Grace and Fire are a newish, harder sounding, progressive rock band who hail from the East Midlands and who are attracting a fair degree of attention in prog circles and quite rightly so. ‘Elysium’, their debut album, is an accomplished and stimulating set of modern rock with many progressive elements very much in evidence. The album is based around the themes of the world experienced through Dante’s Inferno and especially the seven visions of hell encountered in his work.
The album begins with the instrumental Overture which sets the tone for what is to follow. The sound on the album is far more rock oriented, although there are plenty of keyboards included in the mix. Guitars crunch but not unpleasantly so and the vocals of André Saint are clear and sound fine to these ears. the next track is title cut Elysium, which is a strong song with a crunchy guitar sound and soaring synths before the vocals begin, Elysium being the land of the Gods in Greek mythology. I really like how this album sounds, it is heavy but not overly so and its progressive elements are in clear view. Breathing Murder features Derek Sherinian who delivers guest keyboard solos and he is a good fit for this track, adding fine touches and fills to the overall sound. His synths really make this song a strong one and his interplay with the guitar of Aaron Gidney is wonderful to hear. Everyone is working together to make the song sound the best it can be and they certainly succeed here, this is a most excellent number. The sound is excellent throughout with space for all to be heard, the mix is by Karl Groom of Threshold, a man who clearly knows a good sound when he hears one and is efforts in this area pay clear dividends in how great the album sounds.
Paradise Lost follows and is a more restrained piece, being more of a slow burn of a track, one that creeps up and then impresses the hell out of you. This is especially so when it breaks out into a wide-screen sound during the chorus. It is highly effective and the song works well because of it. There is a spoken passage from Goran Edman in which the devil is renounced after his part in the downfall of man and banishment from the Garden of Eden, another fine track. Chains of Sanity is a rather more brutal song with hard hitting guitars and deeply personal lyrics about mental health and the struggle for freedom for a mind that wants to soar but is imprisoned within. The track has fabulous guitar work and a superb solo and is another strong song. Sea of Dreams continues in a slower mood and tone, with low whistles from Zachariah Gidney that add depth and colour to the sound. This mellow number is enlivened by another great solo from Aaron Gidney and also with an epic chorus that really sticks in the memory, highly impressive stuff.
A Warrior’s Tale features Mark Boals on vocals (best known for his work with Yngwie Malmsteem). This is another harder track with excellent parts from all, quite how the band managed to recruit such quality collaborators is a very good question but these guests definitely help raise the quality bar very high and, in doing so, help make this debut album really something special. It is very impressive and confident in a year which has seen several similarly impressive debuts from the likes of Ghost of the Machine and others. This is great news for rock music fans and this album deserves to be high up in the end of the year lists. Eyes of the Seer is another highly impressive track with great guitar work again and some complementary bass parts from Tim Ashton that really adds emphasis to proceedings. The Great Divide Pt. 1 continues this with a dignified bass line for Aaron Gidney to play off to fine effect, this instrumental leads into The Great Divide Pt. 2, the albums longest track. This piece has eastern sounding influences and sounds most impressive with yet more fabulous guitar tones, sounds and effects. It brings to mind Rainbow’s Gates Of Babylon in places, although in reality this sounds very different to that but I can hear the influence. The song is about how friends grow apart to result in a great divide that comes between them.
That concludes the album and it is one that leaves more questions than answers, but in a good way, as it encourages one to play and listen again until its themes make sense. In all ‘Elysium’ is a very good and different album with strong and inspired music. Some fantastic passages and parts, along with the guest contributors, make this a most worthwhile release and one most definitely worth your investigation.
Released 15th November, 2021.
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