Frequent passers-by through Ye Olde Sleeping Village will (hopefully) have noted by this stage that I enjoy when bands toe the line of convention. Indeed, I celebrate when a group throws in the towel and lets deliberate genre-melding lead the process. As such, when Yukonian one-man musical maverick Rick Massie approached us highfalutin peasants with the idea of premiering his forthcoming debut album, all it took to seal the deal (besides, of course, sampling a track) was the promise of genre tomfoolery. In his words, Eclispe is "kind of a mix of everything from prog, to symphonic, to black, to death, to doom-ish, to rock." That's a Now, dear readers, we're talkin' my language.
But let's cut to the chase, shall we? Today, it's our absolute pleasure to present Rick Massie's Eclipse in its unadulterated and unabridged entirety, prior to its release this Friday, May 1st. Before we get too far absorbed in the details, hit play on the stream below. I'll meet you on the other side.
Eclipse is an epic exploration of Yukon seasons--long period of light, followed by long periods of dark. The thematic underpinnings, as well as the tendency to explore outside the bounds of convention, help to classify the entire affair as paradoxically both self-contained in its intent, and outward-reaching in its expansive approach. Dynamism is the name of the game, as extended acoustic passages morph into heavier fare, and then back again, with the kind of natural grace that is born when one allows a song to weave and wander where it wants. I love me a good concept album, and Rick Massie delivers just that, albeit in a loosely structured manner. There's a definite narrative and pseudo-epic flair on display here, and, as someone who enjoys music that tells stories, I'm appropriately hooked.
The bulk of the sonic backdrop feels indie rock-ish, with a limited focus on heft, heaviness, or aggression. Even in the moments where things ramp up--take the midway point of "The Way" as a prime example, where a simple-yet-momentous riff takes over and the percussion gains a weighted quality--there's a very gentle and minimalist approach. This allows the heavier moments to succeed quite well, as Rick Massie never hits you over the head with their application. The back half of "Mysterious Ghost" is another prime example--here, a menacing guitar leads the charge with straightforward churning riffs, which ultimately open up into proggy passages. Occasionally, as on closing track "Following the Rain," the aggression comes to bear in the vox as well, but for the most part, Mr. Massie's calm vocal delivery remains a constant underpinning. Across the board, I'm reminded of classic prog rock--not necessarily in sound, but rather in composition. The ability to pull the listener seamlessly through movements and a multiplicity of sounds is a massive strength. The liberal use of strings, electronic soundscapes, and choral backdrops throughout only adds to this proggy association. His bio describes this blend as “Uncool Dad Prog," but damn, this is the kind of stuff my own dad raised me on, and he isn't cool for doing so, I'm fairly certain my life is a lie.
This beast clocks in at 72 minutes, which was initially enough to give me--a proud member of the "45-minute-or-bust-club"--a bit of pause. While Eclispe could undoubtedly use a little trim here or there, the length isn't nearly so much a point of contention as I would have immediately assumed. Because the songs flow so naturally and the album works convincingly as a larger symphony, it's not exactly creating a boring or long-winded atmosphere. Sure, you need some time to work your way through the album as a whole, but as far as this particular scribe is concerned, that is time well spent. After all, this thing flows with the best of 'em. In discussing Eclipse as a cohesive piece, Rick Massie states that "the album explores journeys through the darkness, but with a light always peering over the peaks of the mountaintops...I hope others get some enjoyment out of it, whether through the long, bizarre song structures, or the sometimes dark lyrics that always look for the light at the end of the tunnel.” Giving our current predicament, I, for one, an invested in works of art that remind us that, in the course of balance and dynamic growth, things do indeed get better. If that's not a comforting message, I don't know what is.
You can listen to Rick Massie's Eclipse in all its glory above, prior to it's release this Friday, May 1st. As bandcamp will be providing artists with 100% of profit from album sales on release day, I wholeheartedly recommend you pick this one up.
The album is also available for pre-order. It is accompanied by a free Android App and a free online bigital dooklet.
We provide thoughtful reviews of music that is heavy, gloomy...and loud enough to wake us from slumber. Written by a highfalutin peasantry.
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