THE SEA WITHIN – The Sea Within [Special Edition 2CD Digipak] (2018)
THE SEA WITHIN is a new super-group formed by Roine Stolt (Transatlantic, The Flower Kings), Daniel Gildenlöw (Pain of Salvation), Jonas Reingold (Karmakanic, The Tangent), Tom Brislin (Renaissance, Deborah Harry) & Marco Minnemann (Steven Wilson, Joe Satriani) which are releasing their self titled debut tomorrow.
This “The Sea Within [Special Edition 2CD Digipak]” includes a bonus disc with extra material.
This musical ship is manned by the most expert navigators – that much is clear. Naturally, the result has been massive fan expectation and the inevitable rife speculation. Well, the ocean can be everything from a fun and frothy surfer’s paradise, to a terrifying, engulfing storm, from a pool of clear coral beauty to a vast abyss of deep darkness, and all that comes in between.
Where do this captain and crew take us? Let’s dive in.
Opener “Ashes of Dawn” is the heaviest song on the album and certainly one of the darkest. Gildenlow’s and Stolt’s vocals are aggressive, anguished. The song is about the world’s economic chaos and is suitably weighty. There are no ‘spring in the meadow’ images here. Stolt and Reingold go out of their way to make the song deep, dark and intimidating – like the bottom of an ocean abyss. The vessel is weighty, laden with cargo, navigating dark waters and exploring familiar but frightening themes.
“They Know My Name” is more pensive and gentle, but no less dark in flavor. The band start to explore other compositional waters here, based on a lurking and pensive Brislin piano intro with an interesting chord progression, the song develops in to a Minnemann-driven chorus pattern with scattered accents, accompanied by Reingold’s huge, lingering bass tone. The chorus has a Classic Rock feel, ending with an anthemic guitar passage.
Calmer waters approach with “The Void”, slow and pensive, but extremely haunting and captivating. One of my favorite on the album.
“An Eye For an Eye” brings matters to a much faster, pounding pace, starting as a full-on rocker in which Minnemann is given full remit to open up his startling chops.Regardless of the trickier Prog fills and time signatures, this one could, strangely enough, have been Thin Lizzy on Prog steroids. For those who like to rock, ‘An Eye For an Eye’ will be a highlight of the live set.
“Goodbye” is, for me, the high watermark of this album. It begins with a quirky, staccato 7/8 Prog bass-riff that is very unusual and immediately entrancing. This intriguing riff remains throughout, but also morphs into a delayed-gratification verse by McPherson, and a glorious chorus.
“Sea Without” is a jagged and discordant instrumental exploration of Crimson-esque progression, with some added sonic magnitude, lasting two minutes. Reingold delivers one of his signature fretless riffs at the end. It is a decent enough meander, but one feels that more could have been done with it.
“Broken Cord” comprises the obligatory 14-minute epic. Various quirky, interesting, ethereal and anthemic passages create an overall result that is excellent I had to listen hard for Jon Anderson’s appearance, which is one of the backing vocals behind McPherson’s and Gildenlöw’s alternating leads, and his Master’s Voice is placed appropriately enough.
Jordan Rudess makes an appearance on ‘The Hiding of Truth’ and one can immediately hear it, because his technique is simply unmistakable. The song is an elliptical pop melody that begins with swirling atmospherics, great Rudess piano work, and Casey McPherson’s outstanding vocals. It develops into a strong pop ballad.
Now there’s the 26-minute bonus disc. The first song on Disc 2, ‘The Roaring Silence’, builds from nothing, through an ethereal opening, into a good, heavy, dark Prog composition that provides the listener with a crisper experience.
‘Where are You Going?’ builds into a solid enough ballad, with an anguished feel. It is simple but good. “Time” is a compositional collaboration between the five main members. It’s moody, midtempo, with expansive vocal arrangements. Filled with grief, the song is very emotive.
Lastly, “Denise” is strange narrative of a man telling his woman that he will not be back because he is in prison, and asking her to remember him by their good times near the river. Filled with regret and remorse, it is reminiscent of a modern Prog take on ‘The Prisoner’s Song.’
The Sea Within’s first album is a highly impressive and diverse voyage. Passengers on this ship will experience expansive high sea views, daunting subaqueous emotional depth and even fathomless submerged darkness. But they will also enjoy pleasing coral imagery, aquamarine beams of musical light, frolicking waves of melody, compositional variety and, most certainly, virtuosity of oceanic proportions.
If the album misses the total perfection that its line-up portends, it is only because some of it feels a little more fragmented than it perhaps could have done. But it’s an outstanding piece of Prog.
01 – Ashes of Dawn
02 – They Know My Name
03 – The Void
04 – An Eye for an Eye for an Eye
05 – Goodbye
06 – Sea Without
07 – Broken Cord
08 – The Hiding of Truth
01 – The Roaring Silence (Bonus Track)
02 – Where Are You Going? (Bonus Track)
03 – Time (Bonus Track)
04 – Denise (Bonus Track)
Daniel Gildenlow (Vocals & add. Guitar)
Jonas Reingold (Bass)
Tom Brislin (Keyboards, Vocals)
Marco Minneman (Drums, Percussion, Vocals, Guitar)
Roine Stolt (Guitars, Vocals, add. Keyboards)
Jon Anderson (guest Vocals)
Jordan Rudess (guest Keyboards)