When the American British duo Birzer Bandana started working on a follow up album to their two previous releases Becoming One (2017, see review) and Of Course It Must Be (2018, see review), things turned out a bit differently than was expected. After Bradley Birzer had written a story named The Bardic Depths, which is all about friendship and its ability to get us through anything including war, a concept centring on the literary friendship formed between J.R.R Tolkien and C. S Lewis between 1931 and 1949, nothing seemed to be different compared to the previous releases. But when multi-instrumentalist Dave Bandana went from his home in Lanzarote to the UK to see Big Big Train in 2017 and also got in touch with people from the Big Big Train Facebook forum the album gained a higher musical level. It didn't sound like a Birzer Bandana album anymore. Finally, Robin Armstrong heard the demos and signed the band to his new record label, Gravity Dream Music and co -produced, mixed and mastered the album. And there The Bardic Depths musical project was born!
Getting to a higher musical level meant that this time around Bandana wasn't the only musician playing on this album. Yes, he still plays instruments such as keyboards, guitars, bass, flute, harmonica and sings the lead vocals. But when he asked other musicians to contribute to the songs that he had written, the music sounded more professional than on the earlier released Birzer Bandana albums. He got some musical assistance from people such as Peter Jones (Camel, Tiger Moth Tales, Red Bazar) on vocals and saxophone, Gareth Cole (Under A Banner, Tom Slatter band, Fractal Mirror, Mike Kershaw) on guitar, Kevin McCormick on guitar, Tim Gehrt (Streets, Steve Walsh) on drums, Paolo Limoli on keyboards, Glenn Codere on backing vocals, John William Francis on Marimba, Mike Warren on Cello and Robin Armstrong (Cosmograf) on keyboards, guitars, bass, drum programming and backing vocals. Together they came up with a rather strong progressive rock album which is full of soundscapes and has musical references with bands such as Pink Floyd and Talk Talk. But also, I can hear influences from another band. Namely Freedom To Glide. A band from the UK which also makes concept album about war and conflicts around the world in general! They pay tribute to the fallen soldiers in meaningless wars.
I will not go though the album track by track. But I can assure you everything is musically of a very high level. Listen for example to the impressive opening piece The Trenches. The sound of gunfights in combination with very atmospheric and impressive keyboard sounds really grabs you by the throat. Or what about the track Depths Of Time. Here comes Pink Floyd very much to the surface. Music wise a song such as Sheep comes to mind. The amazing saxophone parts played by Peter Jones are the icing on the cake. The second part, titled The Flicker, was released as a single and because of the danceable parts it can be played on the radio for a larger audience. Or just listen to Depths Of Imagination on which you can enjoy a great synthesizer solo by Paolo. On Depths Of Soul , Pink Floyd comes to mind and again, amazing saxophone parts can be enjoyed as well. The End is a great ballad with excellent cello parts played by Mike Warren. Finally, I'll have to mention a song such as Legacies. Here, massive guitar solos played first by Gareth and secondly by Robin build the song to its great finale and work really well and sound very enjoyable. Peter Jones also adds vocals to this track.
All in all, this is certainly a very surprising release which can be enjoyed by lovers of Pink Floyd. But also, for other progressive rock fanatics it is advisable to have a listen to The Bardic Depths by The Bardic Depths. You won't regret it, just like I didn't!
**** Henri Strik
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