Mostly Autumn -
Graveyard Star.

(CD 2021, 75:29, Mostly Autumn Records/ NOVA AUTO0355)

The tracks:
  1- Graveyard Star(12:05)
  2- The Plague Bell(2:00)
  3- Skin of Mankind(4:32)
  4- Shadows(4:14)
  5- The Harder That You Hurt(4:32)
  6- Razor Blade(7:09)
  7- This Endless War(6:52)
  8- Spirit of Mankind(4:58)
  9- Back in These Arms(6:27)
10- Free to Fly(3:59)
11- The Diamond(6:01)
12- Turn Around Slowly(12:40)

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The UK based progressive rock band Mostly Autumn is no stranger to many of our readers. I think you can say that Mostly Autumn is an established band in the genre for quite an amount of years. Personally I didn't follow the band from the beginning. Until five years ago I didn't have much interest in progrock bands with female singers. I don't have a good reason for that, but luckily that changed. When I started to listen to Magenta oneday, it got me and the rest is history.

The first Mostly Autumn album I ever heard was Sight Of Day (2017, see review). I really liked the atmospheres of the album. Besides that I also liked the different influences that the album contained. These run from heavy rock to folk rock. It was then that I started to invest the band and also started to buy more albums.
Personally, I like the last two albums the band released the most. After listening to Sight Of Day and White Rainbow (2019, see review) I thought that the band wouldn't be able to surpass these latest two albums. But Mostly Autumn surprised me this year with the incredible album Graveyard Star. Personally I think it is one of their best albums ever. This album is some sort of bright spot in dark times. For me it is! In my opinion Mostly Autumn made a shift. On Graveyard Star most of the folk influences have made place for some more neo prog influences. I can imagine that some of the listeners won't like this shift a lot, but to me it all sounds like a blessing from the sky.

The album is a real pandemic album. Main theme of the album are feelings that someone can face in crisis situations such as this. The feelings can go from anger to depression and from solidarity to loneliness. Probably the lock downs sped up the whole recording process as well. A lot of other bands have released albums in 2021. The time they weren't able to go on tour, was in most cases used to record albums

Graveyard Star was made with the following line-up: Andy Smith (bass), Angela Gordon (flute, keyboards), Bryan Josh (guitars, vocals), Chris Johnson (guitars), Henry Rogers (drums), Iain Jennings (keyboards) and Olivia Sparnenn-Josh (vocals). In general this line-up was rather stabile.

The album starts in a very ominous- and quite dark atmosphere. In my imagination I am in the Middle Ages and I am walking in a graveyard, counting deaths. The 12 minute epic title track takes us on a dark journey in time. The track contains quiet parts alternating with more heavy- and up-tempo parts. The lyrics are written in metaphors and therefore somehow not always easy to comprehend. Nevertheless, I cannot think of a better way to open an album.

The Plague Bell is a 2 minute intermezzo which connects two songs. It's a lingering track with a lot of tension. Once again the atmosphere is rather dark. The main vocals are done by Bryan Josh.

The next track feels a little odd with regard to the general atmosphere on the album. Skin Of Mankind is a mid-tempo track with some country rock or folk rock influences. It is the only track on this album that refer strongly to their folky roots.
After listening to this track several times, it has become one of my favorites. The track has a fantastic walking groove and it pulls you up.

Shadows is another mid-tempo track that is sung by Josh and has a very dark atmosphere. On the dark atmosphere I have to make the remark that all of these tracks are also very melodic. Personally this is what makes the tracks interesting. Shadows is somewhat mainstream and there for not quite spectacular. But I think most of us will like the track.

The next track The Harder You Hurt is a phenomenal one. It has a great development, it starts very mellow and ends very solid with for example, great guitar walls. The vocals of Olivia Sparnenn-Josh reach in all kind of senses great height. This is probably an example of what most Mostly Autumn fans want to hear from the band.

Razor Blade is a 7 minute epic-like track with fantastic chorus lines and once more a great structure. The tension at the beginning of the track is intense. There are two issues that I personally don't like about this track. First one is the drums at the beginning, which are electronic. I think that acoustic drums would have done much better.
The second pain point are the vocals of Bryan. These vocals are in poor contrast with those of Olivia. Bryan isn't a real vocalist and actually are all parts that he sings more or less mediocre. I think it would be better to leave the vocals to Olivia or to hire a better singer.

The modest vocals of Sparnenn cut through This Endless War so intensely that you almost feel the pain that is expressed in this beautiful song. The same applies to the lingering guitar solo. Josh is inspired by David Gilmour, but that is no secret for most of the readers. The track has a typical Mostly Autumn structure. But maybe this is a trademark of the band.

The same can be said of the next track: Spirit Of Mankind. This song is mid- to up-tempo and has a phenomenal chorus. The chorus is catchy and can be remembered easily. It is not complicated and has a standard structure. The chorus is so good that it easily has become one of my favorite tracks of the album.

Back In These Arms is a track that starts with dark atmospheres. I really like the church organ which is back in the mix of this track. The track is a really nice composition. I have just two remarks: the vocals of Josh aren't very strong in my opinion. But I discussed that in an earlier stage. Further on the drums are rather simplistic. There is a lot of “ka-boom ka-boom” rhythm. In my opinion it could be more creative. But probably the band has reasons to do different. That said: Rogers isn't a bad drummer at all, that's not the problem.

The second last track Free To Fly starts with wonderful piano and vocals of Sparnenn. She has such an incredible voice that I almost have forgotten her predecessor Heather Findlay.
The track develops to a more orchestral- , cinematic track and is also one of my favorites.

The Diamond is also a rather cinematic track, with Sparnenn on vocals. The track is good, but not one I will remember long term. Personally I think this is a track that maybe could be left from the album. Probably real fans won't agree on that.

The album ends with the epic Turn Around Slowly. This 12 minute track has the typical Mostly Autumn structure. It's a slow starter that develops into a heavy bombastic song. Interesting is that at the end of this track the chorus of Spirit Of Mankind is coming back. It's a great track to end this fabulous album.

I listened to this album probably 10 or 15 times before writing this review. I really enjoyed this incredible album and I will certainly come back to it. It is too good to leave on the shelf. Although the album has some minors, the pluses are in the majority. Therefore I rate it with a 5 out of 5.
I am very curious how this band will develop, so I can't wait for the next album, on which we won't have to wait too long, I guess.

***** Aad Bannink (edited by Tracy van Os van den Abeelen)

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