After redesigning and updating the progVisions website with our 1100 album reviews, it is now time to write album reviews again to inform you about the most remarkable releases from the prog scene. As you will understand we have at this time some albums waiting for a review. And the first one in this new format has to be a special one.
With this review, we will remember the late Tom Doncourt. The man who was the force behind a real classic progressive rock album. Of course, I am talking about "Stain Glass Stories" of Cathedral. In Mattias Olsson's (ex Änglagård) own words;
“The first time me and my bandmates in Änglagård heard Cathedral we were quite honestly blown away. We were huge fans of all the classic progressive rock bands but there was something very special about Cathedral. One thing was of course that their timing and geography were off...Being from the US in the latter half of the 70s playing progressive rock must have been the worst timing and for us playing progressive rock in Sweden in the early 90s, our timing was equally as bad. There was a certain kind of kinship”.
In the early 2000s, Mattias Olsson found Tom Doncourt on the web and soon became friends because there was an instant connection. When Tom found out that he was sick he became even more creative and productive. Tom and Mattias started talking about doing an album together. An album that would be done like they had done with their old bands in the past. It should be classic progressive rock but no sentimentality or reenactments. After several writing and recording sessions for this project, the devastating news that Tom's body had given up reached Mattias in Sweden. After processing this terrible news Mattias decided to finish the album they wrote and recorded together. As Mattias explains:
“The album is called Tom Doncourt and Mattias Olsson's Cathedral and for most people, it is probably a collection of Mellotron drenched progressive rock but to me, it is an emotional sonic polaroid of mine and Toms friendship”.
Tom Doncourt - Mellotron 400, Chamberlin M1, Moog 15 Modular, Hammond organ, Grand piano, Yamaha CS-30, Ondea, Bird organ, Wurlitaer Electric piano, Clavioline, Hammond solovox; Mattias Olsson - Drums tuned, Untuned and detuned percussion, Electric guitars, Baritone guitars, Wurlitzer Electric piano, Turntables, Speak & Read, Vako orchestration, Optigan, Gizmotron, Chamberlin Rhythmmate
Hampus Nordgren-hemlin - Electric bass, Additional Electric and Acoustic guitars, Fender VI, Jenco and Schiedmayer celeste, Vako orchestration, Hohner bass 2, Hohner guitaret, Omnichord, Jerry Jones Electric sitar; Akaba -vocals; Stina Hellberg Agback - Harp on "Chamber"; Hanna Ekström - violin and viola on "Poppies"; Anna Dager - cello on "Poppies".
The album opens with the short "Poppy Seeds Intro" which is built on polyphonic vocals. The beautiful melody of this intro returns in the following song "Poppy Seeds". This is also a short and slow song but it is more powerful through the instrumentation and special effect of the sound of a needle making its way through a recording on vinyl. The acoustic guitar at the start of the following tune "Chamber" has also the delicacy of the previous pieces but the atmosphere of this track is soon becoming much darker. The reason is the wonderfully broad and dark sounds of the Mellotron and deep bass and percussion parts. These dark passages are alternated with fairytale-like parts with acoustic instruments like acoustic guitar, harp, and bell-like percussion. This fairytale-like atmosphere is abruptly over when the fourth track, simple entitled "#1" blares through the speakers of your stereo. A transition with a wow factor! This long track is absolutely one of the highlights of the album. Overall, the music is dark, mysterious, and sometimes complex. That complexity alternates with passages with lighter atmospheres and beautiful melodies. "#1" is a delicacy for fans of the previously mentioned bands Cathedral and Änglagård and for Mellotron lovers in general. But is it not over yet. The following track "Tower Mews" which opens with a delicate Electic piano has the most beautiful Mellotron melody you have ever heard. A moment of goosebumps and tearful eyes. This is followed by a track entitled "Today". Also a piece with remarkable melodies. Maybe you could see this track as a kind of introduction to the following epic track "Poppies In A Field". Maybe I have this feeling because, throughout the whole album, wonderful melodies are returning in some way in the following track. We are speaking of a consistent album. It all comes together in the wonderful track "Poppies In A Field". The only track with vocals. You will find great percussion, drums and bass parts in this keyboard (Mellotron) drenched composition with breathtaking melodies. The album comes to an end with the short track "The Last Bridge Organ". To end with some words of Mattias Olsson "It is an emotional sonic polaroid of mine and Toms friendship".
Tom Doncourt and Mattias Olsson's Cathedral is a remarkable album that celebrates the life and musical craftmanship of Tom Doncourt, the master of the breathtaking Mellotron melodies. As a music lover and lover of progressive rock, you have to give this album some time to land. Only after several listening sessions, the album reveals its true beauty. It is so much more than those wow moments for Mellotron lovers. It is one of my personal favorite albums of the year 2020. A must-buy for Cathedral and Änglagård lovers. Highly recommended by progVisions.
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