IO Earth - Sanctuary

(CD 2023, 65:36, IO Earth)

The tracks:
  1- Outside(6:22)
  2- Running(5:59)
  3- Sanctuary(6:15)
  4- The Child(8:42)
  5- Close By(5:18)
  6- Airborne(7:13)
  7- Changes(9:06)
  8- Sunshine(8:58)
  9- Won't Be Afraid(7:43)

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After IO Earth released their latest studio album, Aura (2020, see review), they treated us with their first acoustic album, Acoustic vol 1. (2021, see review) I had the pleasure to review that album and rated it with five stars because the band took us on adventures of existing songs of half of the album. I said that the band made completely new songs from the older ones and that it depended on your mood which one you preferred. I also wrote in that review that I was really looking forward to the new studio album, Sanctuary. The band promised that it would be something very different than they did before. And to be honest, all studio albums were different and exactly that makes this band so unique. Only countrymen Haken makes completely different albums as the previous ones, as IO Earth does.

In earlier reviews I had beautiful words for vocalist Rosanna Lefevre. In my opinion she has one of the most velvet voices in the progrock scene. When I heard a little while ago that Rosanna parted ways with IO Earth, I wiped some tears because in my opinion she was the perfect lady for this band. After another while I heard Linda Odinsen returned to the band. She was the vocalist of the New World album (2015, see review) and after she left, Rosanna took her place on the microphone. So now we can say that they leapfrogged. Of course Linda is also a great vocalist, but I wrote earlier that Rosanna has a warmer sound in my humble opinion. So I was very curious to this release, what would it do with me and how did the new album turned out to be.

If I am really honest I did not like the album after the first spin. The main reason was that there was so much happening in all of the songs that it sounded a bit of a mash to me without a head and a tail. My thoughts were: is it really happening that IO Earth made an album that could not be rated with five stars by me? Really? Well, stop reading now for a moment, scroll to the last part of the review and see that I gave another five stars to this album. They deserve it very well. Just let me take you on the trip that is called Sanctuary!

In Outside keys enters and dip you into the music, the trend is just there. Music that makes sense, hold you close so the hormone oxytocin will be made, and that is just the hormone of love (and that is what you hear in this music). A bit new in the music are all the electronic elements in this way. Earlier they used electronics as well, but not in this way. Sometimes you hear a bit of the atmosphere of Aura without being equal. In the beginning it is singing together from Dave Cureton and Linda, a beautiful combination. The music becomes really heavy to show you the difference in the feelings that you can see from the outside versus how we can feel from the inside. That is the main theme in this song. The Spanish guitar from Dave touches you as only he can do with his guitar playing. Tim Wilson is on fire on his drums in this song with his slamming in a more slow part of the song, great. Towards the end Dave his guitar screams, fantastic solo. After that the song fades away. Well, the head is off and the first great song is a fact.

Also Running has a little vibe that we had on Aura, but again, it is different. A beat drives the song and make you, uhmm... running, just as the song is called. Linda is singing great and then the song bursts out. There are a lot of changes that all have their own emotional state of mind. Another great guitar solo from Dave are you listening to if Adam Gough makes sounds with his keyboards that you only can grin of because you are looking around who created this, it is out of this world if you ask me. Oh, during this episode of the song you are, of course headbanging because it is a heavy one. Another great song.

Sanctuary starts a bit spooky with again, the beautiful voice of Linda. Also this song is a heavy one and the great keyboard sounds of Adam gives you another smile on your face, how does he make them up. In this song you hear Dave singing like he did in the song The Rain, from Aura. The whole vibe in this particular part of the song reminds me of that beautiful song. The way Dave sings 'let me go' gives me goosebumps all over my body. After this Adam gives his keys another magic sound, fantastic. Towards the end, the song is still really heavy, Dave gives another piercing guitar solo. With heavy drums the songs comes to an end. Now we have had three songs and all three are heavy ones. You can now and then say we are listening to prog metal, but top shelf.

In The Child piano sounds enter, really easy listening in my humble opinion. But after the three heavy songs, it is needed to 'relax' a bit. If I have to compare this intro with another intro from this band, for me it is a bit equal with Waterfall from Aura, and that was a highlight of the album to me. Will The Child be another highlight? Well, it surely is. IO Earth is really super good in creating songs where the vocals are so important. In this one Linda has free way to show her majesty, what she does. The atmosphere is fantastic, however lyrically it is all but fantastic because the song goes about a child that is left in the cold and no one takes responsibility while we are in a war zone (hear the shots from the gun on the background). Musical wise Dave's guitar is so emotional in this song, we can call that the second highlight of the song (and the solos takes it's time, thank goodness). He takes you on his trip down to your soul. During this solos you can hear the fantastic rhythm section doing its job. In the end there is a moment for Jennie Appleyard and her cello. A phenomenal song, if you ask me.

Close By is a beautiful ballad with only roles for Adam and Linda. You can lick your fingers at this one, as well as you can wipe your tears because it touches you so deep, just wow.

In Airborne unusual sounds starts the song. Dave is singing and you wonder where the song is developing to. Just listen and imagine what is happening, that is the nice thing of music, no one can stop your imaginations. Then alarming sounds takes over and the song becomes heavy. Also Linda is singing in this song and you can hear the flute of Luke Shingler. In this song you can notice so many elements, heavy and slower parts so that I cannot describe it all. It is a trip you will have to undergo. The strange electronic sounds of Adam are another highlight, just as the heavy guitar licks of Dave. Another great song.

Changes is the longest song of the record and clocks over nine minutes. The song takes its time to reveal itself. It is a song that starts a bit more slow than a lot of other songs on the album, however there are surely heavy parts that you can hear and so the song also ends. There is a lot of atmosphere, it sounds mellow and has a few fantastic guitar solos from Dave. I think this is the song that has the most old IO Earth sounds in it, without being an oldy in that way.

Sunshine also starts a bit strange. You don't know where the song is going to be, until the strange sounds are over. Then it develops to be another heavy one, with now and then less heavy parts in the song. Linda sings her lungs out and that sounds terrific again. The rhythm section is great and Dave is another time on fire in this one and again you feel your tears coming. It is nice that Luke has another moment to shine with one of his flutes. Sunshine is the eight song on the album and Sunshine is the eight highlight.

And then it is time for the album closer, Won't Be Afraid. I had to get used to this song. In the beginning I had a bit of a love hate relationship with it. I could not put my finger on it why I had that feeling, but I had to deal with it. And after a lot of spins I can surely appreciate the song. It will not be my highlight of the album, but that is totally okay. The song is more mellow, danceable with a nice guitar solo in it as well as a lot of violin.

So now we are here, after the last song of the album. What can we say more than I wrote above here? Well, that you can always trust the motivation, inspiration and creative art Dave Cureton and Adam Gough have together. And of course the other bandmates did do their job, but let Dave and Adam be the creative heart of the band. They never ever fail in making good and inspired music, they just know how to be in the flow status. Normal people now and then are in that status but Dave and Adam now and then are not. Every song on this album is a gem in its own way. For me they are a perfect musical duo. Besides this, I really have to mention that Linda also is a fantastic singer. Towards the New World album I think she has grown as a singer and I can appreciate her more than ever. If she 'wins' from Rosana? I do not know, but that is not the question. I am really happy with her voice on this record.

People, head over to your music store to buy the album and give it a listen, or at least two before making up your mind if it makes sense, because it will. One of the highlights of the year, if you ask me. I really am curious what's next in the history of IO Earth, but I will trust that it will be another great piece of music.

***** Michel Stolk (edited by Tracy van Os van den Abeelen)

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