Power of Metal.dk Review

Style: Progressive Rock
Release date: 15 September, 2014
Playing time: 55:13

The now infamous sophomore slump: what can be made of it? Why do bands debut with such fire and passion, but suddenly veer off course in sometimes epic fashion? Iamthemorning has not done this. Yes, it was a fear of mine, but this Russian two-piece has managed to stay my fears with a mature work of art. In fact, I would say that they have exceeded my expectations.

If you don't know about Iamthemorning, the bands consists of Marjana Semkina and Gleb Kolyadin, true artists and lovers of all things real and heartfelt. Marjana lends her angelic vocals while Gleb's masterful grand piano and keyboards are a strong foundation. On their first album "~", these two mesmerized with strong melodies, simple songs, and a hefty amount of neoclassical influence. Indeed, it was what I needed to hear at the time, as I fell in love with Marjana's brilliantly honest, emotional style and Gleb's ridiculous skill. Their combined, contrasting artistry is heavily felt, even in their production design. Naturally, then, I was hoping for a continuation of all this on their upcoming release "Belighted", snatched up by none other than Kscope.

"Belighted": what an interesting title. It literally means "in a state of spiritual and intellectual exaltation", and so I think this is an excellent hint at what this album is all about. Marjana gives her all in her vocal performance here. Her self-taught style is easily the highlight of the album, and her mastery of hooks (very difficult ones at times) never stops impressing me. But it's not just her vocal skill that impresses, it's the nature way in which she sings about very personal and intriguing, disturbing topics. She often seems very cold in her approach, yet only in a way that seems like a thinly-veiled cover for a plethora of very human emotions, from dissatisfaction and despair to hope and love. She maintains a delicate balance between vocal brilliance and fragility, especially on "Romance", "To Human Misery", "The Simple Story", and "Crowded Corridors", and this simply intrigues me.

Yet, the instrumentation on "Belighted" is equally arresting. Gleb astounds (as usual) with his elegant grand piano, creating atmospheres of sophistication and intelligence. A huge list of collaborators, including Gavin Harrison, have given use of their skills here, too, and it really shows. Iamthemorning, while still retaining some of their signature chamber sound, have decided to use a wider selection of instruments, utilizing electric guitars and ambient keys, too. You might be saying, "So what?" Well, for this neoclassical band that normally drove their music with the use of piano and violins, it's a big difference. Right off the bat, "The Howler" announces the presence of distortion with a subtle and addictive guitar lick that blends perfectly with the swirling acoustic instruments. Later on, in "Crowded Elevators", a whispering, ambient guitar adds touches of mystery to the music. As you can see, while they use some standard instruments, they use them in very Iamthemorning ways.

This small taste is an indication of the attitude present in this album. Iamthemorning, for better or worse, sounded very much the same from beginning to end in their debut album. As good as it was, it still explored the same sounds and ideas over and over again. "Belighted", however, shows the band's commitment to progress and maturation. Surrounded by their signature (and brilliant) instrumental intermissions, their main tracks are very different from each other. Like precious jewels, some are guitar driven, some are vocally dominated, some are dark, some are uplifting, and others have incredibly complex structures. "5/4", one of my favorites, showcases a carnival-esque, swirling melody that rises only once, and it's enough to leave you begging to hear the track again. This happens quite often in this album, and I'm afraid that, as a result, I can't really choose a favorite track. I would point to "The Howler", "To Human Misery", "Romance", "5/4", "Crowded Corridors", and "Light/No Light" as my favorites, and I appreciate them more every time I hear them.

Indeed, "Belighted" is often like a big teaser. It draws you back for more, and it absolutely requires 5 or 6 listens to appreciate (in addition to a big, sensitive sound system). I was speaking to Marjana about how I fall in love with this album a little more each time I hear it, and she was adamant about the fact that this album is meant to require time and persistence in order to grasp it fully. I have fallen head first into this world of invention, creativity, and pure beauty, and it has easily become one of my favorite albums of the year. "Belighted" is a monument to progression, art, human emotion, and deep storytelling that shouldn't be missed, and I certainly think many prog "veterans" could learn from this young band. With inspiring elegance, passion, vulnerability, and hope, Iamthemorning has ventured forth to present their work to the world, and I hope people will give it the time and accolades that it deserves.

01. Intermission IX
02. The Howler
03. To Human Misery
04. Intermission X
05. Romance
06. The Simple Story
07. Intermission XI
08. 5/4
09. Crowded Corridors

10. Gerda
11. Os Lunatum

12. Intermission XII
13. K. O. S.
14. Reprise of Light / No Light
15. Intermission XIII
Label: Kscope
Distribution: Kscope
Artwork rating: 80/100
Reviewed by: Jason Spencer
Date: 8 September, 2014
Website: www.facebook.com/iamthemorningpage