I love Progressive Metal. This is where metal meets the grey unknown. Far, far away from the ‘established’ legions of bands. Those that seemingly always want to produce more of the same.
Of course, Progressive Metal covers lots of sins and it takes a lot of musical skills to produce good content. On the other hand, the style is usually also an indicator of much creative energy at work. Of that urge to go the extra mile.
Now, a large crowd out there professes that their forte lies in the progressive nirvana of the metal universe. Many of them strum a few djents, madly hit the percussion, howl weirdly around the stage and call this prog. So much so at times that you are served with a confused pandemonium of soundbites that stops making sense after a while.
I will thus always be somewhat wary when hearing about some new up-and-coming dudes and dudettes being praised. But it is also there, where you usually find these jewels that have been hiding for a long while.
The Reticent is one of those finds.
It is only when I started digging into his newest full-length album On the Eve of a Goodbye that I understood why. His? Yep, The Reticent is a one-man show to a large extent. Vocals and most of the instruments were directly played by Christopher Hathcock. Guest musicians only took on the wind instruments and female vocals.
Yet, when I heard one-man band, I kind of winced. How many times did these records turn into some bland soup of repetitions, same thing all over throughout the record?
But not this time.
On the Eve of a Goodbye is one of these concoctions that will make you rewind and backpedal to what you just heard. The record possesses this inexplicable primeval something that will just stick to your frontal lobe and sink its steely, crooked hooks into your flesh. And the record will not let you go until you heard it all. From beginning to the (very) bitter end.
The Reticent will not only convince you with his undeniable musical prowess, but largely works through authenticity, passion, and emotions. But more to that later.
On the Eve of a Goodbye often struck me as a strange mix between Wilderun and Steven Wilson with a dark twist. The album is a very varied piece of metal, crafted by a truly talented musician. Piano sounds, hard guitar riffs, or soft acoustics follow this skillful, nuanced integration of clear voice and growls – depending on the mood of the moment. To illustrate, have a glance at The Confrontation and the dialogue with that terrible daemon.
I specifically liked the wind instruments included at certain points of the album. The way Hathcock uses voice and sets of specific instruments to demonstrate mood is amazingly well done. For example, the use of the Hammered Dulcimer at the very end of the album is very fitting.
A part of the record’s powerful allure is the very strong theme. The album follows a true story. It chronicles the tale of Eve and her last 24 hours of her life before committing suicide, as lived by the artist. This renders the album strongly emotional in more ways than one. And it shows an almost visceral progression that is difficult to dismiss.
This aspect gets ever stronger towards the end, culminating in Funeral of a Firefly, where you hear Hathcock sniffling through the length of the track. I have, to date, seldom heard a record delivered with more genuine and persuasive sentiment than this one. Or is this a first?
Production, mixing, and mastering are pretty well done. And kudos go to Jamie King at The Basement Recording. You will find none of that crazy brickwalling or other shenanigans so prevalent on other records. All elements come out in a crystal clear fashion, and you do not get the impression of having lost parts of the album.
Not that the record is without flaws. But forgiven are the somewhat awkward monologues at the beginning and the scratchy, rocky switches between some of the blocks. Also, the vocals are sometimes slightly off-kilter on some of the tracks, but nothing much to be alarmed about.
On the Eve of a Goodbye really takes off with The Girl Broken. This track already transmits the essence of the record to the listener. One of the memorable moments comes in The Mirror’s Reply that leaves you with a profound sense of loneliness.
The aforementioned The Confrontation is another one of these strong instances of the album. But the real emotional part starts with 2 Hours Left. The mood goes downhill fast from that moment, straight into the fiery pits of desperation. From imploring her not to do this in The Decision, far down to the emotional tsunami of the Funeral of a Firefly.
At first, On the Eve of a Goodbye is a complex and difficult listen. And you need to invest the time it deserves. Being like a book of sorts, I suggest you listen to it as a whole. The album is not easy to take in any other way.
Eve is first-rate Progressive Metal, technically high-standing, and delivered with a very high level of genuine emotion and passion. Probably one of the best such records I ever had the pleasure to listen to.
So, have a seat and hit the run button. You won’t regret it.