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To tread once more beyond - 96%

2Eagle333, June 27th, 2011

The past can sometimes haunt our lives. It slowly seeps into the present; its ghosts brand us, and dwell within our minds. This album is the attempt of a man to exorcise these spirits, and hence to free his life.

‘Precious’ is an introspective album. It is highly personal, and sometimes sounds like a person sitting down, lost in musings and streams of thought. There is a sense of sobriety about it, a subtlety which shuns hysterical sentiment and wailing, a sort of maturity. There is feeling, yet it is feeling tied up with thought, reflective emotion, as one may feel when looking back on the past; not the weeping of a lover shunned, but the subtler emotions of this lover years later, recovered yet not aloof. That is, assuming that this lover is not a preteen, in which case they would only get worse over time.

The music is suitably elegant; it is not slow in the sense of doom metal, but is nonetheless calm in its procession. The vocals are very well done, exemplifying the atmosphere discussed; mature, controlled, yet emotional. There is a delicate touch to the riffs, as if the guitarist were immersed entirely within the music, and knew exactly when to play each note to complement the song as a whole. The guitars and vocals are independent, yet not; they both have their own progression, yet through this they co-operate, weaving together their separate threads in motion.

For the person from whose perspective the album is presented, the weight of the past and hope of the future conflict, the ghosts fight the desire to act, to be heard, and establish some sort of personal authenticity. The vocalist sings with a sense of world-weariness, of sobriety, yet always with a tinge of hope. The hope is always qualified, tentative, yet still always present. He sees pictures, images, ‘the symphony picturesque of clouds as they fly, they whisper and exit, then swim on by’; in the quoted section of ‘Gathering of Separate Ways’, he seems almost to see the clouds, hear them, before his eyes and ears. In the chorus, there is a contrast between despair and powerlessness, submitting to his own submission, and hope, following a new intuition; yet whither?

There are moments where the music begins to swell with emotion, and yet these quickly resolve back to musings; the man is emotional, not robotic, yet remains immersed in thought. There are pictures echoing; time and times always reminding, as in ‘The 2nd Man on the Sun’. The songs are highly varied, from the powerful metal of ‘Prelude’ to the prog-rock tinges of songs like ‘The 2nd Man on the Sun’. ‘Pressures’ is a brilliant softer song, expressing a soft determination, with the declaration that, ‘This time, I’ll find some way’. There are reminisces, ‘scars’; he is ‘taking in the pictures while taking in the blame’, yet the under-pronounced hope of the chorus underlies a hope to be free of the ‘masquerade’ which he observes, to be honest to himself and the world. ‘This disguise of mine, I’ll share with you in rhyme’. There is some soft, subtle and yet incredibly effective use of the guitars, forming a song reminiscent in atmosphere of earlier albums by Alder-era Fates Warning.

‘Ghosts’ features some heavy riffing, yet a hopeful chorus; he reaches out, to leave behind the cold of the past. The guitars vary from emotional to almost suffocating, technocratic; there are occasional sections through the album reminiscent of early Psychotic Waltz. The album ends with the two-part ‘A Chronicle of a Destiny’. The first part, ‘Past Tense,’ comes to show very well their particular kind of slow, flowing elegance, methodical and thoughtful, perhaps comparable to the band Omega on their album ‘The Prophet’. A sense of longing pervades this track, of a search for a higher destiny or purpose.

The second part, ‘Tense Past’, begins with a soft, hopeful section, and develops into a powerful, cathartic statement of spiritual triumph. The man is no longer chasing the shadows; now, the scars don’t even show. There is a sense of rejuvenation, a soft rebirth, elevation of the soul; he is reborn from the ashes of the past, a new, free man, no longer weighed down by time’s shackles. This is not a bombastic declaration of victory in war, but the soft, powerful feeling of spiritual elevation, freedom, of looking upon a world bathed in light. ‘In the end, our triumphs can’t be erased’; and with that, the final solo, rounding things off brilliantly.

This album is a very human work, genuine and caringly put together. However, it also requires attention to appreciate, and its subtle nature precludes a role as simple background music. Nonetheless, given a chance, it is a powerful piece of music.