OberonIt’s a bit of a cop out on my part maybe, but the description that accompanies this eleven track journey captures the experience. “Dream Awakening” is presented as a “diverse and imaginative music landscape with contrasting emotions musical symbolism, blending New Art rock with Avant Garde pop and even Neofolk”. The album is characterised by the image of the rising Phoenix, as the story captures the soul’s path towards awakening and man’s struggle to gain self-knowledge. If that sounds heavy going, let me tell you – it isn’t.

This is a remarkable album. From the beginning a crystal clear voice is the medium through which thoughts are expressed. For much of the album there’s a soft and simple acoustic guitar which acts as the framework for the air of self-doubt and melancholy. The voice and music are haunting. What is particularly remarkable is that every track conveys a message which is in perfect musical and vocal harmony. It can be very dark. “It’s a sobering thought that all flowers die, all men will grow old” pronounces the vocalist on “Dark World”. Yet through all this melancholy there is beauty of form and the quiet air contains cosmic majesty. Occasionally it steps up and rises. Stylistically there’s so much that I’m reminded of here. I hear Noel Harrison’s “Windmills of My Mind”, a bit of John Bassett, Cynthesis in the fluid rhythmic melancholy, Anathema in the darkness and on “I Can Touch the Sun with My Heart”, the sinister melodic power of Katatonia. But most of all I hear Dark Suns and Porcupine Tree. The vocalist has the innocent sound of Steven Wilson but there is the same richness and depth in the message. Oberon play gently with sounds but it’s so well packaged and structured that it may be eleven separate pieces but this is one gripping story, which takes us through transforming stages of self-doubt and emotions. From the opening “Empty and Marvellous”, every song has devastating impact. Its gentleness never goes away but is enhanced by the sound effects representing cosmic ecstasy on “We Never Die”. There’s darkness but this is about dreams and aspirations. “We are the flickering thoughts of the cosmos” is a line from “Phoenix” but it’s ultimately very human with the music and words merging into a reflective summer’s breeze. “Machines that Dream” is shatteringly beautiful. “Age of the Moon” ends wispily. These are dreams and reflections, but dreams with which one can identify and in which one can become totally absorbed.

This album is worthy of Porcupine Tree, Katatonia and the other bands mentioned. I now know that its author Bard Oberon has been creating mystical visions for 20 years, so such comparisons are perhaps invalid. What I also know is that I must delve further into his artistic world, such is the quality and spine-tingling ambiance of “Dream Awakening”. This album has a simplicity but above all it is the perfect fusion of developing thoughts and music, resulting in a work of immense impact.

(9/10 Andrew Doherty)