There are several modern collaborative groups between popular progressive musicians-“supergroups”, if you will- that have created really stellar music, among them Flying Colors, Transatlantic, OSI (to name a few). However, for me, the primary consideration for the success of a group of this type is: if you were to hear this group without knowing the members, what would you make of the music? In other words, if you were to view the group without the expectations that their previous musical projects, and view the product without bias, would this still be a band worth investigating?
When I first heard about The Sea Within, I was over the moon. I have been a fan of progressive music since the late 90s, and this musical project features some of my favorite progressive rock artists from that formative time period when I first discovered the various genres and subgenres of progressive music. Pain of Salvation’s Daniel Gildenlow has, for years, been one of my favorite vocalists and composers. I knew the incredible bassist Jonas Reingold from his work with The Tangent, The Flower Kings, and his own amazing band, Karmakanik. Marco Minneman might be one of the best drummers out there. Roine Stolt is an absolute progressive legend, whether he was playing with Kaipa or The Flower Kings or more recently, Transatlantic. For me, Tom Brislin was a recent addition to my musical knowledge, but I had the pleasure of meeting him at ProgStock, and was made aware of his successful career with bands such as Yes, Renaissance, among many others. In other words, with a group this stacked with talent, I wanted to enter into listening to the music with an objective frame of mind, and try not to let my enthusiasm for their other projects affect my listening.
This project was initiated through conversations between Inside Out’s Thomas Waber and Roine Stolt. Roine said “I think all it started as a suggestion from the record company [InsideOut]- putting together a new band, starting fresh, seeing if collective writing could spawn a unique style. “ The group met, swapped demos and ideas, and after some rehearsing, managed to produce around 2 hours of content. The more I learn about songwriting and artistic processes, the more I understand how projects like these are able to come to fruition. When one considers that there is more than a century of musical experience between a group of people (especially people who already share musical values and chemistry), it’s easier to see how an album like this- epic, grandiose, cinematic- could be written in a relatively short period of time. True artists trust their instincts, share and shape ideas freely and without hesitation, and don’t hold any punches.
So, considering all of these elements, I’ll get into the music. The Sea Within is definitely the musical composite of all of its members. It’s a huge reduction to say, “Oh, this is a Pain of Salvation passage” or “That sounds like a Flower Kings line”, but you can definitely hear the contributions from previous projects throughout. Having said that, The Sea Within is something very unique and original, and not exactly what I expected from this group of musicians. I think Roine’s work with Translatlantic and The Flower Kings made me expect something a bit more light-hearted, but the final product is a bit more serious, even brooding at times. From the very first track, “Ashes of Dawn”, The Sea Within makes an epic and bold musical statement of intent, with profound and metaphorical lyrics and huge production, and even a killer saxophone solo near the end of the song.
Some of the musical highlights on the album: “They Know My Name” is one of those songs that will remain with you for days after, for both the haunting lyrical content and the catchy, somber chorus. “Denise” is a powerful, bombastic track with an intense and very satisfying build and release, complete with march-like drums in the background. “The Void” is a somber, reflective piece, and features a beautifully eerie keyboard solo by keyboard wizard Tom Brislin. The second half of the album features contributions from Casey McPherson of Flying Colors and Alpha Rev fame, whose idiosyncratic and emotive vocal contributions provide an excellent contrast to Daniel’s operatics. His performance in “Goodbye” is somber and powerful, and the interplay between Daniel and Casey in “The Broken Cord” is fantastic.
My favorite track on the album is “An Eye For an Eye For an Eye”. The word that comes to mind when I hear this song is “exuberant”. Every musician shines in this song. Marco’s drumming is energetic and joyful. Tom Brislin’s keyboards are spot on, and he even treats us to a gorgeous jazz solo in the middle section of the song. Daniel’s voice is excellent on this track. I would love to see this performed live, as I think is a powerful and fun musical journey, and it sounds like it will be a crowd favorite when The Sea Within performs at Cruise to the Edge next year.
The Sea Within’s self titled album is a lot like the ocean- powerful, deep, and intense. While there were a few tracks that I loved right away, I would say that most of the music took me several listens to fully absorb. Like a lot of progressive/art rock, this album wouldn’t be categorized as “easy listening” at all, but investment in each track definitely has paid off. I also would be remiss if I didn’t mention how impressed I was with Tom Brislin. Despite his critically acclaimed solo work, and his amazing live work with Yes, Renaissance, Camel, and other progressive heavyweights, he doesn’t quite have the name recognition in the progressive world that I think he deserves. I hope that his excellent synth and piano work on this album will lead him to more epic collaborations.
In some ways, this group met my high expectations. The composition is expectedly strong and the music is bold and dynamic. In other ways, The Sea Within exceeded expectations. The production, the depth of the music, the guest contributions, and the synergy of these musicians together all really impressed me. I am certain that fans of each of the members’ respective music will enjoy The Sea Within, but I believe that the album is much more than the sum of its parts, and that each of these stellar musicians have managed to create something very new and fresh with The Sea Within.
The Sea Within’s self titled debut will be released on June 22nd, 2018 through Inside Out Music. Buy it here.