This album has been a long time in the making. I first heard of it from Marc Atkinson’s Facebook page in which he documented the evolution of the album, its release due in January 2020. As a long-time admirer of Marc’s work with Riversea, this project really whetted my appetite, Marc has a fantastic voice. In addition, he is also an excellent writer and all-round fan of progressive rock. So, I knew that this one had real potential, especially as he was using several of the musicians that were utilised for the Riversea albums along with a few friends from Mostly Autumn to bring the project to fruition. I guessed that we’d be in for something rather special.
Well I have to say, and I think you will be glad to hear, that this album is a real credit to Marc and the team as they have really crafted something of beauty, worth and value. I’m sure that it will be very warmly received by many Prog fans and is another possible contender for album of the year, despite being released so early on. This year has some fine new albums lining up for release, from the likes of I Am the Manic Whale and This Winter Machine – both third albums – and the new John Holden album that I’ve already heard (and one that I can say will certainly be impressive to many). So, this one has a lot to play for.
With thirteen tracks over its 60-minute running time, all lovingly crafted, the album has touches of electronica, which is certainly different, however its use is subtle and enhancing rather than being overpowering. There are still plenty of guitars in evidence to rock it up, so nothing to worry about here, rather it is far better to embrace this bold direction and let the music surround you with its elegance and its beauty. Let it draw you in to the wonderous and quietly surprising world that is Moon Halo.
The album opens gently with what sounds like Oriental bell sounds, a wathe of keyboards and a gentle voice intoning, then what sounds like a dance beat suggests programmed drums in the background, or possibly a combination of real and artificial drums. It certainly has some pace to it either way. The track is called The Web and it has an epic guitar solo from Martin Ledger of Heather Finlay’s band. This is a cracking opening track that leads nicely into Seize the Day, which again has subtle but highly effective electronics on display. It also has a very strong rhythmic sensibility, sounding like a ZZ Top-type shuffle in the mix, and it has a stunning chorus of “We should seize the day”. This would be killer in a live setting, I’m sure. The backing vocals on this song are also excellent, adding depth to what is already a fine song.
The Veil is next and is one of the longer songs on offer at six and a half minutes. It’s a real slow burner, very emotive and full of emotion and feeling with an almost wistful feel. There’s a very fine vocal from Marc and a guitar solo that Dave Gilmour would be proud of that really lifts the song to even greater heights. It’s a bit of a guitar extravaganza, all very tastefully rendered and very impressive indeed.
Parachute opens with Japanese koto by the sound of it, shadowed by some great guitar playing and a harder vocal from Marc, sounding not unlike Ian Gillan in his classic Deep Purple days. This song surges along nicely with some tasty guitar fills in evidence. I have to say, this album is all pretty upbeat and joyous to listen to. You can even dance to it if you so choose, it’s a great album and very rewarding. You will feel better listening to this, although as always listening to it several times really gets the drift to begin to appreciate the mastery on offer.
Somebody Save Us opens with David Attenborough’s voice calling us to caution in regard to the ecological disaster that is currently facing our world. This is no bandwagon leap, rather an urgent cry for us to do something to stop the damage that is being done as they call on the leaders of nations to act now before it is too late. A very earnest and emotional request, but one with real meaning and intent. The guitar solo is pure Dave Gilmour in style and emotive impact. What’s Your Name has another shuffle beat, urgent and surging in tone with a powerful backbeat powering the song along in a very satisfying manner. It also has a breakdown segment just before another ripping and soaring guitar break. Great song.
Seventh Heaven is next, opening with a lovely solo piano part accompanied sparingly by guitar. Highly effective with a lovely fluid lead guitar line leading into Marc’s fabulous vocal part. Let Me Out has another strong keyboard motif underpinning the backbeat, the album having a lot of depth and imagination. Awoken has a great vocal with ringing guitars and a strong melody that supports a very positive lyric.
Rather than drone on and on, I will conclude by saying that this album is a modern, forward-looking Prog album that will challenge any preconceived ideas of Prog whilst repaying the time and effort spent listening as it shows a bold new direction and possibly a route that Prog could explore going forward into the future.
01. The Web (4:50)
02. Seize the Day (4:08)
03. The Veil (6:29)
04. Chroma (2:33)
05. Parachute (4:46)
06. Somebody Save Us (3:49)
07. What’s Your Name (3:13)
08. Seventh Heaven (4:54)
09. Let Me Out (5:10)
10. Awoken (4:13)
11. Across the Great Divide (5:10)
12. Rise Up (4:20)
13. Don’t Let It End Like This (6:28)
Total Time – 60:03
Iain Jennings – Keyboards
Marc Atkinson – Vocals
David Clements – Bass
Alex Cromarty – Drums
Martin Ledger – Guitars
~ With Guests:
Anne-Marie Helder – Backing Vocals
Olivia Sparnenn-Josh – Additional Vocals
Janine Atkinson – Backing Vocals
Tammy Pawson – Additional Backing Vocals
Mikey Gibson – Additional Guitars
Record Label: Independent
Country of Origin: U.K.
Date of Release: 13th January 2020
Moon Halo – Website | Facebook | Bandcamp