IO Earth, a band led by Dave Cureton and Adam Gough from Birmingham, UK, has been around for a long time and is an indispensable part of the progressive rock scene. To date they have produced four studio albums. So far, we have been treated to new music every 3 years, and it all started in 2009 with the self-titled debut, IO Earth (see review). You guessed it, in 2012 came the successor, Moments (see review), after which the double album New World was released in 2015 (see review). After another 3 years, the album Solitude ( see review) was released in 2018. An album for which I was allowed to write the review. If you read the reviews again before reading further, you will find out that IO Earth has never delivered a less than good album, given the rating of the reviewers, namely 4 or 5 stars out of 5. Based on the reviews, IO Earth has been making interesting music of a high standard since their debut. Not many bands can say that. To repeat what stood in one of the earlier reviews is the styles of music they play. You can hear influences taken from metal, ethnic music, gothic, classical music, jazz, folk, pop, rock and progressive rock. This with a lot of emotions.
As you read the new review now, you will have noticed that IO Earth has broken with the tradition of delivering a new album every 3 years. It is only 2 years ago that they released their masterful album Solitude. Masterful to me due to the fact that it knocked, rocked on all sides, had a very emotional theme, contained very deep guitar solos as well as a new singer who was exactly what the band needed on that specific album. The album is still running overtime in my CD player and it still touches me every time I listen to it. Somewhere I made the statement that for me it is one of the best albums of the last 25 years, and I still support that. It certainly goes with me if I have to go to an uninhabited island.
In terms of line-up, there has been one change compared to the previous album, drummer Christian Jerromes has been replaced by Tim Wilson. Fortunately singer Rosanna Lefevre stayed!
Well, and then a while ago came the announcement that IO Earth would launch a new album, Aura. I was not ready for new music from IO Earth because I can still enjoy Solitude on the one hand and on the other hand that I am a bit afraid that everything they would make after this album would certainly not come close. I had read on Facebook that Aura would go a bit more towards ambient-like music. And that is not really my cup of tea. When the cover of the album finally appeared, I got a little more anxious. Not because the cover is not beautiful, on the contrary. Wendy, the manager of the band as well as the one who makes the covers, has made an incredibly beautiful cover, which is completely in line with an aura as we know it. And precisely because it resembles an aura, it did not inspire me much confidence of the somewhat more ambient-like way.
Well, the new album. Let's zoom in on that. The album starts with the title song, Aura. Immediately in the first second there is a kind of drop that falls in an ambient-like way, it is a relaxed opening, slightly layed back. There is some harmony between Dave and Rosanna and a relaxed guitar solo. Jez King on violin also gives a beautiful, relaxed solo. Funny keyboard pieces can be heard by Adam. Slowly the music swells a bit, the music becomes fuller and Dave puts down a heck of a solo on his guitar, very emotional. The singing together fits beautifully. Then there is a twin solo on guitar and violin, very beautiful and building to a climax, after which the song gradually decreases. Everything takes its time. During the song you will hear female vocals several times which is not Rosanna. It concerns Uyanga Bold of the East West Voices Of Empire. This is new in the music of IO Earth and a nice addition. So, the first song is over and my feeling of stuffiness is no longer there, that has already been removed. It is certainly quieter music than all the predecessors, but it is still oh so IO Earth. What is immediately noticeable is the unprecedented beautiful production of the album with flawless music, great class for that matter.
The second song, Waterfall, is a long piece of music of more than 11 minutes, an epic. Immediately at the opening on keys it grabs you. It takes its time to really get going. After about a minute and a half a choir is added and you can already feel the bombast. What is going to happen here? You hear wonderful high female singing, as if the opera is being started. This is Uyanga Bold again. When Rosanna starts singing after more than 3 minutes, she touches me very deeply, it is emotion at its best. How she sings 'You will feel no pain', really beautiful. In this song, which is very emotionally charged, Dave gives a fantastic guitar solo that also touches you, while your tears were not yet dried from how Rosanna sang. The waterfall resonates to great heights with the voice of Rosanna, who takes you on her angel wings. Throughout the song many Adam moments, that man is so important for the music with his keys and piano. But the rhythm section should certainly not go unmentioned, it is so unbelievably solid, delicious. Towards the end of the song Tim starts a reprise of Dave's guitar solo with a drum roll, again so wonderful. You can already buy the album for this song alone. A video of this song has been made already.
