Opening with a spoken word introduction heard over sea noises and wordless vocals, Dave Bron’s new release continues his musical exploration of Middle Earth and the realm of worlds made known through the writing of J.R.R. Tolkien. The album is titled ‘Return to Arda’, ‘Arda’ being the name Tolkien gave to Earth. The album has three parts, Sea, Soil and Sky, and each part is comprised of several tracks Sea has four tracks, Soil has six and Sky the remaining five tracks. The album is best heard in its entirety for maximum impact and effect. Knowledge of ‘The Lord of the Rings’ is not essential but might help, the excellent booklet notes most certainly will as they are highly informative.
The album is mostly instrumental although there a few vocals pieces which help the album flow. There is some truly inspired guitar playing throughout with Dave really playing to his strengths and using his bevy of effects and techniques to fine effect. Dave is a huge fan of Steve Vai and this shows in his use of guitar orchestrations and style. Dave certainly can shred with the best yet, above all, he is a master of melody and uses his skills to enhance rather than to stun, the melody for Beyond where the Waves Break, for example, is simply gorgeous and is well matched with the emotion of the track. A similar feeling is evoked with Dave’s acoustic guitar refrain to match the piano track, another winner to these ears.
The track that opens the Soil sequence is also really impressive with a great vocal from Sally Minnear, her voice fits extremely well with Dave’s guitar where he plays a blinder of a solo, reaching for new heights as he goes, all with the complementary background of all the other players making a full sounding, Celtic infused, track and it sounds really impressive. The music is epic in scope and sound with acoustic guitar used sparingly, but most effectively, to craft a really great sounding album of almost hummable tunes, this is all a big step forward from his previous release ‘Not All Who Wander Are Lost’, and that was impressive enough. This new release is even more so with better tunes, seemingly even more inspired and better realised, Dave has certainly raised his bar here.
I really adore this album it has really grown on me as I have heard it. I join other reviewers in singing its praise and raving about its contents and being very special, effective and superior to all that has gone before . It is quite frankly a stunningly inspired release and one of the best instrumental guitar albums that I have ever had the pleasure of listening to, yes, it really is that good! The album’s cover and booklet are similarly outstanding, you can feels the passion contained with the grooves and some truly inspired playing is on offer here.
The Soil section gives way to Sky in which we see Dave soaring in his playing along with some fabulous vocals from Sally. This is especially so on The Tears Of Nienna where Dave uses harmonics to great effect. The spoken voice that opens On Eagles Wings also captures the emotion of the song as the guitar line lifts it upwards. Even better for me is the magnificent Beauty and Starlight which begins with delicate acoustic guitar and a hauntingly wonderful Sally Minnear vocal line. This is a stunning and captivating track and also features an achingly gorgeous guitar solo from Dave who wrings out every possible drop of emotion. It really is fantastic, my favourite thus far.
The penultimate song is Gathering in the Clouds which begins with pipes. It’s a very Celtic sounding piece, really emotive and full of feeling. It may only be short but it’s wonderfully evocative and close with a spoken ending to conclude a highly emotional, yet very rewarding, aural journey in the hands of Dave Brons and friends, all of whom add beautiful parts to a possible album of the year. It is simply beautiful music that is masterfully made and I urge you to find room in your life for this most spiritually rewarding release.
Released 4th November, 2022.
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One thought on “Review – Dave Brons – Return to Arda – by John Wenlock-Smith”
I got my copy on launch day, having been one of the crowdfunders for this album and I have to say this review is spot on. The musicianship on the album is first rate, featuring appearances from Dave Bainbridge, Dave Fitgerald, Frank Van Essen, Sally Minnear, Catherine Ashcroft and others. It’s beautifully recorded and has huge production values belying the fact that this is an independent product by Dave Brons with the help of his friends. If the stunning music wasn’t enough, Dave has filmed a series of videos to accompany the album, and they again feature high production values and breath-taking views. This is my favourite album this year, and a huge step up from Dave’s excellent “Not all who wander are lost”. If you even slightly care about progressive music, you should buy this album straight away.