SoundDiary are a four-piece neo-progressive band formed in Vienna in 2007. Originally deriving their influence from bands such as Radiohead, Sigur Ros, Muse and Pink Floyd they have undergone numerous line-up changes in the last decade, concentrating on developing a progressive, complex songwriting style and evolving closer to Porcupine Tree and Dream Theater, sonically closer to the former. Anamnesis- Letter In A Bottle is their third album release, a 5-Act modern epic in which the core band are joined by a cast of characters and it is an absolute treat.
There is a seeming plethora of albums these days which feature some form of mental crisis at the heart, and of them all this is far superior in its handling of the central themes. In fact it is fair to say that this is a far superior piece in its own right. The 5 Acts are structured as a physical and metaphorical journey from birth to death and all points in between. The Anamnesis is not only a patient's own account of an episode of illness, but also a recollection of a separate, previous life. This affords a sense of reaching out and searching for an explanation as part of the journey to truth and realisation. The opening act introduces the symbolism which runs throughout, notably the Glass Prison which introduces a sense of frustration, of thwarted ambition and also the tangible possibility of release, but at what price? This recording has been 5 years in the making and the care the band have put into it shows not only in the beautifully wrought arrangements underpinning the deceptively simple vocal lines, often reminiscent of folk, but in the delicate way the lyrics flow throughout, never sounding forced. Although the piece might look daunting, in execution it is closer to a series of closely interrelated and entwined tracks which entice the listener ever onwards. The main character is joined in Act 2 and beyond by a range of voices, the male and female parts complementing each other perfectly, exploring not only hope for resolution, freedom and absolution but also the quotidien tensions and frustrations of domestic life and disappointed ambition.
Sonically the group are accomplished, the arrangements disciplined and controlled, never flashy for the sake of it, but clearly capable of shifting several gears when called upon, whether hitting the high notes and pulling the heart strings, or pulling a harsher Pendulum-like feel to The Incident which brings Act 2 to a close, the churning electronics pick up the sense of a journey through Train Tripper into Act 3 as the story develops, unveiling layers of truth leading to the critical climax. The denouement to this act is as well-written and paced piece as I have come across on a recent release, not only an efficient piece of storytelling, but also sowing in the seeds of the hubris leading to disaster and segueing brilliantly into the downturn and critical action of Act 4.
A complex web of imagery runs throughout the piece, the glass prison is picked up in crystal imagery, the glass-like lake, windows which encase and also offer possibilities on the other side, as well as being physically at the heart of the story. This complex weaving of language reflects the variety of arrangement and musical styles employed to convey the range of emotions and drama of this piece, which is rarely short of utterly engaging. The final act, as with any classical tragedy offers a sense of resolution in a flourish of regal keyboard and ascending guitar, but at an inevitable cost as pomp and grandeur are whittled down to a nursery-like solo piano capturing a sense of lost innocence and regret as life ebbs away.
This recording has absolutely been worth all the time and effort which has been lovingly spent on it by SoundDiary, and ranks already as one of the best things I have heard this year. I can't find many references to this band in the English-speaking press or forums and hope that this changes very soon. I am also delighted to note that a remastered version of the previous release A Book In My Hand has recently been made available; it is certainly something I will be checking out. Highly recommended.
***** Andrew Cottrell
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