CLASSIC ROCK presents PROG
Have a close encounter with the prog duo's debut…
Edison's Children came about when Marillion bassist Pete Trewavas met crew member Eric Blackwood on the band's Los Trios Marillos Tour in 2006. They clicked and began writing music together, but with both so busy with the day job it's taken them six years of sporadic recording to complete their debut album. Blackwood's other work as a special effects technician in Hollywood is telling: In The Last Waking Moments… has a cinematic sound and sci-fi theme.
It tells the - possibly metaphorical - story of a man who chases mysterious lights in the sky, is seemingly abducted by aliens and then returned much later, a changed man. Musical and lyrical elements are repeated and developed throughout and the interstellar vibe evokes Pink Floyd, even Hawkwind in parts, yet rarely Marillion. Opener Dusk trails in with stark perfusion and slowly evolves into an insistent, minor-key tune. Blackwood's vocals conveying an already broken heart. Lights shine from the sky in Fracture - a tribal beat kicking in with three-note synth figure that recurs through the album - before Fallout of the 1st Kind draws the character and listener in like a tractor beam.
This is all wrapped up in some beautifully subtle playing and atmospheric programming from both artists. Trewavas contributes odd, ethereal backing vocals to Blackwood's everyman lead, and his lilting acoustic guitar drives A Million Miles Away (I Wish I Had A Time Machine); it's easily the catchiest song on here despite its theme of loss and the low, breathy melody. Outerspaced is a delightfully deranged psych-rock freak-out with a manic, distorted lead vocal from Trewavas ("Welcome to our earth… Knock back a few of these/We'll get intergalactic pissed/Come on, can't we all just get along?"). The Other Other Dimension is one of the most unsettling pieces of music this reviewer's heard for awhile. There's a recurring character called The Doctor, who's obviously up to no good with the protagonist. His voice whispers menacingly throughout a tune that's a mad scientist's lab made music- odd time signatures, dissonant riffs and filtered guitars bubbling like noxious test tubes.
The climactic 15 minute track "The Awakening" Brings all the strands together thrillingly (and features one Steve Hogarth billed as "Town Choir Vox") before the sparse haunting closer Fallout (Of the 4th Kind) appears to drop the character dazed and disoriented back at the top of the album.
Moody, engaging and beautifully executed, In The Last Waking Moments has a musical core strong enough to support such a dramatic sci-fi concept. Edison's Children bear strange fruit, all the sweeter for the wait.
EDISON'S CHILDREN PRESS:
I've always found a good maxim for life is that the most interesting people and things are those that have a few faults or imperfections. Women, footballers, art, music - it seems that in order to enhance the brilliance there has to be a fallibility or two - the flawed genius if you will.
And thus it is here with Edison's Children and their first full album 'In The Last Waking Moments' where the majesty of a superb contemporary progressive rock masterpiece is occasionally interrupted by moments of complete aberration. These moments are, thankfully, few and far between, but in a strange way serve to enhance the overall feeling that this is a remarkable, even beautiful record.
Hardly surprising when you realise that Edison's Children are Pete Trewavas, bass player extraordinaire from Marillion and Transatlantic, and Eric Blackwood, guitarist from Sunblister and many other NY alt-rock bands.
Throw into the mix appearances from Steve Rothery (Marillion), Robin Boult (Fish) and Andy Ditchfield (DeeExpus) and you suspect something special is afoot.
In The Last Waking Moments has been around two years in gestation and all tracks have been written by Trewavas and Blackwood. It is obvious from the outset that this two years has been well spent as the aural delights reveal themselves one after the other - in turns haunting, infectious, Floydian, intensely melodic - all of which combine, with the odd hiccup, to create a significant piece of work.
Things get underway with 'Dusk', an intense acoustic piece closing with a very Marillionesque solo from Blackwood. This is followed by 'Fracture', again a very dense track sounding very like Polish proggers Riverside.
One of the album's highlights, also released as a single, is next up, 'A Million Miles Away' replete with gossamer-like riff and thoughtful lyrics would, on most albums, be the signature track. Not here though - it's just one of many.
