Emotions and Progressive Metal are difficult companions and to express that kind of passion is a most complicated endeavor. Yet, they often go together.
I guess, largely because the genre is relatively unencumbered by boundaries of any sort. A hefty leeway that grafts itself onto the more adventurous realms of the vast metal multiverse. And if things grow too weird, we call it alt, psy, or – well – experimental.
So here, we stumbled – somewhat belatedly – across TDW‘s newest piece The Days the Clocks Stopped. It’s – yet again – an artist talking about self-experience of disease and death, and chiefly of an ailment he almost died from. Twice, we are told.
Yet another grim theme that draws from the need to ‘tell your story’, but not from the urge to join some mainstream or other with the sole intent to make a ton of dough. Not that anybody would object to a boatload of greenbacks, right? Instead, this (seemingly) humbler approach will usually breed authenticity which is crucial to the success and quality of any record.
The RMR office suite already covered similar outfits with storylines akin to this one. It’s always a revelation how much of the musician’s heart and soul flow into such an endeavor. And they’re not the easiest ones to review, nor to dismiss outright.
The Days the Clocks Stopped tells its story at a pretty high level of sophistication. From a ton of samples, over different instruments, to outright rough-hewn metal, the ebb and flow of the tune soon starts to captivate the listener. It’s an almost spit-and-polish production that works with a clock as the framework, hospital sounds, and a variety of tones to project the mood of the moment.
The sudden changes Tom de Wit initiated from ambient acoustics to snarling harsh metal often took us by surprise. And again, this will convey sentiment when – for example – the protagonist finds himself in denial and needs to face reality.
We also enjoyed those solos that often tastily interject the tune, provided by an army of guest musicians. Even the frequent use of a choir in no way collides with the often complex arrangements of the piece. Unlike other bands that we had a go at lately.
And The Days also reserves its fair share of surprises. Like in Crashcape, after a pretty heavy start, things suddenly disintegrate into something we heard from the realms of Symphonic Metal from years ago.
And this is where the record starts to take on a pretty lusty momentum. An asset that the record quickly loses again as it starts to lumber along the storyline. And we fully understand that maintaining a relatively decent flow for such a concept album is hellishly difficult.
Now, The Days the Clocks Stopped regains a lot of that push once The Pulse hits the ground running.1) This is the most compact and – indeed – most powerful track on the album. And also the one that lets Fabio Alessandrini‘s stick-wielding prowess truly shine. In truth, we should have had more of that kind of arrangement. Because the record sometimes tends to needlessly meander around the soundscape.
In other words, a shortened version may have thrown a much more potent piece at the audience. One that would keep those limited attention spans at bay and leave the fans reeling after the onslaught. Almost 80 minutes of one hefty story are after all pretty lengthy for an album, and surely for a tale that requires your undivided attention.
Now, the bar by which thou shalt be judged is high for TDW. We lately enjoyed pretty stellar material from outfits like Haken and Need on songwriting and craftmanship, plus The Reticent and his two albums for unchecked emotion.2) Some might scream that this is unfair, but we suddenly have an eclectic leading pack in prog. And that’s a good thing.
So, where does that leave Mr. de Wit and The Days the Clocks Stopped?
The aforementioned lengthiness of the piece surely hampers the craftmanship somewhat. Yet, it is the all-important emotional spectrum that somehow lost its halo along the way. Whilst I fully get the drama and the traumatic consequences such an experience entails, the sentiment surrounding the theme didn’t quite strike a chord with my inner self.
That won’t turn The Days into a bad record, of course, far from it. It’s an intricate, rock-solid prog album. And one that we truly enjoyed to boot, with a watertight, highly personal storyline that frankly stopped us in our tracks more than once.
Yet, once the last note peters out, you feel like something has been left out. And that’s not a place I want to be in after the end of an album.
Get dat tune: