By Robert Brady
‘Genre Defying’ as the band IO Earth places upon themselves is a total understatement. I would go on record now to say they ‘Genre Shattering’. I was as if a mirror were broken and the total sum of its shattered pieces represented many its influential parts. This band has deliberately made sure that the progressive rock/metal community use their own judgement and draw their own conclusion without any other influence outside what you hear on IO Earth’s – New World album.
This is perhaps one of the most challenging reviews I have written in my 15 years of reviewing albums. Although the band has two other studio releases before New World, it is in fact New World that will cement them as one of the top progressive bands in the world today. New World is a double album with 16 tracks. None of those 16 tracks are alike yet they still have the IO Earth signature to them where you know it is them without second guessing.
Following in the tradition of Renaissance and Annie Halsam with Renate Knaupf of Amon Duii during the the pioneer years of women in and Joanna Hogg of IONA and Christina Booth of Magenta with some Heather Findley ex-Mostly Autumn, Linda Odinsen of IO Earth bridges the gap between the pioneers and innovators and transcends generations with her power yet beautiful vocal melodies on New World. That is no easy task either considering IO Earth can not be pigeonholed into any one genre. At times Linda Odinsenreminds me of even Candice Night of Blackmores Night in certain areas of New World.
Move As One opens up as if ocean waves are crashing against the shore. It is also as if Linda Odinsen and the Adam Gough – keyboards are standing at the edge of the shore in this open ballad. Move As One is a definitely sets the mood for Redemption.
Redemption begins as a straight away prog metal/rock vibe with Dave Cureton letting it rip. There is some killer rhythm riffs between Christian Jerromes -Drums & Percussion and Christian Nokes – Bass Guitar & Double Bass. Linda then comes in and uses her voice for more of a orchestral chant than actual vocal. At the 2:28 mark Luke Shingler – uses a tenor Saxophone to create a killer spot on far east oriental sound. At the 2:58 mark the band employs a delightful Arabic scale with the combination of Jez King – Violin and either Dave Cureton or Adam Gough on keyboards. Redemption definitely begins to convince the listener that this band is truly ‘Genre Defying’. At the 4:00 mark there is a killer signature bending guitar solo that works off time yet on time with the rest of the instrumental.
Journey To Discovery reminds me much of the chant vocal work Nightwish used on their Century Childand Once albums, especially on a track like Ghost Love Score. At the :28 mark Dave Crueton really lets it out. At the 1:00 mark it is as if Linda created her own language for this track especially in the opening verse. Thr drums contain some great melodic chimes in the background. Journey To Discovery is just that a discovery of the bands continued arsenal of talent of progression.
Trance begins with a beautiful acoustic passage. At the :32 mark there is a great yet bizzare spoken word segment combined with gorgeous chants. Trance sits on a pure Arabic scale and vibe both in the rhythm section and stringed section. It also contains male backing chants serving as backing vocals. The soprano saxophone reminds me a lot of early work of the band Chicago and later Magellan, however with a more Arabic middle eastern scale progression.
Morning opens with a lush harmony of piano like keyboards and flute setting a ethereal mood for the fabulous vocals of Linda. Morning reminds me of elements Blackmores Night uses on albums such as Ghost Of A Rose and Village Lantern with elements IONA used on albums like The Kell’s and Journey To The Mourn. Lyrically it is a introspective song of love and inviting it in to one’s life.
Collision lives up to its name alone. This is the band at its ‘Genre Shattering’ best. There is a certain explosion of several time signatures, tones and progressions and killer drum chimes. Although it is number 6 in the arrangement this is the track where the band really tighten up in sound, vibe and instrumentally. This is also one of the darker tracks on New World opening with a deep dark atmospheric passage. The intro is as dark as many chamber music tracks however in a progressive rock/metal vibe. I anticipate Collision to be a favourite in live sets also.
Fade To Grey a wonderful acoustical intro before it explodes with a layered stringer section between the violin perfectly timed with the rhythm section. Fade To Grey in its nature is a progressive rock ballad. This is definitely one written and recorded with more layering progressions in mind than say a typical progressive time signature. The saxophone solo really adds a acid jazz vibe to it before the guitars come layered with the sax to produce a unique sound. The guys really compliment Linda with their backing vocals towards the end.
