Sonic Tapestry - Into The Sun

Sonic Tapestry – Into The Sun

Into The Sun is the long-awaited second album by the Cheshire-based melodic progressive rock band Sonic Tapestry and is one of the most impressive albums I’ve heard over the last year or so. It is a sumptuous amalgam of neo-prog and melodic rock, with symphonic touches, a sprinkling of prog-metal when needed, and an underlying, accessible mainstream rock ambience.

The band’s roots go back to 2009, with a coming together of seasoned musicians from covers and tribute with a broad range of influences from the classic early prog bands such as Pink Floyd, Yes, Camel, Jethro Tull, Focus and Rush; the neo-progressive movement with the likes of Marillion and IQ; heavy metal and rock bands such as The Scorpions, Metallica and Motley Crue; and more contemporary prog influences, such as Riverside and Porcupine Tree, amongst others.

The addition of keyboardist Sean Byrne in 2012, joining vocalist and bassist Steve Forster, guitarist Giles Ashley and drummer John Byrne, led to a more prog rock-orientated focus to their music and they gradually introduced their own songs alongside the covers they played live – culminating in their promising debut album Aftermath (recorded in 2015-16 and finally released in 2017). However, a well-received appearance at HRH Prog in 2017 was unfortunately followed by a loss of momentum, with Sean leaving the band for health reasons a year later, and then the extended Covid lockdown period.

However, with the return of Sean to the band and the addition of Stuart Forster on rhythm guitar, Sonic Tapestry have finally returned with their sophomore release, Into The Sun, released in April 2024 after two years of recording – and what a melodic prog rock cracker it is too!

Sonic Tapestry

The overall concept of the album, according to John, is about someone being overwhelmed with life and the state of the world we live in, but finally achieving some peace of mind by the end. It is a musical journey, with thoughtful lyrics, that ebbs and flows delightfully, with light and shade and always an ear for melody, despite the instrumental complexity on show.

The album starts in impressive form with the short, overture-like Aurora Awakens. The atmospheric, Floydian keyboards from Sean certainly whet the appetite in anticipation for what is to follow. This is revealed in wonderful fashion by the epic New Beginnings. Starting with strummed guitar, with initial hints of Porcupine Tree and Airbag to my ears, the intensity soon builds with some powerful electric guitar chords, over a dynamic bass and drum rhythm foundation from Steve and John – with lush, flowing keyboards. Steve’s clear vocals have a refreshing lightness of touch as the lyrics look at someone making a fresh start – both creatively and emotionally – and the steps that need to be made.

“Decisions. What do I do now? It’s time to gain or time to fall. Those that care may frown. I choose to go in all alone.”

It is a very melodic and accessible opening track which showcases the band’s mix of melodic rock, neo-prog and classic-era prog very effectively. The interplay between guitar and keyboards produces a slightly mystical Eastern feel at times, with swirling synths, with Giles delivers some effective guitar soloing, especially towards the end. Stuart provides the supportive rhythm guitar throughout and flights of flute from Steve give a nice touch of variety to the instrumentation later on.

System Failure, by contrast is more straight-ahead, guitar-led hard rock, but with a lovely funky rhythm throughout. Sean delivers an engaging keyboard solo mid-way, but it is Giles’s guitar soloing afterwards that steals the show here. Lyrically the difficulties experienced by our protagonist are viewed as analogous to a failing circuit board, and the driving vocals propel the song well.

“and what to say, and what you feel, and what’s in store, and what is real. And as we touch the sky, we find it’s all a lie. Because the systems failed. No second chances here.”

Pastoral acoustic guitar introduces the more reflective Edge of the Forest, with Steve’s bass guitar and John’s subtle percussion to the fore, with the lead guitar more lyrical in style. Whilst gentler in style and quietly contemplative, it still manages to conjure up an increase in intensity by the end. It shows another side to this talented band.

