The Bardic Depths -
Promises Of Hope

(CD 2022, 61:10, Gravity Dream)

The tracks:
  1- And She Appeared(7:47)
  2- Regal Pride(5:18)
  3- Consumed(7:57)
  4- The Burning Flame(6:01)
  5- Colours And Shapes(7:14)
  6- Why Are You Here?(7:51)
  7- Returned(4:50)
  8- The Essence(4:34)
  9- Imagine(9:38)

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The Bardic Depths released their eponymous debut album (see review) in 2020 and several of the main contributors have now formed an all new band. The new line up consists of founding member and main songwriter Dave Bandana, Peter Jones (Camel/ Tiger Moth Tales/ Red Bazar), Gareth Cole (Paul Menel/ Fractal Mirror and very recently Drifting Sun) and Tim Gehrt (The Streets/ Steve Walsh). As with the previous album , the core band are ably supported by a number of guest performances including Robin Armstrong (Cosmograf) who also co-produces the album.

The story for the album was written by US based history professor Brad Birzer and centres around the horrors of suicide and the possibilities of redemption.
“Our two Bards this time are Virgil and C.S Lewis who both wrote about the complexities of suicide. However, our story is simple in that a young queen tries to kill herself but Heaven will not allow it and instead offers redemption. The listener can decide the outcome,” says bandleader Dave Bandana. “Working with everyone again was a joy. Gareth, Peter and Tim contributed to every track and it was a logical conclusion to ask them to become The Bardic Depths band. I didn't want this album to sound the same as the first. Essentially it is a Prog album but with a few surprises. I let the music flow where it wanted as the guys contributions were added to the palette and I think we have created a diverse and absorbing album.”

With such an illustrious pedigree my expectations for this album were quite high and Bandana and company did not disappoint! The album moves from mellow-prog (similar to Al Stewart or Anthony Phillips) and Celtic-prog (similar to Clannad) all the way to psychedelic-prog, bringing to mind visions of Pink Floyd. The album reminded me, in many ways, of classic Caravan. The amazing musicianship throughout the album truly sets the tone but ultimately it is the eclectic mix of styles and moods that makes this album so fantastic.

My favourite tracks are The Burning Flame (with Gareth Cole's brilliant guitar work), the instrumental Colours And Shapes (with an incredible sax solo from Peter Jones), The Essence (which reminds of the short-lived 80's band Red 7) and Imagine - which triumphantly draws the album to close.

This is an album which may just have found its way into my top ten for the year. The expert blending of progressive and even jazz elements with pop sensibilities makes for a truly enjoyable listen. Highly recommended!

**** David Carswell

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