New World Suite is another track that opens much like a chamber like track with a dark violin and wonderful cymbal and chime percussion work beautifully coming together in harmony. Soon it takes off like a straight on progressive rock track with multiple time signatures and hooks. There are points in New World Suite that remind me of a film score with the violin and percussion signatures running alongside vocal chants. New World Suite sounds as if they are all watching a film and recording a score with a conductor front and centre.
Insomnia starts off with a dark keyboard passage with a spoken word verse in the background. This is followed up with the many instruments in a orchestral progression. Soon the vocals kick in really dark ambient in nature. The chorus contains heavy elements combined with a choir style vocal layered with Linda’s lead vocal. Another highlight to Insomnia is the beautiful soprano sax blended and layered with spoken word passages telling a story. The vocal chorus’ are borderline metal in nature however appealing to the progressive rock purist. The guitar solo and rhythm solo has some serious wicked time signatures play off one another and at times are blistering making this one of the heavier tracks on New World.
Red Smoke begins with a world music style vibe much like Enya or Dead Can Dance. The drums have this odd style time signature that stands out the traditional 4/4. About the the 2:00 mark Dave Crueton has a wicked distorted guitar vibe that plays off the already wicked rhythm section. About the 3:58 mark Linda’s vocal sounds like a cross of Annie Halsam Prog Rock Britannia and Renate Knaupf with a old school Krautrock vibe combined. Another highlight is the Arabic Scale played in different keys.
The Rising begins with a spoken word section much like a news report talking about the events of September , 11th , 2001. After which the guitar goes :30 seconds with a melancholic passage. 2:00 minutes in the tenor saxophone comes in harmony with the string section and the keyboard section. The Rising tastefully pays respect to those lost that day in instrumental harmony. The Rising reminds me a lot of Dream Theater’s – The Spirit Carries On with a twist of Sacrificed Sons. The Rising is a track that explains in very few words the triumph over tragedy.
Body And Soul continues with the dark slow atmospheric passage intro’s that the second half of New Worldseems to have. This is very introspective lyrically. About the 2:30 mark the track gets quite a bit heavier with the band playing with more conviction. One of the highlights is most definitely the flute in the middle in time and sync with the double kick cymbals in the percussion area. At the 5:00 mark it once again takes off with heavier melodies and harmonies both lyrically and instrumentally.
Colours starts out with a really heavy bottom rhythm harmony between guitar, bass and drums with some small shred elements incorporated. IO Earth display the very many sides and time signatures they have within their harmonic arsenal. Colours is a track that even will sit well with the most picky progressive hard rock/metal purists. The guitar time progression towards the end reminds me a little of Crimson Glory’s – Where Dragons Rule off 1986’s Transcendence.
Follow begins like a atmospheric melodic fog setting over the acoustical progression. At the 1:00 mark takes off and gets heavier. This is yet again one of those ‘Genre Defying’ tracks due to the fact the male vocals sound more like the more ambient alternative band like The Church – Under The Milky Way than anything in the progressive rock scene. The guitar solo smoke towards the end.
Dreams open almost in a reggae zydeco vibe. The male and female ambient vocals are like nothing I have truly heard and to make comparison here would not do it justice. Dreams as a whole has a soothing quality to it. It is most definitely for those who like ambient rock with killer jazz saxophone’s and drums. It is like ambient progressive jazz than anything.
New World has a more traditional progressive rock. With steady hard rock passages and typical keyboard tracking. It is also perfectly arranged where the track serves as a finale track to this double album known as its namesake New World. It has great piano passage in the middle with vocals serving more as instrumental chants. The drums truly surface as the backbone in this one as well.
As I end this review I sit here in shock about how so many genres, time signatures and chord progressions were represented. I have not been it this amount of awe and wonder of a band like IO Earth’s – New World since Pain of Salvation’s BE. IO Earth have a uncanny ability to move more past the conventional wisdom on how Progressive Rock/Metal albums should be written and recorded.
Although it is only August IO Earth’s- New World sits in my top 3 of Albums of 2015. It is definitely a strong contender for my ‘Prog Album of 2015.’ I give this a 5/5 for sheer talent and originality.
By Robert Brady