Although the name John Holden may be new to many of you, I know the stellar guestlist involved in this album will be extremely familiar. More of them later, but hopefully that namecheck will intrigue you enough to search out what is an incredibly powerful album in so many ways. The other thing people need to do is go to John’s website where there are full details of what every song means, how it came about etc. I am not going to try and condense that all within the review, as it is much better for everyone to go and read it themselves as it is the perfect accompaniment to what is an incredible piece of work. John provides guitar, bass, keyboards and drum programming and writes the music while his wife Libby provides the lyrics, and then together with the guests bringing in their expertise and experience these wonderful songs are then lifted to a whole new level. If I were pushed to describe the sound, I would suggest crossover progressive rock that somehow also has a hymn-like quality, and in many ways is quite bombastic while also being incredibly restrained. At all times it is the voices which are front and centre, and the use of different singers seems right in the context of an album which never sounds like a project but always like a solid performance from an incredible band. Every musician is there to do a particular job, and they all relish the opportunity to perform on the material, adding their own flavours yet never trying to dominate. For me, the section on “Dark Arts” that really made me turn my head was some rippling piano behind the main melody which only lasted a few bars yet totally transformed the song.
There is aggression, huge breadth of styles, yet it is always in total control. It may be solemn at times, yet there is a beauty and joy which swells through. I can imagine this being performed in a cathedral and the sounds reaching up to the vaulted ceilings and the reverberations and echoes taking the music to new heights. “Heretic” featuring “That” Joe Payne (The Enid) is incredibly powerful yet delicate, with Sally Kinnear providing some sublime backing and duet vocals. Sheer beauty, nothing less. It is hard to fathom this is just the second album by an independent musician, with no label support, yet surely it can only be a matter of time until he is picked up as this is a superb piece of work which needs much wider recognition.
Oh, those guests? How about Peter Jones, Sally Minnear, Lauren Nolan, Jean Pageau and That Joe Payne on vocals; Nick D’Virgilio on drums; Jon Camp, Simon Fitzpatrick and Billy Sherwood on bass; Vikram Shankar and Oliver Wakeman on keyboards; Zaid Crowe, Oliver Day and Michel St-Pere on guitar! They felt this was an important project to be involved, and your ears are demanding you get in involved with it as well. There is a grace within this album that is palpable. Go to the site, read about the album, then buy it – you will not regret it.