As ever, one of the great joys of this reviewing lark is hearing bands that I’d be unlikely to encounter with my normal random sweeps though the potential musical goldmine that is the internet, and having recently had helpings of Prog from France, Austria, and Germany (come on UK, where are your anorak wearing chin-strokers?), today’s offering of chilled out mellow concept work comes from the Iberian peninsula in the form of Barcelona’s own Onyric Joy, and their work in five movements that is ‘Tales From The First Light’.
Telling a trippy tale of half remembered childhood dreams, the album starts with the epically titled, and equally epic in length ‘Ephemeral Memories From A Foggy Dream’, the track starting like its title, wandering gently from the speakers with mellow beats and lightly plucked chords, the three instruments coming together and building in intensity like a slowly stirring sleeper gathering their thoughts. The guitar work is particularly strong, like ‘Hierophant’ era Steve Hackett, and like the works of that Prog legend, the vocals are not a dominant part of the sound, rather a counterpoint to the music that helps to tell the story of the whole song. Following on from this impressive start is ‘Seeking For A Longed Womb’, and the psychedelic tendencies of the band move to the fore, the track starting with a sprinkling of laconic effects and minimalist rhythm that progress slowly to accompany the impassioned lyrics that demonstrate a far greater vocabulary and knowledge of the English language than 99% of acts that make up the regular UK pop charts, an achievement made all the more laudable by the fact that it is not their native tongue.
Bridging the two halves of the album is the instrumental ‘Dunes Under A Decease Sun’, and I can only imagine the three members of the band were listening to Zeppelin’s ‘Kashmir’ on a loop whilst smoking the good stuff to create the desert atmosphere of the piece, if only to create the feel of the work, not that they are in any way simply aping the structure of that classic. The band then moves on from arid sands to deep blue seas with ‘A Journey Beyond The Abyssal Trench’, guitar effects mimicking whale song, but in a way that is mellow enough to prevent me from wanting to find a shop that stinks of incense and sells crystals and punching the proprietor, my normal reaction to that particular new age monstrosity (yes, I’m an old hippy renowned for being mellow, but some things annoy even me!). The album concludes with ‘Oblivion’, by far the darkest and heaviest piece, the riffs becoming down tuned into the realms of the stoner, lyrics of drugs and despair even touching on the dark territory of doom, showing that Onyric Joy have the ability in the future to take their music in a number of different directions.
Across the whole work, what is constantly remarkable is just how well rounded and developed the band sound on what is a debut recording after just a couple of months working together. Yes, there are sounds that anybody who has dipped a toe into the ocean of Prog would be familiar with, but as a first outing, there is one hell of a lot to recommend, and as a foundation to build on, ‘Tales From The First Light’ is rock solid.