We must mention the hiccups and the worst of these is 'Outerspaced'. What were they thinking of? It would have been left on the cutting room floor of even the worst Hawkwind album - its horribly discordant bass riff overlaid with a semi-screamed vocal is so at odds with everything else it sounds like it must be some sort of contractual obligation.
But there's the rub. It IS so much at odds, that it fits in - it's that blemish that enhances the belief that they knew exactly what they were thinking of.
Normal service resumes with the outstanding 'Spiraling' and continues almost unabated (with the possible exception of the Ozric Tentacles-like 'The Other Other Dimension' - not bad, just different) to the album's jewel in the crown 'The Awakening' - fifteen minutes of ambient prog heaven.
Taken in the round, this is an exceptional progressive rock album assembled by two top musicians at the zenith of their powers. If they do it again, and take some Gaviscon for the hiccups, we could be looking at a magnum opus of iconic status.
Review by Alan Jones
EDISON'S CHILDREN - IN THE LAST WAKING MOMENTS
5 STARS *****
Get Ready To Rock! Magazine
Review by Lazland
***** 5 STARS
In the Last Waking Moments is a collaboration between Eric Blackwood, formerly of metal band Crimson Steele and collaborator with other major rock artists such as Al Pitrelli, and Pete Trewavas, bassist with Marillion since the band's inception, and also a founding member of prog supergroup, Transatlantic.
The project first came to my attention on the site's forum, where it was trailed as a project which featured as guest artists all members of Marillion, a first for all the band to be included on a non Marillion album. Given the enduring popularity of this incredible band, this is, of course, a massive plus in terms of potential commercial success. What, though, does need to be made abundantly clear at the start of this review is that this is absolutely not a Marillion album. Such a description would not only be grossly unfair to Blackwood, a huge driving force on the creation of the work, but would also be utterly wide of the mark in terms of its sound and direction.
Indeed, when you listen to Dusk, the album's opener, there are clear similarities with Lunatic Soul's first two sublime, and very dark, pieces of work, and such themes reoccur throughout the album. Elsewhere, Blackwood's experience of, and Trewavas' love of, what I still refer to as classic rock in the mould of Rainbow, Dio, and Sabbath shine through. Add to that influences such as Gentle Giant, Pink Floyd, PFM, and some of the modern, harder sounding neo prog, and what you have is something that is unutterably unique, and, clearly deliberately, designed to appeal to as wide a range of rock (not just prog) fans as possible.
The vast majority of the instruments and vocals are handled by the duo themselves. It is a testament to the skill of these musicians that you are blown away by the bass playing of Blackwood on the opener, and then by the power guitars superbly handled by Trewavas on Fracture. Most of the lead vocals are handled brilliantly by Blackwood, but, on Outerspaced, a track which literally bursts out of the speakers with riffs that would make Tool and Opeth blush with envy, you are staggered to see that it is Trewavas screaming at you.
Of course, we have always known of his wonderful backing vocals and harmonies on Marillion & Transatlantic albums and live shows, but here, he is given free range to move right to the foreground, and sounds as if he has done it all of his life. As for Blackwood, his voice is simply remarkable. The subtle and delicate voices on In The First Waking Moments are lovely, and these move together seamlessly into a thoughtful, more commercial sounding, vocal on A Million Miles Away, backed by some remarkable harmonies of Trewavas and outstanding blues and rhythm guitars. That this song is then able to seamlessly move into the altogether darker, and industrial, Fallout (Of the 2nd Kind) shows just how well this work has been put together. A decent set of speakers also bring out the incredible synths and strings programming that set a lovely symphonic backdrop to the riffs at the fore.
