadows" didn't really wow me either; it's not the way I would have chosen to end what is otherwise an excellent album.
These last couple of issues shouldn't cloud the overall quality of the album. Certainly the band has produced enough quality music over its duration to justify the adequacy of its own compositions and of the specific choices they've made. Therefore I concede that these issues that I've raised are more about personal choices of mine rather than actual criticisms of the music or of the album; nevertheless, they are perhaps a reflection that the album, whilst very good, is unlikely to be one of those "world-beaters" that everybody likes.
However, if you've ever enjoyed Yes, ELP, Starcastle or similar bands, then I can recommend This Mortal Coil without hesitation.
Incidentally, the art-work is fab!
1) The Meadows (6:45)
2) Family Secrets – prologue (3:07)
3) Family Secrets (4:45)
4) Family Secrets – epilogue (0:10)
5) Unwind This Mortal Coil (5:26)
6) Melody Makers (4:41)
7) Encore (to the Melody Makers) (2:11)
8) Sold Out (5:39)
9) A False Utopia (4:18)
10) Cool Burn (4:07)
11) In Ivory Dreams (7:16)
12) The Meadows (reprise a capella) (0:43)