The Sea Within – The Sea Within
So Mr. Roine Stolt felt that is was time for a new music project and for a move to a fresh direction. Well then, we could ask (if we were mean): What about a new Flower Kings album that doesn’t sound like the 3 previous ones? But we are not mean, and we embrace a new project by this musical workaholic at any time – even more so, as the Swede once again gathered an illustrious crowd around him: Long time cooperators Jonas Reingold (The Flower Kings, Karmakanic) on the bass guitar and vocalist extraordinaire Daniel Gildenlöw (Pain of Salvation) might come less surprising to those familiar with Stolt’s projects. They are joined by drummer Marco Minnemann (The Aristocrats, Steven Wilson), Tom Brislin (keyboard; Yes, Camel) and, as a guest and live singer and guitarist, Casey McPherson (Flying Colors, Alpha Rev). The Sea Within was born.
The debut is the self-titled album “The Sea Within” – a double CD album of course (even if the second CD is called bonus disc), Roine Stolt doesn’t settle for less! But it is (mostly) not the typical Flowerkingish Stolt sound we get. The band really made a community effort, and the result is a blend of the different member’s own bands and projects, and while everything got its distinctive Sea Within style, it’s all very varied – from sinister, dark or straight heavy rock songs to jazz fusion and psychedelic soundscapes. Most of the songs are tied together by Daniel Gildenlöw’s voice – a different, often calmer, excellent performance and THE reason to get this album. There, I got it out already. Let’s see why.
‘Ashes of Dawn’, the band’s first single, sets a statement right at the beginning – we’re here to make some serious noise, and we know our business. Symphonic and dynamic, this is just the right opening rocker. Crying guitars, howling keyboards, cutting sax runs courtesy of Rob Townsend (Steve Hackett) and a rocking Daniel Gildenlöw, this song passes almost too fast.
Lucky for us, ‘They Know My Name’ doesn’t fall short, while showing a more atmospheric, calmer side of the band. Jazzy drums, a piano melody is first used as a base, before the song builds up more and more instrumental goodness, which takes over the main part from Gildenlöw’s vocals towards the dramatic end.
‘The Void’ keeps it’s slower pace throughout the whole song, and has a nice airy keyboard passage in the middle and a features fragile, carefully sung vocals by Gildenlöw.
We reach a serious speed up with ‘An Eye for an Eye for an Eye’. Yes, this is big fun and shows a nice band effort, everyone has its part to play and can show what he can. Probably not the most progressive song ever written, but sometimes you just gotta rock out. Oh, and there is that delicious jazz piano part…
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‘Goodbye’, the second single, has a serious Flower Kings vibe to it (that guitar solo!), but also can not hide its singer’s background – Casey McPherson lends his vocals to Flying Colors, and that can be heard all over the song. Which is a bit of a drawback for me, as I never fully got into them, without really being able to explain why. A short, playful instrumental follows, ‘Sea Without’. It could have ended on any Flower Kings album, as well and doesn’t stick in the ears for too long.
‘Sea Without’ blends into the piano intro of the 14 minute epic ‘Broken Cord’. Some seconds in, an what is that we hear? Beatles, anyone? Not too bad, when you have Daniel Gildenlöw singing. Yet another side of this versatility machine. Crossing some classical Flower Kings waters once again, we enter a more and more psychedelic instrumental passage and finally reach a polyvocal shore and then more nice keyboard spheres, and the great voice of Yes, Jon Anderson, gives a guest appearance alongside McPherson and Gildenlöw. Suddenly, Neal Morse sends his greetings (soundwise) during the next minutes, which could come right out of a Transatlantic song. Pete Trewavas will feel at home here when he plays the bass at Night of the Prog festival in July. That was quite a mess of an epic, to be honest, with heights and lows.
While the first CD’s rather slow and poppy closing title ‘The Hiding of Truth’, again sung by McPherson, doesn’t have much to add to the musical experience on “The Sea Within” (except featuring some sweet piano play by Dream Theater’s Jordan Rudess), the second CD (which apparently is a bonus disc, but present in all releases as far as I know) takes us back to some more speed and those incredible vocal melodies. The instrumental department, again including Rob Townsend on Sax, also can pull some neat tricks off their sleeves – fresh, reaching forward, this eight minute song marks one of the album’s highlights.
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‘Where are you going’ opens with some spacey keyboards, and then gives us a warm Gildenlöw voice. The chorus has a wonderful instrumental underline, and I think here it is time to mention Minnemann’s excellent contribution the the album. Light, at times jazzy drumming, that is driving forward when it has to, it ties together the whole band at any time.
Speaking of time, the next song, ‘Time’, starts dark and sinister – Steven Wilson has created similar sounds before at this “Raven” period, and that’s not a bad thing at all. Now, here we have an example how good a slow song can capture our attention while slowly increasing tension and speed. It helps that Gildenlöw’s voice reaches spine shivering spheres here. Sorry if it gets boring, but what this man delivers on this album can not be praised enough. Here he is at times joined by his bandmates for a nice harmony. Another favorite!
Closing the album is ‘Denise’. Once again the style changes, we get some 70s vibe, not far from Pain of Salvation’s “Road Salt” albums, but less gritty. With sparse instrumentalisation and a marching underlying drum rhythm, the song is carried entirely by Gildenlöw’s voice towards it’s dramatic final.
What a ride we got through. While not all is great, Roine Stolt and his troupe created a very different and enjoyable debut record, and we can only hope they stick together for a second one. Everyone brings his own experiences into the mix, and this collaboration pays off. But while there are many great moments, for me, you could cut out the second half of the first CD and replace it by the complete bonus disk – and you have almost one hour of the very best of “The Sea Within”. Now we got some fillers, but our patience is rewarded with that otherworldly performance by Daniel Gildenlöw. It is almost unfair to feature other singers on the same album, as good as they might be. His singing outshines them all and, as I said above, is the best part of the album.