A further example of the vastly varying styles on the album are when the madness of Outerspaced, featuring an intergalactic pissup amongst the pummelling riffs, ends suddenly and you are transported into the ethereal beauty of Spiraling, a track which features my favourite guitarist, Steve Rothery, on lead guitar. The track tells its story of drifting in space wonderfully. Blackwood's vocals are pitched perfectly, and Rothery is, as ever, excellent, providing one of his trademark solos. However, it is, again, a mark of the dominance of the duo that, to these ears, the highlight is the exquisite acoustic guitar lead by Trewavas backing Blackwood's vocals. This track is a real highlight.
From this, we are transported to The "Other" Other Dimension. In my interview with the band, they suggested in this track a homage to Gentle Giant's "In A Glass House", an album which I put on this morning for the first time in a long while to prepare this review. Well, it is. Think of that classic album on a touch of speed, and you are getting somewhere near the mark. The whole track is deeply dark and disturbing, with the main theme from Spiraling interspersed amongst Mark Kelly's superb keyboard work, a thundering bassline, and swirling guitars all vying for your attention with the voices of the doctors performing a weird and wonderful operation on the subject. This itself then moves into a slice of eastern promise on Across The Plains, featuring Trewavas on a VG Sitar and a gentle riff.
The themes of the opening tracks are reprised on the title track. Blackwood's vocals are, again, lovely, and the duo are accompanied here by a guest appearance by Robin Boult (who has played guitar for Fish), who provides an accomplished and haunting electric guitar solo set against some wonderful acoustic work and strings and programming.
The intensity heard on Outerspaced returns with a vengeance on Lifeline, featuring, again, some very heavy riffs. The duo share vocal duties, with Blackwood providing the subject's lead, and Trewavas the voice of the mysterious "others". The bass riff is, again, thundering, whilst Blackwood's lead guitar echoes and blasts in equally effective measures. We then have what can only be described as a heavy rock fan's dream track. Fallout (of the 3rd Kind) fairly rips along, and brings with it a wall of sound that simply has to be played on a surround sound system to get the full benefit. I don't think I have ever heard Trewavas this intense on bass guitar, and the pair of them bring such a huge sound on lead guitars that you simply give up at this stage, and merely sit down in sheer wonder and gawp at the sound it produces. What you also notice is just how good Blackwood is at raising the intensity of his voice to match proceedings.
Then we have the epic track of the album. The Awakening (Slow Burn) is not only a highlight of the album, it is a highlight of 2011, full stop. Clocking in at just short of sixteen minutes long, it is, perhaps, the most recognisably "proggy" track on the work. It incorporates at the start more of the instrumental themes first heard in the openers, with some mournfully sad vocals and lovely acoustic guitar work, held together perfectly by lilting and lifting strings, keyboards, with, at its heart, that magnificent rhythm section of Trewavas on bass and the excellent Ian Mosley on drums. This intensity slows to a standstill a third of the way through, with bass and acoustic guitar providing a gentle riff, before Blackwood delights us with a haunting lead guitar sequence accompanying understated and ethereal vocals (it is in this passage where the duo, in my opinion, come closest to the sound of latter period Marillion on this album). Trewavas then takes over the lead duties with an incredible acoustic guitar solo, before Blackwood steps in again to accompany this, with the track leading us in effortlessly to its denouement. And what a close it is. Grandiose, huge in scope and sound, with an array of guitars, strings, synths, drums and effects joining together with a choir featuring Steve Hogarth, the duo, and Mandy Delly in a choir announcing "The Awakening Hour". I have listened to this album many times prior to writing this review, and each time this passage leaves me virtually breathless with its intensity. My interview gives us an idea of how an initially "Trick of the Tail" type track of six minutes morphed into something this long. Staggeringly good, and a must for all prog fans to hear at least once in their lives.
The album closes with our final Fallout (of the 4th Kind), a gentle and kind comedown after the intensity of what laid before it, and it is clearly designed to tell us the end of our hero's story.
Of which?..This is a concept album. There are some concept albums where it is relatively straightforward to guess the intent of the author and the story he/she was trying to put across. One such example, I suppose, is Marillion's Brave. We all know that Steve Hogarth heard the story of a young girl throwing herself off the Bristol Suspension Bridge, and wrote a fine concept behind the lies, abuse, and emotions that led up to that fateful moment.
