The Bardic Depths is a new progressive rock project formed from the writing team of multi-instrumentalist, Dave Bandana with lyrics and concept from Bradley Birzer, an American historian, conservative commentator and academic. They have worked together before, and released albums under the name Birzer Bandana as well as with Salander. Until relatively recently, they had only communicated electronically. This self-titled debut album also features contributions from Peter Jones – Saxophone/ Vocals (Camel/ Tiger Moth Tales), Tim Gehrt – Drums (Streets/ Steve Walsh), Gareth Cole – Guitar (Tom Slatter/ Fractal Mirror) and Robin Armstrong (Cosmograf) amongst a collection of other guesting musicians.
The album examines the friendship of C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkein. They were both members of the Oxford University literary group the Inklings. The narrative is given a background of their experiences as active combatants in the First World War. The lyrics are quite powerful then, and often quite poignant.
Musically, the album takes on a variety of styles and moods. It is predominantly neo-progressive in approach, owing quite a lot to Pink Floyd. But there’s also a touch of Rick Wakeman, Genesis, and many other of the main prog-protagonists. There’s also an ambient feel at times, but the music never leaves a more pop sensibility, so that there is a feel of progressive pop, such as Tear For Fears, too. The musical performances are well-played, with very good contributions from all the participants.
But there are one or two very noticeable points. There is nothing new on display here, and the influences of the aforementioned artists is perhaps a little too dominant. The production is very good and atmospheric, but it is, maybe, a little staid and conventional. A little more personality might have given the album a bit of a lift and made it something different and effective.
This is a very good album though, but one that somehow becomes lost in itself and doesn’t quite come to life as it could. In many ways it is too determined to be a progressive rock album instead of just allowing the music to be more organic. Many in the progressive rock world will love this, others will be left thinking that it could be so much more. Enjoyable, but just a little bit too safe.
1. The Trenches (8:35)
2. Biting Coals (7:50)
3. Depths of Time (12:35):
– a. The Instant
– b. The Flicker
– c. The Moment
4. Depths of Imagination (5:01)
5. Depths of Soul (6:40)
6. The End (7:37)
7. Legacies (9:28)
Dave Bandana / vocals, bass, guitars, keyboards, percussion (3), flute & harmonica (6)
Brad Birzer / spoken word (1,4,5)
Peter Jones (Camel, Tiger Moth Tales) / saxophone (3), vocals (7), spoken word (1)
Tim Gehrt (Streets, Steve Walsh) / drums (1,4,7)
Gareth Cole (Tom Slatter, Fractal Mirror) / guitar (3), lead guitar (5), 1st guitar solo (7)
Robin Armstrong (Cosmograf) / backing vocals (1,4), keyboards, strings & Hammond organ (1), acoustic guitars (2), drum programming (3,6), bass & 2nd guitar solo (7)
Paolo Limoli / keyboards & piano (1-6)
Kevin McCormick / lead guitar (1), acoustic guitars (3)
Glenn Codere / backing vocals (1,4,5)
John William Francis / spoken word (1), marimba (2,7)
Mike Warren / cello (6)
Lilly Miller / spoken word (4,5)
Richard Krueger, Henri Strik, Scotty Scott, Andreas Mowinckel, Tony Bridgeman, Martin Holmes, Phil Ball / spoken word (1)
Label: Gravity Dream
Format: CD, Digital
20th March, 2020