Synths might begin Fight or Flight, but there is a definite feel of mid-period Rush here, with rumbling bass and sparkling guitar work running through this melodic and nimble-footed song. The vocal interplay and harmonies between Steve and John are a pleasant change of style, but there are also dynamic sections to keep the listener on their toes. Once again there is a catchy chorus to frame the musicality.

“Do you run or do you hide. Fight or flight or never mind. Do you laugh or do you cry. Fight or flight or live to die.”

Equinox is another charming instrumental interlude, with chiming guitars and a dreamy, Mike Oldfield-style character to start with, and a feel of space that allows the music to flow, especially the rich bass guitar and hypnotic percussion. Ryan Byrne provides the orchestral touches and effects to complement the delicate and bubbling guitar that gradually builds up. An echo of the quieter moments of Wishbone Ash, perhaps, at times.

There is an invigorating diversity in much of Sonic Tapestry’s music. So, while Out of the Blue, starts with some intriguing, relaxed musical jamming amongst the band, it suddenly switches to some heavy-duty power riffing, before the vocals herald more changes in tempo. Propelled by another memorable chorus, it gallops away nicely.

“Out of the blue the rain falls. Out of the blue, I now see clearly. Out of the blue, she’s mesmerising me.”

The flute adds a touch of Jethro Tull, before a vibrant slab of guitar-led melodic rock nail the track.

The optimistic and hopeful lyrical tone continues with the longest track on the album, the titular Into the Sun. Starting with a rich organ sound, the song has a real epic feel to it, despite its accessibility. Probing guitar riffing, a touch of Horslips in the vocal and instrumental interplay to my mind, with intertwining keyboards and guitars over an urgent drum and bass rhythm, provide a delightful opening section. A more ethereal, almost folk-tinged, middle section provides a refreshing contrast in style, with tongue drums from Kieran Byrne, more bucolic flute and some luxurious keyboards and orchestration from Paul Wassall. However, there is still time for a majestic and bombastic final section as Giles’s electric guitar soars high and far, followed by some dramatic prog-metal grandiose, backed by John’s insistent drumming. Wonderfully exhilarating, as the vocals push through to a synth-led conclusion.

“Don’t hold on, as you fly into the… Don’t hold back, as we fly into the Sun.”

Equilibrium is the short, concluding instrumental that perfectly reflects the resolution and peace found by our protagonist at last. Resonating guitar and keyboards merge one more time before our musical journey flies off to the sound of a space probe signal, no doubt into the Sun.

Into The Sun is a well-balanced and highly enjoyable and diverse album of melodic prog rock with cross-over appeal. As their name suggests, the band weave a compelling musical tapestry incorporating a range of styles across the nine varied tracks. Epics full of complexity, atmospheric instrumental interludes and accessible rock displaying both powerful intensity and more subtle and nuanced depths in equal measure. This is an album that deserves a wide audience amongst the prog community and beyond, and I’m looking forward to seeing them play live on the weekend of July 12th-13th at the 2024 Prog For Peart Festival in Abingdon, Oxfordshire. Highly recommended indeed – check them out on Bandcamp!

01. Aurora Awakens (2:21)
02. New Beginning (11:19)
03. System Failure (6:05)
04. Edge of the Forest (4:11)
05. Fight or Flight (8:49)
06. Equinox (5:40)
07. Out of the Blue (6:45)
08. Into the Sun (13:48)
09. Equilibrium (2:09)

Total Time – 61:11

Steve Forster – Lead Vocals, Bass, Flute, Keyboards
Giles Ashley – Lead & Acoustic Guitars
John Byrne – Drums, Percussion, Vocals
Stuart Forster – Rhythm & Acoustic Guitars
Sean Byrne – Keyboards, Synthesisers
~ With:
Ryan Byrne – Orchestration, Additional Sounds (6)
Paul Wassall – Keyboards, Backing Vocals, Orchestration (8)
Kieran Byrne – Tongue Drum (8)

Record Label: Independent
Country of Origin: U.K.
Date of Release: 10th April 2024

Sonic Tapestry – Website | Facebook | Bandcamp