Breathe, the third one, immediately attracts attention through the beautiful trumpet playing of Steve Trigg, who has also been known for a long time from contributions to IO Earth albums. It is a very mellow song with a calm structure. Tim is very important in this song with his drumming, really worth a compliment. A storyteller tells his impressive story, which in this case is a pathetic story, completely in line with the music, you can feel the man's depression. At some point, it's Jez (violin), Luke Shingler (flute) and Jennie Appleyard's (cello) turn to stars in this song. A lot happens in this song, although the 8 minutes are over in no time.
Resonance I is a resonance of the title song, Aura, which ends mega bombastically, including the recurring opera voice of Uyanga. As if the movie has ended, so the song ends. It is creative to let the music reprise itself in a different way.
Then it is time for Circles. It is opened by Adam's piano sounds, where you get the thought: he has something to say. The piano is hypnotizing in this song, as is the theremin that has been taken out of the stable again. The lyrics are about the circles in which the main character, sung by Dave, lives his life and there is some distance from his partner, sung by Rosanna. Everything seems to be fine at the end. Again Tim's drumming stands out and it is a full-bodied sound. It ends with Adam's intrusive piano tones grabbing your nerves. A video of this song has also been made.
Then Shadows is on the menu, and there is also a video made for this tune. The song opens with inviting piano sounds. The emotion drips, especially when the backing choir starts, you are caught. What is to come? When Dave sings: 'No more, no more' it is time for the tissues again, what a beautiful rendition of the text. This is about a war veteran who slipped after the war and does not get his life on the road. However, the message is that it is indeed possible for you do it, and you can see that very nicely in the video, the veteran seems to succeed. The choral vocals in this song also fit so unprecedentedly well. The song builds up, classical music, bombastic after which it all fades away. As far as I am concerned, one of the highlights of the album.
Resonance II is another resonance of a song of the album, and this time it is Waterfall, now sung by Dave and is a welcome relaxation after what we just heard.
And then it's the turn of the closing track, The Rain, a real epic of 18 minutes. It is a song that is about how someone should continue their life after the loss of their loved one. In this case, Dave (vocals) is the one left behind and Rosanna the one who sings to Dave from heaven, she gives us strength and hope. There is so much emotion in this song, it is not for nothing that this song is at the end of the album and it takes so long. There is so much to tell. You hear deep guitar solos that reach to the sky. In this song we hear a flute solo from Luke taking time and space. There is whispering by Rosanna which is really hypnotic. There are backing choirs, strings, acoustic guitar and it all fits together so well. Halfway through the song a number of storytellers are given the space to answer a number of questions, such as what makes you sad, what makes you happy, what would you like to say to someone who has died and other questions. IO Earth has appealed to the supporters here, you can hear the fans emotionally tell their piece. The undersigned can also be heard on the album, a great honour! After the storytellers have had their say, Rosanna sings that we should have confidence in her words, feel no fear, and feel her love as we grow. After this we hear rain for a while after which it gets dry and a bird sings its song. It is necessary to calm yourself down after all the beautiful music. This track is a fantastic closer and THE highlight of the album. Hats of.
Well, what more can I say about this album than that it is an unparalleled album, that you want to listen to every day, that it is hypnotic, that it is wonderful, that the production is excellent and above all that everyone should have this album in their closet. I did not expect Solitude to match, but Adam Gough, Dave Cureton, Christian Nokes (bass), Luke Shingler, Rosanna Lefevre, Jez King and Tim Wilson did. The album cannot be compared to any of its predecessors, but has an unprecedented charm. I suspect that the album of the year 2020 has already presented itself, chapeau!
***** Michel Stolk (edited by Tracy van Os van den Abeelen)
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