Until They Feel The Sun is the first release from Seattle based prog band, Moon Letters, who announce themselves with fanfares, while, in the three short opening tracks channeling a melodic, laid-back West Coast vibe to complement the New-Age portentousness, or pretentiousness of their website. As the www will not necessarily do the band too many favours when faced with the world-weary, cynical traveller in prog, I'll cut through it for you and save your mouse the finger-clicks. Moon Letters promise hot licks, haunting melodies and hypnotic rhythms with a taste of King Crimson (no pressure, chaps), Yes (why not, if you're going to cite influences, make them decent) and early Genesis (good, none of that pop nonsense then).
Of course, having built them up like that, as a typical critic, it's time to knock down the whole shambling edifice and expose the sand it is built upon. Well shame on you, I'm not going to, because I have to say that this is a good album. No wait, scratch that - the band are very good indeed, and this is a most entertaining collection of what they would like to term their minstrelisations. (with a 'z' being American). The album overall covers well trodden prog ground of a tale of quest and adventure, with a dollop of regret, and redemption. I have already alluded to the relaxed harmonisations of the opening tracks, but it is fair to say that the mood shifts as the tracks get longer over a triptych of extended tracks which form the central part of this collection. The sound is heavier, the themes more desperate, the composition more dense and complex, brooding heavy themes, interspersed with moments of lyrical light and thematic delicacy. Beware The Finman complements its contemplation of existential dread with heavy metal riffs, soaring vocals, lush orchestrations and some great extended guitar work from Dave Webb. A truly epic work out. Those Dark Eyes has a suitably haunting aspect to its hypnotic drum track and ethereal keyboards, the vocals now fragile and tender, moments of crystal light treasured and yet with a sense of tension that comes with all ephemeral beauty underlined by the jarring discord of the sudden end. Although Sea Battle loses its way in its multipart variations (sometimes there are only so many kitchen sinks which can be thrown in) such that it ends half way through the line as the protagonist is engulfed, it segues into the Tanalin and the light return in the harmonious It's All Around You. The Red Knight is something of a crowd-pleasing galloping workaday rocker, but not to worry as the closing track Sunset Of Man is a triumphant ending musically, picking up the Enidesque fanfares and flourishes from Skara Brae and bringing the tale full circle, and showcasing what this band are capable of with discipline and focus. It's a terrific piece to end on, lyrical, and studded with brilliance all over.
In truth there may not be a lot that is new in this offering, but that is a hard ask these days. Fair to say that Moon Letters live up to their own billing and deliver exactly what they have promised in spades. This is a rightly confident and assured debut from a welcome addition to the prog scene stateside. The more I listen and read, the more I like this somewhat moonstruck crew.
***+ Andrew Cottrell
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