Artist: My Soliloquy
Album Title: Engines Of Gravity
Label: Artic Records
Release date: Spring 2017
In 2012, Pete Morten, guitarist with one of my favourite progressive metal bands of all time, released a debut album under his own steam. The Threshold man called his band My Soliloquy and ‘The Interpreter’ was the title of that full-length debut. And I was very impressed. But, when I say ‘band’ that might be a little misleading. You see, Pete is a hideously talented chap and so he handled all instruments on ‘The Interpreter’ himself, except for the drums for which he drafted in Damon Roots.
Fast forward nearly five years and we’re on the cusp of the release of the sophomore album from My Soliloquy, ‘Engines Of Gravity’. I’m delighted because quite often, these side projects have a habit of being one-off endeavours. Not here though, as Pete Morten is clearly enthused and motivated enough to release a new album, despite the effort that it must take to create such a thing almost single-handedly.
Again, as with the debut, it is the same modus operandi on ‘Engines Of Gravity’ in that, drums aside, Pete has handled everything himself, from the song writing to the production, even the artwork which is hugely impressive. Again, Damon Roots is his chosen sidekick in the rhythm department, meaning that there is a nice consistency at play here.
Naturally, ever since I knew that a new album was in the offing, I have been looking forward to hearing it. However, I was also worried because I fervently hoped that the material would live up to my self-created hype. And, with Pete being such a genuinely lovely guy, I desperately wanted to like this record even more. I can’t be dishonest but I hate hurting artists feelings too – that’s not what the Blog of Much Metal is all about.
But you know what? Having lived with ‘Engines of Gravity’ for a week or two, I needn’t have been so nervous. ‘Engines Of Gravity’ is, if anything, a step up for Pete, both in terms of song writing and his performances. The melodic, atmospheric and rather epic-sounding brand of progressive metal with a gritty, almost sci-fi edge on offer here demonstrates an increasing maturity and underlines what a talented chap Pete is, not to mention that he is a safe pair of hands. Don’t you just hate people like this?
If I have anything approaching a small quibble with ‘Engines Of Gravity’, it is where the production is concerned. I fully appreciate the budgetary constraints under which Pete Morten will have found himself here and generally, he has done a very good job. All of the instruments come through in the mix and there is plenty of clarity. However, I can’t help but quietly wish that the rhythm guitar tones were even more powerful, particularly given the fact that this is Pete’s primary instrument. Just occasionally, they deserve a little more oomph. But to contextualise this, it is a very minor issue with an otherwise superb release.
Having got that out of the way, let’s focus on the strengths of ‘Engines of Gravity’ because there are several. Firstly there’s the tone and the feel of the album which I believe needs to be addressed separately. This is a multi-layered and multi-faceted album that explores many different tones and textures throughout its length. The nine compositions each have their own identity but cleverly, fit into the overall aural tapestry, one that is filled with richness and not a little amount of thought-provoking material both musically and lyrically.
‘Engines of Gravity’ begins in immensely strong fashion with ‘In Bed With The Enemy’, a dramatic track that begins with strange electronic sounds that build in intensity and give way to bold bass work and a sharp riff overlaid with lashings of synths and more virtuosic lead guitar embellishments. The chorus is a soaring, melodic affair and there’s a deeply sombre spoken word section sampled above a more minimalist soundscape which tackles to some extent the issue of global capitalism with sobering results. Right at the outset then, you’re left in no doubt that Pete Morten is not shy of confronting big issues with his music, a trend that continues throughout the record.
To underline this, ‘Fire In The Blood’ takes over and is a much shorter, punchier affair that fundamentally deals with human sexuality and the way that sex is often misused. The music itself calls to mind Pete’s work with Threshold, thanks to the overall song structure and wonderfully chunky riffing.
In classic prog style, the next two songs, ‘A Modern Lexicon’ and ‘Lamentation’ form a suite that extends beyond the ten-minute mark but does so with style and panache. I adore the repetitive single-note guitar and synth combo that slowly gives way to more flamboyant led guitar work but which is a recurring theme within ‘…Lexicon’. The use of light and shade as well as differing tempos is nicely done, injecting more drama to the music. And during the quieter passages, the bass is allowed to take the limelight, accented by solid drumming from Roots. The keys are an ever present too, creating plenty of atmosphere in the process. ‘Lamentation’ is a much shorter, more straightforward piece that, to my mind, summons the spirit of Pink Floyd.
‘The Progenitor’ has a much darker, foreboding, almost sinister edge to it. Pete’s keys suggest something more suspenseful and filmic over which he song journeys with purpose and purposeful intent.
Possibly my favourite track on ‘Engines Of Gravity’ hits in the form of ‘A Kind Of Fury’. As the title suggests, it begins in heavy, urgent fashion before opening up slightly to increase the impact of the synths within a beautiful chorus melody. Here, I’m firmly of the opinion that Pete offers some of his best vocals on the entire record. Deeply resonant one moment and then soaring towards the high notes the next, Morten shows his impressive range and proves that his voice has further improved since the debut.
A very intriguing and almost creepy spoken-word sample ushers in ‘Darkness Is Gathering’. It is of an older female American reciting what must be religious text but in the context of this song with its subtle intensity and unsettling sounds, it has a more profound impact than it otherwise might have. The layered melodic vocals are stunning within a composition that threatens to explode but instead smoulders until it climaxes in strong but well-controlled fashion. It is more powerful because of this and the whole thing burrows insidiously into my skin.
Talking of profound impacts, it leads me perfectly into the utterly exquisite ‘Confluence’. A piano and vocal led ballad of sorts, the melodies make it feel sad but the lyrics betray something a little more positive with close listening. The vocal melodies are sublime and the lyrics of ‘Keep your heart clear, keep your conscience near…keep your head when all appears lost, it’s not hopeless…’ really strike a chord with me. I don’t mind admitting that my eyes have moistened on occasion as I’ve listened to this song.
‘Engines Of Gravity’ bids farewell via ‘The Emptying of Meaning’ one of three songs to break the eight-minute barrier. The pounding drums make quite an opening statement before the ante is upped through more strong, simple riffs and wailing lead guitars. My Soliloquy are not going to shrink quietly into the night as this is one of the most dramatic and commanding tracks on offer, full of heaviness via double-pedal drumming, slick riffs, yet more layers of lush synths and a genuinely progressive sheen to boot, accentuated by a complete change of pace around the midway point which I really like.
I hadn’t intended on writing a blow-by-blow account of ‘Engines Of Gravity’ but if it is good enough and deserves it, why not? I wasn’t blown away on a first listen; more accurately, my love of this album has grown gently over time. As a result, I feel that it has made more of a lasting impression on me and I find myself humming certain melodies or phrases when I least expect it. Cutting to the chase, I heartily recommend My Soliloquy and ‘Engines of Gravity’ to anyone who appreciates well-crafted and intelligent progressive metal. It’s that simple.
The Score Of Much Metal: 9.25
If you’ve enjoyed this review, check out my others from previous years and for 2017 right here:
Battle Beast – Bringer Of Pain
Persefone – Aathma
Soen – Lykaia
Exquirla – Para Quienes Aun Viven
Odd Logic – Effigy
Mors Principium Est – Embers Of A Dying World
Firewind – Immortals
Slyde – Back Again EP
Sepultura – Machine Messiah
Deserted Fear – Dead Shores Rising
Kreator – Gods Of Violence
Borealis – World of Silence MMXVII
Pain of Salvation – In The Passing Light of Day