The Id have been making music as a band since 2016. They work remotely on different continents and the band members are all involved in multiple collaborative and solo projects. Drummer Mark Murdock has a background in jazz fusion, also working alongside members of Brand X, but they mainly site prog influences, such as IQ, Genesis and Rush. In the band’s neo-prog back catalogue are a number of dark concept albums about war, plague and rebels in a dystopian future. In 2023’s release, Disaster Movie, the story is essentially Castaway except that the hero of the piece is literally shipwrecked. It tells the story of a sailor stranded on a deserted island after his ship is sunk in a storm, resulting in the loss of the entire crew except himself.
Before we get going with the review, and with the greatest of respect to the band, clearly The Id are operating somewhere in the third or fourth tier of the prog hierarchy. Their music is self-produced and released independently on Bandcamp and, to be honest, on my first listen I found the album to be underwhelming for all sorts of reasons. Although the music lacks the punch of more polished and better funded bands, there was something in the music that sparked enough interest for me to persevere and to listen again, and again. I realised that I had begun by judging the album based on my preconceptions of what a premier league prog rock concept album should sound like, and it wasn’t until I started listening a bit more ‘for fun’ that I started to understand it better. It would be easy to focus on the negatives, and I will inevitably have to point out some of the issues I have with the album, however I wouldn’t have proceeded with this review at all if I hadn’t found the music engaging and worthy.
Within the first few bars of the overture, it is clear we are in prog concept album territory. The first part is an evocative piano melody accompanied by strings and brass arrangements. It’s distinctly typical of the pirate oeuvre, it ebbs and flows like the waves, and it’s an accomplished opening. The story is introduced in the second part, a folksy sea shanty in which our hero tells his back story and sets the scene for the upcoming adventures.
The Storm, when it happens, is not quite as dramatic as is could have been. It brings to mind the underwhelming impact of Spinal Tap’s miniature Stonehenge being unveiled, as the short and subdued instrumental passage conjures up no more than a passing breeze. A few thunderclaps, lightning strikes, and some fearful screeches would have made all the difference to this piece.
Aftermath begins with an extended, gently flowing backdrop of synth swishes and swirls and over the top our hero describes in detail the experiences of the storm and its effects. Unfortunately, the wordy story-telling seems to limit the scope and ambition of the musicians. At the halfway point an acoustic guitar section provides a great opportunity to develop the music, but the vocals soon return to smother the instrumentation. As a piece in the narrative of the concept, Aftermath does its job reasonably well, but it could have been so much more.
Some neo-prog synth hooks and guitar flourishes introduce Tailspin, a more up-tempo anthem. The sound is extremely reminiscent of the early ’80s, in more ways than one, and tends to emphasise the deficiencies in the recording and production resources available to the band. Having said that, it’s a decent song which lifts the album just when it needs it. Annoyingly, the chorus lyric contains the line “I wanted to be someone”, sung in a similar refrain already done much better by Marillion in Neverland. The comparison is unfortunate and something I can’t really get over.
I Never Wanted To is, for me, the undoubted highlight of the album. It features some extremely likeable melodic guitar work and more active and sympathetic accompaniments from the rhythm section. This piece is much more like a band that is working together, the vocals and the instrumentation are more complementary and each is given the space to express emotion and drama. It doesn’t have the sophistication of more experienced bands, but it works excellently as the centrepiece of the album.
Next up is The Spectre, another worthy attempt at melodic neo-prog. Musically it reverts to the feel of a more basic backing track, this time underpinned by piano notes. The song develops nicely but the efforts to lift it in the second half don’t quite deliver the drama that the lyrics are portraying. The piano part pretty much continues as it started, with the addition of some extra swirling synths and another gentle drum pattern. Its melodic but not particularly gripping.
Human was first unveiled as a single release in 2021. It opens with a Hammond-esque organ overture. As the band take over it has a very The Space feel about it (another Marillion influence) with the chorus mirroring the “Everybody in the whole of the world” lyrical sentiment as well. There is a fine line between being influenced whilst maintaining originality, and just sounding derivative. The Id are walking a tightrope here, but I am minded to give them the benefit of the doubt since the underlying song-writing is of decent quality, despite my reservations about the execution of the arrangements.
After facing his demons alone on the island, Deliverance tells the story of the hero’s rescue by a passing ship. The heavier sounding opening passage sets the scene for a darker and more tense track, but as the story unfolds and the rescue is made the tension is released by a key change and the vocal shifting to a higher range before the outro. Closing track Homecoming is a nice coda to contrast with the overture, and musically is one of the more interesting tracks. It’s a short but sweet instrumental containing a mix of percussion and melodic synth themes.
There will be plenty of music connoisseurs who will instinctively turn their noses up at this album. In many respects the musical qualities reflect the constraints that the band face, and for me this is maybe the reason why I felt it deserved a bit more effort on my part. The passion of the band to create their own brand of music and to build up an outlet for their efforts is commendable. For anyone with a soft spot for concept albums, story-telling and melodic neo-proggery, this album – and the rest of The Id discography – will be worth spending some time to explore.
01. Prelude in Dm / Overture / The Voyage (7:34)
02. The Storm (1:07)
03. Aftermath (9:16)
04. Tailspin (6:58)
05. I Never Wanted To (7:02)
06. The Spectre (A Message) (5:07)
07. Human (8:22)
08. Deliverance (4:36)
09. Homecoming (2:27)
Total Time – 53:27
Peter Albrektsen – Guitar, Keyboards
Tim Pepper – Singer, Lyrics, Keyboards
Mark Murdock – Drums, Backing Vocals
Peter Rodel – Keyboards
Record Label: Independent
Country of Origin: U.K.
Date of Release: 4th August 2023
The Id – Bandcamp