First of all my apology’s to not starting writing reviews again sooner. The problem is always work and project orientated. And because progVisions is the latest years a solo hobby project, there is no backup plan when I am busy with other projects that are paying for my bills.
So you can imagine that I have some albums waiting for review. The first one is the latest album “Wither Down” of the band Monarch Trail. When keyboard player/vocalist Ken Baird had written some music which seemed to require more collaborative arrangements than usual, he asked some musicians if they’d be willing to be part of Monarch Trail. After ‘Skye’ (2014) and “Sand” (2017), the third Monarch Trail album “Wither Down” was released in October 2021.
Chris Lamont - Drums; Dino Verginella - bass guitar, keyboards; Ken Baird - Piano, keyboards, vocals, guitar, other instruments
Kelly Kereliuk - lead and rhythm guitar (on tracks 2, 3, 5 and 6) Steve Cochrane - acoustic guitar (on track 9)
“Wither Dawn” is prog heaven for the lovers of keyboard drenched symphonic rock. You can find 6 tracks on this wonderful album. The album opens with the long title track “Wither Dawn” (10:53). It starts with a piano part that is accompanied by a bass, but soon the synths are kicking in and I had to think of the band Happy The Man. The track is full of lovely piano parts and synth melodies. Multi instrumentalist Ken Baird is also responsible for the vocal parts. The song develops into the first highlight of the album. All the parts are seamlessly integrated into a great opener. Love the combination of broad synth strings with the vocal parts and the classical touch of the piano parts. This is followed by the shortest track of the album. “Echo” (6:00) is more song oriented but by now you are already hooked into this album with all that great synth melodies. By now you also will hear the influences of the master Tony Banks. It has to do with the kind of playing the keys and the sounds. “Echo” is full of lovely synth solo’s. After all this uptempo keyboard treats, the band slows down a little bit with the melodic “Canyon Song”(6:32). On this track you will also find some fine guitar parts played by guest Kelly Kereliuk. The last part of this song has a very beautiful synth melody and fine drum work by Chris Lamont. And then it is time for one of my favourite tracks of this album, “Waves of Sound” (11:01). The track opens with wonderful and melodic vocal melodies on a bed of symphonic keyboard strings. Later on the piano takes over the roll of the vocals. The track has the needed diversity to not becoming boring or long-winded. It keeps the attention of the listener. Especially the string sounds are top notch on this album. The end of the track has a full and broad string part that reminds us of the work of Anthony Phillips and Tony Banks. This beauty is followed by the longest track of the album “Megalopolitana” (15:19). In the opening the piano has an important role. And after some polyphonic vocal parts the beautiful synth melodies are returning. The electric guitar work on this track is again from the hand of Kelly Kereliuk and the acoustic guitar is played by Steve Cochrane. The ending of this long track is very beautiful with lovely synth melodies. The album closes with the track “All Kinds of Futures” (6:48). This shorter track has all the great ingredients of the longer track. If you want to come up with one word to describe the music of Monarch Trail it is the word melody. There are so much fine melodies on this album.
“Wither Down” is a fine symphonic rock album that is keyboard dominated. Ken Baird impressed me with his fine keyboard playing (the synths but also his fine piano playing) and nice vocal parts. You can find the most beautiful synth melodies on this album. His keyboard sounds are great and if you listen to my favourite track “Waves of Sound” you can hear that the man is inspired by the work of Tony Banks. This said Monarch Trail has developed an own identity and I just love all the beautiful melodies. If you like your (symphonic) prog with a lot of synths and great melodies, this one is for you. Therefore highly recommended by progVisions.