Gerard Smith’s latest solo album promises to be his most ambitious offering to date. Although there are consistent creative excursions throughout the music of Celtic rock group Bill Grogan’s Goat (Gerard’s band of many years), he found himself writing songs that operated better outside the confines of his ensemble group. Thus, Lullabies in an Ancient Tongue, Gerard’s third and most adventurous solo outing, was born.
The album title, an apparent reference to King Crimson’s seminal track “In the Court of the Crimson King”, is a decent preface to the album itself, as the influence of early progressive rock bands such as Yes, King Crimson, and Moody Blues can be heard throughout the diverse tracks. There are several subdued and gorgeous tracks, such as “Sweet Dreams and Soft Mornings”, that seem to emerge from that era of prog.
However, there are also a number of more modern, heavier tracks. One such track, “Breathe”, features some intense guitar shredding, as well as an extremely solid rhythm section comprised of District 97’s Tim Seisser on bass and Arkentype’s Simen Sandnes on drums. A heavy, dissonant verse and chorus evolve into a multi-part set of solos and sections, with some amazing displays of musical talent. The track ends with a Moody Blues-esque section, which encourages the listener to relax and be mindful, before it ends with what could almost be a metal tribute to Chet Atkins. Gerard’s willingness to genre-hop and explore is more than apparent on this 10 and a half minute track.
This album is, for the most part, a departure from his primary project, Celtic group Bill Grogan’s Goat. However, it seems that Celtic influence finds a way to show through in his compositions. One such example is the intro track, “Standing Stones”, which begins as progressive metal, but features a Celtic-style breakdown near the end of the track.
One of the most refreshing things about this album is Gerard’s voice. Rock music (and even progressive rock) generally favors screechy tenors, and I find that the tendency towards high pitched male vocals (as well as mixing issues) often times compels baritones to abandon their lower register. Gerard seems to know his voice well, and writes music that favors his baritone/bass tones. As it can often be jarring to hear people sing out of their register, the opposite is true: Gerard’s strong baritone/bass voice feels comfortable alone or in layers of harmonies, as is heard in leading single “Waves of Confusion”.
Also of note are the instrumental passages. Gerard carefully assembled a roster of collaborators and friends that ended up adding a lot to the compositions. I know albums can be a pain to make, and there is a lot of work that is often involved, but the solos and instrumental parts sound like a lot of fun, and there is a long list of accomplished musicians who helped Gerard Smith bring this album to life. They deserve a definite shout-out!
In short, Gerard Smith made a very enjoyable, diverse, and thoughtful progressive rock album that will be a welcome listen to fans of both classic and modern progressive music.
Gerard Smith’s latest solo album, Lullabies in an Ancient Tongue, was released on June 22, 2021. Buy it here on Bandcamp.