There are others, and The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway comes to mind specifically for me, where the story itself is somewhat less clear. You know there is a concept there but it leaves you as the listener/reader with a huge amount of scope with which to actually work out precisely what is the true meaning. Ask 100 people, and at least 80 of them will give you a different answer. In other words, the meaning is left to you, and its meaning is personal to you.
So it is with In The Last Waking Moments. I have seen some people describe it as the story of an alien abduction incident (a la The X Files), others as it describing an extreme psychotic moment. For what it is worth, my own personal take on the meaning of this story is one of a, yes, extreme moment, but I interpret it as describing those moments prior to death and moving onto the "other side"?our last waking moments, which can seem to be almost eternal to a mind on the threshold of death, before the transformation into?what? Where? How?
Anyway, my meditations aside, there is one reality that cannot be put aside. This is an extremely important and excellent piece of work. There are some magnificent guest performances by members of my favourite band and Robin Boult, whilst Mike Hunter has done a fantastic job of finalising the knob twirling duties. However, and it is a very important point to make, this remains at its forefront a vision and execution by two exceptional talents, one of whom I am very intimate with musically, and the other with whom I very much hope to be as time progresses.
This album is virtually flawless in its execution. I have, in the past twelve months, only awarded five star reviews to two albums, namely Introitus (Elements), and Pendragon (Passion). This album is at least the equal of these fine works, and deserves the support of all reading this review. If you can, get the CD version, because I should mention here the wonderful photography & artwork created by Wendy Farrell-Pastore.
In The Last Waking Moments is a true masterpiece, and I cannot recommend it highly enough. Five stars for a masterpiece of modern progressive rock.
The Classic Rock Society
I love this album, and it is one that is, and will, be getting lots of positive reviews. It is a partnership between Marillion's Pete Trewavas, and Eric Blackwood, who is part of the Marillion crew, but also has a solid rock pedigree himself, most recently guitarist with Crimson Steel. The album also features at some point Marillion's members in guest spots. Although I am sure this will appeal to Marillion fans, this is not a Marillion clone, and has its own distinct identity.
There are 14 tracks on this concept album. Exactly what the concept is seems unclear both on the album and on their website, but seems to be connected with life. "The First Waking Moments.. and Death "The Last Waking Moments. This concept is apparently mainly in the music with two particular musical themes that appear and re-appear throughout the album. I believe just how fond you are of these two themes will influence how much you enjoy this album. I loved them, especially the title track and its reappearance throughout the album was a highlight, although I have read some reviews where the reviewer has found the album a little repetitive.
The album opens with "Dusk" a gentle start, but then we are treated to four tracks that really set the scene and include the title track theme, and "fallout" the other theme which has four parts spread across the album.
Within this opening section is "A Million Miles Away (I Wish I Had A Time Machine), one of the most infectious melodies you will hear in a long time, and will stay in your head for the rest of the day. In fact I have just heard that at the time of writing this (which will be several weeks before you read it) they have released the song as a single and it is currently 57 in the US Singles chart.
When you think you may have been lulled into what may be a more gentle symphonic album your senses are assaulted with "Outerspaced", a heavy guitar riff track with Pete Trewavas shouting the vocals. This heavier rock style appears elsewhere on the album particularly later on with "Lifeline". The "Other" Other Dimension is an unusual but interesting track, however the highlights for me are the title track, which appears about two-thirds of the way through and brings together in a glorious almost 8-minute song, the theme that we have been teased with previously.
The Other highlight is the epic 15 minute plus 'The Awakening (Slowburn)' a symphonic gentle track that does 'Slowburn' in the middle section but then builds to a lovely ending with beautiful harmonies and choir. This effectively closes the album apart from the short acoustic 'Fallout (Of the 4th Kind)'
I have listened to this now several times, and I know it will appear on my CD player on a regular basis. The melodies will certainly get into your head, and it is better for listening to a few times to really enjoy it. A top release for 2012.