Shadows On Mercury is a prog rock studio project, based in West Yorkshire. It features Scott Owens on guitars, bass and programming, Charlie Bramald on vocals, and Tim Lofthouse on keyboards. It all began during the Summer of 2020 whilst the world was in lockdown, prior to the formation of Scott’s current band, Ghost Of The Machine. Unable to rehearse or play live, Scott began work in his home studio, writing and recording an album of demo tracks, that had been weaving their way around his head for months.
Once he’d laid down the guitar and bass tracks, basic synth ideas and drum programming, Scott asked his good friend Tim, from The Lowells, if he would like to put the keyboards and synths down for the project. Tim was onboard immediately, and his ideas and keyboard wizardry carried these songs to another level completely. After a few months of fine tuning the tracks, Scott knew he needed a vocalist/lyricist to complete his vision for this project. Enter Charlie, lead singer, and Scott’s bandmate in Ghost Of The Machine. Charlie instantly gripped the direction Scott wanted to go with the music, and crafted stunning lyrics that brought both the music and concept of the project to life.
Having got to know Charlie via reviewing the first Ghost Of The Machine release, I was lucky enough to get an early listen to the two singles from this impressive project, The Silence and The Flood, and it was a no brainer to give my thoughts on the debut EP, ‘Worlds Apart’.
This mini-masterpiece opens with the aforementioned The Silence, Charlie had this to say about the track, “I wrote the lyrics to The Silence based around the idea that the human race is utterly complacent about the end of the world. Nobody wants to talk about it, think about it, deal with it… as a population we’re avoiding grappling with those big concepts and questions. It’s much more comfortable to keep our attentions trained on trivial and more immediate concerns. I imagined it staying that way right up to the point that the sky is falling in above us! No panic, just… silence. Will we get what we deserve?“
Wow, what a track, the music is a perfect accompaniment to Charlie’s meaningful lyrics, it’s a dark, brooding song full of a pensive and thoughtful quality. The vocals have a musing and contemplative touch and Tim’s elegant keys and synthesisers add a questioning feel. It’s totally different to what the guys deliver in Ghost Of The Machine, more an elegant rock vibe than the harder edge progressive rock of GOTM and the amazing interplay between Scott’s guitar and Tim’s keyboards that closes out the track has to be heard to be believed, an utter monster of a track! We then move into the brilliantly brooding Calculate (Control), this indulgent piece of music has a delicious feel of dark, progressive synth wave and really gets under your skin. Charlie’s vocals are more demonstrative and Scott’s guitar is more of a conductor than the main event, leading us on the moody, mysterious journey while also getting the opportunity to burst into life in a quite an outspoken manner. The icing on the cake though are Tim’s elegant, defiant keyboards, lending this song a real air of knowing gravitas.
“The Flood is a reflection on struggling to process the guilt that led to a heartbreak, infused with bitterness and the destructive imagery of water – a recurring theme in this EP.”, says Charlie, “This person is succumbing to the flood of negative emotions but clearly they have played their own part in what happened. Perhaps with a degree more self-acceptance they’ll be able to tread water, or even reach dry land.“
The Flood is almost balladesque in its feel, a heartfelt piece of music with a wistful and sombre touch. The floating, ethereal synths work perfectly in unison with Charlie’s passionate and ardent vocal delivery. Tim’s brilliant keyboards blend some Neo-prog with Scott’s expressive & profound guitar playing. It’s a beautiful track that took me back to the heydays of sumptuous and insightful songwriting and music that actually had meaning, utterly majestic! What can I say about The King Of Broken Things, it is a wonderfully immersive song that, if it was twice as long, would have to be considered a brilliant epic. The hard, monolithic riff has soul deep at its core and Charlie delivers one of his best vocal performances yet. It’s a track that builds slowly, ever rising in power and intensity, the superb guitar being the centre-point for Charlie’s voice and Tim’s eloquent keyboards to revolve around in a quite hypnotic way and when Scott lets loose on the solo, wow, just bloody wow! This is one of the best pieces of music I have heard this year, no word of a lie and a special shout out must be made to Scott for his programmed drums that sound just like the real thing!
The album closes with the more mainstream and laid back dynamics of title track Worlds Apart, an utterly sublime song that would possibly be riding high in the charts if we were back in the more musically progressive and inclined times of the 1980’s and 1990’s. The music just seems to wash over you and hold you in its embrace with wistful, sepia tinged feel of nostalgia. Tim’s keyboards (just check out his ever so cool, funky solo) and Charlie’s vocals are key in imbuing the absorbing atmosphere on this track and those striking programmed drums stand out once again. Scott lets rip with another impassioned solo before things come to a finish with Tim’s keys playing out, it’s a sumptuous way to close out what has been a very exciting debut from a trio of highly skilled musicians.
‘Worlds Apart’ is atmospheric and a wonderful showcase for a long awaited return to the Neo-Prog elegant keyboards of the 80’s but there’s also a darker and more immersive feel in parts that adds a deliciously dark and moody edge. Shadows On Mercury have landed with a incredibly powerful statement of intent that promises much, much more, you should just go out and buy it!
Released 2nd February, 2024.
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