Dave Brons, another new name to conjure with, although those familiar with Dave Bainbridge’s Celestial Fire will be aware of Dave Brons as part of the live set-up. Along with this both Dave’s took part in the short lived GB3 project, who toured briefly in 2015, with Paul Bielatowicz completing the trio of six-stringers. The summer of 2015 also coincided with the release of Dave Brons’ first solo release, Based On A True Story. The instrumental Based On A True Story firmly established Dave’s credentials as a guitarist with the nine tracks firmly routed in the Steve Vai/Joe Satriani mould of highly melodic, fearsome shredders.
Moving on five years, Dave Brons returns with the follow-up, and those familiar with J.R.R. Tolkien may well recognise the title Not All Those Who Wander Are Lost as a line from the poem All That Is Gold Does Not Glitter from The Fellowship of the Ring. Whereas Based On A True Story encompassed tracks from the Celtic oeuvre, Miracle Maker for instance, there’s nothing from that particular album to indicate the epic nature of Not All Those Who Wander Are Lost.
So perhaps no surprise that Not All Those Who Wander Are Lost is a concept album, steeped in Tolkien mythology and, like The Lord of the Rings trilogy films, the music here is epic in all aspects. To achieve this the core band of Dave Brons, John Biglands, Daniel Day and Mark Swift are joined by an impressive ensemble of musicians, including Celestial Fire members Dave Bainbridge, Sally Minnear and Frank van Essen. We also have a 100-piece choir, Uilleann pipes, along with a whole host wind, brass and stringed instruments.
The album opens with The Song of Illuvatar, introduced with the spoken word of Lady Galadriel, narrated by Sally Minnear. An atmospheric piece, with soaring guitar, lush keyboards, choir, Daniel Day on Irish low whistle and Catherine Ashcroft on Uilleann pipes.
In contrast, EÄ kicks in with strident, heavy guitar, menacing choirs and percussion ensemble. Taking things down is Mark Swift’s delicate piano, before Brons returns with another infectious, thematic solo – one of many from the album. The choir remain, with Sally Minnear adding superb wordless dynamic, for Into the Perilous Realm, a track full of bombast bringing notions of Nightwish and/or Epica to mind.
Throughout the album pays homage to Howard Shore’s music from the The Lord of the Rings films, and if ever there was to be a stage version of the trilogy then Not All Those Who Wander Are Lost could well be the soundtrack. With such an intense opening salvo of tracks, Awakened by Starlight offers a chance for a breather, well, of sorts. Similarly, Under the Same Sun‘s initial delicate acoustic opening soon lays the way for a ‘fuller sound’, highlight here is the violin break from Frank van Essen.
Catherine Ashcroft returns on Uilleann pipes for the jaunty The Shire – and A Long Expected Party atmosphere is certainly captured. The Hobbiton party is short lived however and the journey continues with the perilous The Pass of Caradhras.
And neither strength nor wisdom will carry us far upon it.
This quest may be attempted by the weak with as much hope as the strong.
Few can foresee whither their road will lead them, till they come to its end.”
The use of 7’s employed here is particularly effective. As Dave comments: “This one is in 7/4 which gives it a slightly restless and uneasy quality due to the missing beat.”
Not All Those Who Wander Are Lost, it has to be said, is an enjoyable if somewhat intense listen and although each song employs light and shade to great effect, overall there is little respite in Dave Brons’ Tolkien journey. So the simple, melancholic A Prayer for the Fallen, played on piano, drenched in reverb and with the merest hint of a choir, comes at a timely juncture.
The tranquil mood is retained briefly in the following tune, the piano remains, accompanied now by Jaiden Vai Brons on vocal. The Riders of Rohan soon move into a gallop, with the changes in pace working really well here. Great performances from all and one of a number of highlights from the album. Now those familiar with the film will be aware, I’m sure, of how effectively Howard Shore’s music transitions the scenes. Minas Morgul acts as one such transitioning track here with its dynamic, otherworldly mood changes. The Ring Bearer on the other hand, from its early tranquil setting, allows us to marvel once more at Dave’s fingerboard virtuosity, whilst The Houses of Healing musically brings to mind the previous, A Prayer for the Fallen, before setting the scene to the closing part of our journey and the album.
The triumphal At the End of All Things, with its ambitious arrangement and blistering guitar is finally released in the White Shores and A Swift Sunrise, bringing to a close this masterful interpretation of the Tolkien tale. White Shores and A Swift Sunrise recapitulates the atmosphere present throughout the album, finally resting in a lattice of ethereal voices. And as the album finally concludes with the sound of the eerie choir and floating melody – a time to take a deep breath and reflect on the album.
As mentioned there’s a great deal of detail within each track, so kudos to Dave Brons and Dave Bainbridge who have kept the overall mix transparent, allowing the listener to fully immerse themselves into the music.
Tackling one of the best-selling novels of all time, along with the huge popularity of the film trilogy and award winning musical score, is a bold undertaking. This said, Dave Brons has pulled it off and has produced an album which he has obviously painstakingly created, and I feel serves as a complimentary twist in the legacy of the Tolkien novel.
01. The Song of Illuvatar (4:56)
02. EÄ (6:09)
03. Into the Perilous Realm (5:10)
04. Awakened By Starlight (6:19)
05. Under the Same Sun (5:02)
06. The Shire: A Long Expected Party (4:46)
07. The Pass of Caradhras (3:39)
08. A Prayer for the Fallen (2:11)
09. The Riders of Rohan (4:18)
10. Minas Morgul (4:30)
11. The Ring Bearers (6:56)
12. The Houses of Healing (3:50)
13. At the End of All Things (3:35)
14. White Shores and A Swift Sunrise (6:03)
Total Time – 67:27
Dave Brons – Electric Guitar, Orchestration, Arranging & Piano (tracks 7,8 & 9)
John Biglands – Drums, Acoustic Guitar (track 11)
Daniel Day – Bass, Low Whistle and Classical Guitar (5)
Mark Swift – Piano, Organ
Dave Bainbridge – Keyboards, Electric Guitar, Percussion
Sally Minnear – Vocals, Ethereal Vocal Looping, Narration (Lady Galadriel)
Catherine Ashcroft – Uilleann Pipes, Low Whistle, Tin Whistle (track 14)
Maria Mullen & The Great Yorkshire Chorus – Choir, Vocal Textures
Jane Bryan – Flute, Alto Flute, Piccolo
The Men of Numenor
Ian Brons – Cello
Stephen Bradnum – Trombone, French Horn, Bass Trombone, Euphonium, Tuba
John Dey – Trumpets
John Clay – Cornet
David Hogan – Clarinet, Soprano Saxophone
Frank Van Essen – Violin, Violas, Violin Solo (track 5)
‘Red’ Rich Davenport – Narration (Gandalf)
Jaiden Vai Brons – Vocals (tracks 9 & 11)
Kai Rohan Brons – Narration (Frodo) (track 12)
Record Label: Independent
Country of Origin: U.K.
Date of Release: 6th January 2020