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Ephemeral Sun: Harvest Aorta

At first blush, oddly-named Ephemeral Sun's oddly-named Harvest Aorta appears to represent a major change in direction for the band. Until now they've been fronted by Soprano Laurie-Ann Haus, and the instrumentals have tended toward the heavier end of the progressive music spectrum. This led listeners and reviewers to label the band as another goth-rock outfit, in the vein of a Nightwish or The Gathering – which was wrong. The strength of the band's music has always lain in its instrumentals.

After an amicable parting of the ways with their vocalist, Ephemeral Sun is now purely instrumental and the songwriting is focused more intently on its strengths – pure symphonic progressive rock, without a note of metal to be heard. Brian O'Neill's guitars and John Battema's keyboards are particularly prominent, and the interplay between those instruments is as tight as a drum – and along with hook-laden melodies, it is this masterful interweaving of guitar and keys that defines the album.

A simpler way to describe Harvest Aorta would be to compare it favorably with the recent output from The Future Kings Of England. It's all instrumental, there are just 4 tracks on the 70-minute album including a 42-minute epic, it's extremely catchy, and you'll be living happily with these melodic earworms for many weeks.

"Springsong" has a few dark, almost moments, which are alleviated by elegant piano and guitar lines, and ends with a theatric sound-over of old radio transmissions over an orchestral 'Tron-like wash. The 10-minute "Prism" is more bombastic and overtly progressive, while "Memoirs" is a softer, more pastoral piece. These are preludes for the ambitious 42-minute epic title track, which has complex structures, multiple structural shifts, powerful melodies, metallic elements, classically oriented piano work, and spacey interludes that set up the contrast required for a multi-layered crescendo that ends the album.

We understand that as much of the recording as possible was done in a "live in the studio" environment – which lend an organic dimension to the music. Having seen the band perform more than once, I can attest to the superior quality their live performances.

Harvest Aorta contains all the hallmarks of good progressive music – classic-sounding instrumentation, references to classic prog but with a fresh and thoroughly modern approach, shifting time signatures, constantly developing song structures, tempo-changes, recurring and constantly reprised themes – it's all there right down to brief melodic references to Dream Theater and Rick Wakeman. Yet this is not prog-by-numbers. This is one of the most pleasing bodies of art rock to pass this way for a long time, and will doubtlessly feature on a majority of the "Best-of-2010" lists. And it just might require a crow bar to get it out of the CD player.

Track Listing:
1. Springsong
2. Prism
3. Memoirs
4. Harvest Aorta

Added: December 27th 2010
Reviewer: Duncan Glenday
Related Link: The Band's Web Site
Hits: 3640
Language: english

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Ephemeral Sun: Harvest Aorta
Posted by Ryan Sparks, SoT Staff Writer on 2010-12-27 11:46:23
My Score:

Anytime a band chooses to replace the vocalist, it can often spell disaster. However, for Virginia based symphonic rock outfit Ephemeral Sun, their shift in musical direction dictated that they drop vocals all together in order to concentrate on moving forward in an all instrumental format. I never had the opportunity to hear what former member Laurie –Ann Haus brought to the table as a vocalist, as the band's second album Harvest Aorta is my first exposure to these incredibly talented musicians, so any compressions made on my part would be pointless. I make no excuse for the fact that I've had this disc in my possession for far too long now and I really should have added my roundtable review months ago because this disc is easily among my top five releases for 2010.

What the band has put together here on this four song disc (which clocks in at whopping seventy minutes) is nothing short of magical. It might be the actual sound of the album and the superior production job turned in by the band, along with Simon Heyworth's stellar mastering, that helps give Harvest Aorta such a wonderful organic feeling, but what really shines through and makes this album a real treat to listen to over and over again is the remarkable sense of cohesion between all of the members.

While it's John Battema's lush sounding keyboard passages and Brian O'Neill's muscular guitar work that largely dominates these complex, multi-faceted compositions the contributions of the rhythm section, which is comprised of bassist Charles Gore and drummer Jeff Malone, cannot be overlooked as they help ease the music through a myriad of shifting time changes and tempos, as well as various different moods and themes. The light and shade effect is very prominent throughout their music as they glide seamlessly through darker, heavy arrangements and offset them brilliantly with some fantastic, soaring guitar solos and absolutely gorgeous piano melodies throughout the song "Prism". The softer side is also displayed on "Memoirs" which again is a great vehicle to highlight the superior musical chops of both O'Neill and Battema. What all of this is doing is priming the listener for the album's tour-de force, the closing title track which is nothing less than forty minutes of pure, prog rock genius. Normally when it comes to prog rock epics I find myself drawing the line at around the twenty minute mark, partly because of my refusal to believe that anything could possibly hold my attention for that long, and also because I find that anything longer than that tends to come across as being a tad self indulgent. Well let me tell you this composition had every ingredient and more in place to keep me fully engaged for the entire duration. Relying on a multitude of different themes, intricately played sections and densely layered passages that even veers off into a magnificently executed ambient middle section around the half way mark, this song is guaranteed to touch on a wide range of emotions for the listener. If this is the future sound and direction of Ephemeral Sun then I'm all for more progressive rock epics of this magnitude!

Yes, Harvest Aorta does have all the hallmark ingredients of good, solid progressive music, and yet it still manages to evade any un-necessary comparisons which I think says a lot about the musical vision of these four musicians. It's never too late to discover music that is as majestic as what's offered on Harvest Aorta, and I'm sure this disc will pop up on more than a few 'best of lists' for the year, because like I mentioned at the top of this review, it's definitely in my top five of 2010 and has always been in close proximity to either my computer or CD player. My only hope is that we don't have to wait as long to see what the band has up their sleeves for album number three.

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