"Eye of the Needle"

By The Great Sun Jester

 It's good to know you can and have grown up. My Silent Wake, long ago, would have lasted fifteen minutes in my stereo. I wanted to pretend I was a guy capable of appreciating atmospherics, textures, or music's for music's sake. We spend our youths, however, under the sway of other masters and, even if we aren't beholden to following the latest trend, context continually shapes our responses. The guitar dominated my musical imagination - its vast palette of colors, tactile energy, and mythic allure. "Eye of the Needle", My Silent Wake's eighth full-length album since 2005, doesn't need guitar heroics. Good thing I've grown up enough to open myself to it.

The opening track, "A Death", is subtle. It's easy to hear the song as an ambient piece initially and intent on achieving its effects through accretion and suggestion. However, there is a strong sense of structure and melody in the composition. The chorus of vocalizations adds an eerie touch - it isn't a singular death that the music invokes, but an assortment of deaths embodied in groans and whispers that, by song's end, are terrifyingly indistinguishable from each other. All deaths sound alike. "Solitudo" is another masterfully evocative mood piece and much more ambient than its predecessor. The scattered, almost ritualistic percussion suggests a funeral march and the chanting slightly buried in the mix strengthens that perception. It plays with a sharper cinematic flavor than the first song and succeeds spectacularly on its own terms.

"Hunting Season II" starts with understated acoustic guitar playing an enchanting. minor-key melody. A thin keyboard swell supports the guitar until a female vocal begins sang at a nearly indecipherable whisper. This seeming drawback, however, is the crowing inventive twist in song full of surprising moves. The melody resolves itself in startling ways and the musicians often pepper even the most basic passages with tasteful variations. My Silent Wakes builds the song to its inevitable conclusion as a landscape painter fills their canvas. The carefully layered instrumentation is a strength and there isn't a single moment that the entire work turns on crucial to its ultimate success. This ranks as the album's highlight.

The abbreviated bass riff anchoring the first half of "Rebirth II" is the idea of a "hook" in its final minimalist form. My Silent Wake builds another compelling sonic exploration from these four notes that never tires or collapses under the weight of pretentiousness. Understatement and tastefulness are key to every song on this album. Rather than relying on the histrionics younger bands with similar aims might call on, My Silent Wake's slow build on each track gives each new motif or instrument a chance to breathe and synthesize itself into what has come before. Sensibility is the final puzzle piece. Discretion will never save an album full of uninspired or insipid material. There is a genuine musical vision working here - My Silent Wake can claim, with ample justification, that they are mining their own rich vein of music and few are exploring the textures present in this song.

Whirling percussion, intent on invoking the sound of a freight train, propels "Fumus Memorialis" and the decision is supremely effective. An organ-like swell deeper in the mix accompanies the relentless chug and the experience invokes images of a death train travelling from thousands of miles away to bring a body back to its home. "Silver" features busier percussion than heard elsewhere on the album and it provides a sturdy foundation for the keyboard textures lain over the top. The song's appeal, however, lies in the circular guitar figure wrapped up in light reverb that carries things forward.

 The album's final song, "Three Furies", appears from the ether. A spare piano melody emerges from a foreboding cloud of keyboards, but the song soon takes a disjointed and vaguely hallucinatory turn. A half-understood female voice emerges before disappearing again. The song later settles into a more conventional, settled structure, but the mood of order feels tenuous throughout. An enormous burst of guitar blows the song open a little after the ten-minute mark. Its detuned, funereal mood lends additional gravitas to an already epic piece. When the ending arrives after nearly twenty-two minutes, it doesn't feel like a conclusion as much as a crash.

This is serious, demanding music that deserves your full attention. It demands repeated listening. My Silent Wake is clearly a band writing to satisfy themselves as artists. No one who writes twenty-two minute songs is expecting time on the local metal station. However, that sincerity and devotion to their craft is what draws fans to their work and "Eye of the Needle" will reward anyone willing to listen. Highly recommended.