ALBUM REVIEW – IN AMAZONIA by ISILDURS BANE & PETER HAMMILL

by Aaron Gidney

‘In Amazonia’ mark the first collaboration between Isidurs Bane and Van Der Graaf Generator’s Peter Hammill. The Swedish Chamber Rock ensemble were formed in 1976 and this is their 12th album, and the follow-up to 2017’s ‘Off The Radar’. Isildurs Bane fans will already be aware of their primary status as an instrumental outfit, although this is not their first vocal collaboration, with Marillion’s Steve Hogarth also contributing to another 2017 release – ‘Colours Not Found In Nature’ which was well-received.

Isildur’s Bane are well-known for their use of instruments not usually associated with Symphonic Prog, and ‘In Amazonia’ is no different – featuring the Koto, Trumpets, Marimba and Tam Tam across it’s six tracks.

There’s a huge amount of musicians involved in the lineup and this very much gives the feel of Chamber Rock ensemble more in the orchestral vein than a traditional Prog Rock outfit. The instrumental experimentation also veers off slightly occasionally into avant-garde territory along with the use of electronica scattered across the tracks.

It’s a fairly short album at 41 minutes, harking back to the golden age of vinyl (or are we in it?) and in all honesty, makes the whole album feel almost as if it could have been made in the mid-70’s (bar the electronica).

Whilst clearly the album will no doubt appeal to the VDGG fans purely based on Hammill’s involvement, King Crimson fans will also be pleased to hear long-time Drummer Pat Mastelotto make an e-drums appearance on the five minute twenty second, Aguirre. There’s definitely some shades of the avant-garde King Crimson influence on many of the instrumental sections with some gamelan patterns creating a musical backdrop for Hammill to build his vocals on. This is probably demonstrated best in the first part of the ten minute epic, ‘This Is Where?’. The track also finishes off with tenor sax accompanying the vocals panned in stereo, intertwining and making for a nice (albeit atonal in places) counterpoint section.

The nine minute ‘The Day Is Done’ utilises some beautifully understated piano in its intro, which brings the pace of the album down for a little while in a piano/vocal grandiose symphonic duet. The occasional percussion flashes and mellotron subtleties add a nice variety and some appropriate light before the shade of the finale, ‘This Bird Has Flown’.

It’s certainly an interesting way to end the album – I was half expecting another Hammill vocal piece, but instead the short three minuter is a mix of gentle cacophony which does feel a slight anti-climax to the album.

As stated earlier – this is definitely one for fans of VDGG/Peter Hammill or for those who enjoy the bonkers elements of King Crimson/Symphonic Avant Garde Prog – there’s no ‘choruses’ or standard song structures but a real high-quality Chamber Rock ensemble at the top of their musical game.

Tracks

  1. Before You Know It
  2. Under The Current
  3. Aguirre
  4. This Is Where?
  5. The Day Is Done
  6. This Bird Has Flown

Online: https://isildursbane.bandcamp.com/album/in-amazonia

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