Review – Returned to The Earth – Stalagmite Steeple

“Music is the language of the spirit. It opens the secret of life bringing peace, abolishing strife.”Kahlil Gibran.

‘Stalagmite Steeple’ is the follow-up to UK Progressive Rock outfit Returned To The Earth’s critically acclaimed release ‘Fall of the Watcher’, the new album is another intriguing journey through main man Robin Peachey’s particular take on life.

Robin Peachey on the new album:
“The writing for ‘Stalagmite Steeple’ began in late 2020 during the recording of Fall Of The Watcher, my previous album. It’s been a 2 1/2 year recording process to get the album finished and I have worked again with Paul Johnston as producer/engineer/additional musician. Steve Kitch (The Pineapple Thief) has again mastered the album for me.”

There are some albums that just resonate with you from the first note and, for me, ‘Stalagmite Steeple’ is one of those such releases. It is a collection of glorious pieces of music that are more than just songs. They resonate with you on a basic level, the music is immersive, reflective and just darn beautiful! Robin’s vocals remind me of Tim Bowness, they just relax you, his delivery is so soothing and mellifluous that it transfixes and mesmerises you. There is a rhythmic, hypnotic beauty to the music that leaves you in a much better place than where you were before you heard it.

Each song is a small nugget of perfection, album opener Dark Morality came about when Robin saw a story about an elderly couple who were separated during the first Covid lockdown and unfortunately the lady passed away from natural causes. He found it incredibly sad that we couldn’t find a way to bring loved ones together in their final moments during this difficult period of our history. Robin didn’t want this event to be marked by just a single song so it formed the backdrop for the whole album. There’s a hushed reverence to the song, a veneration in the vocals that is picked up by the glorious music, music that just seems to flow serenely over your aural senses. There is a wonderfully uplifting guitar solo that sends a tingle down your spine (something that occurs frequently during the album) and you just know that this exquisite track is going to be the start of something very special. The pensive, almost melancholy opening to The Final Time has a fragile grace engendered by the strings and Robin’s almost melancholic vocal. You can almost touch the pathos and emotion in this song, it has wistful, nostalgic yearning deep at its core and an ethereal quality that makes it feel gossamer thin.

The songwriting and musicianship on this album is utterly sublime and it flows perfectly as title track Stalagmite Steeple opens with a haunting piano and synthesiser before the refined vocals begin. Peachey says of the track, “It’s a track about grief but continuing to move forward despite the pain. It’s the longest of the six tracks on the album and the idea was to write a song where it continued to evolve and change throughout and no section would repeat.” It is a perfect example of how to write progressive rock track that will live long in the memory as it builds slowly before an outpouring of emotion contained in a transcendent guitar solo that just blew me away. The track then takes on an edgy, solemn air with a repeated piano refrain backed by almost intangible strings leading Robin’s reflective vocals and then plays out to a close with a demonstrative and expressive guitar adding a steely core, a truly memorable piece of music that left me pondering life and everything else for quite a long time. You know I mentioned that Robin has a touch of the Tim Bowness about his vocals? Well that’s no more apparent than on the dreamlike wonder of Meaningless To Worth, a contemplative and reflective piece of music that would have graced any of the aforementioned musician’s recent releases. Sparse guitar tones and dreamy keyboards wash over you as Robin’s hypnotic voice draws you in to this gloriously crafted work of art, as irresistible as it is fulfilling.

This breathtaking album just keeps on giving as the sombre, dulcet tones of Die For Me begin, another plaintive, almost mournful song that steps gracefully through your life. I didn’t think that Robin’s voice could get more yearning in character but it is almost spiritual on this ever so dignified track where the subtle strings and meticulous keyboards give a rarefied air and the way the track closes out is just superlative. Unfortunately this stunning musical journey has to come to an end sometime and it does so in style with the bewitching The Raging Sea which adds passion warmth and sentiment to an already fabulous collection of songs. There’s a divine guitar solo that reaches to the heavens and the stellar musicianship we’ve come to expect. A fine way to bring things to a close and leave you with hope in your heart and a smile on your face.

Robin Peachey and Returned To The Earth may not be well known to most people out there but, with the utterly magnificent, transcendental brilliance of ‘Stalagmite Steeple’ they deserve to be up there in the higher pantheon of progressive rock. You will not hear many better albums of any genre this year and I implore you to seek it out and add it to your own music collection, you will never ever regret doing so!

Released 14th June, 2024.

Order the CD from GEP here:

Returned To The Earth – Stalagmite Steeple – GEP

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