The Mexican progressive rock band that now is based in Prog-hungry Philadelphia releases their second album, after the striking debut “Snapshots From Limbo”. In many ways, the album is more polished than the first, and in some ways more raw. The sound is decidedly still “roots” oriented progressive rock with a melancholic timbre, words that would aptly describe their first release.
Sonus Umbra is Andres Aullet on lead vocals, Ricardo Gomez on lead guitars, Jeff Laramee drumming and on vocals, and the mastermind Luis Nasser on Bass, Keyboards, acoustic and crunch guitars. Lisa Francis helps out on vocals and John Grant guests on guitars. Songs vary in length from 4 to 11 minutes and are generally vocal-based with plenty of guitar-driven instrumental passages. Most songs are mid-tempo with acoustic fill and atmospheric embellishments. The album, at 62 minutes, generally starts out slowly and gradually develops into some very powerful musical themes. The production is good, though stripped down from their earlier sound, leaving a raw edge to the instrumentation and a thin snare sound to the drums.
“Bone Machines” and “Fool’s Arcadia” start things with the typical melodic, melancholic Sonus Umbra style. “Man of Anger and Light” introduces a more angular sound, while the instrumental “Fascinoma” has a metalish edge. “Self Erosion” follows. With it’s moody, highly melodic approach, it leads us into some of the band’s most powerful moments, and the stronger second half of the album. I should comment that Aullet’s vocals have a rather nasal sound and as a singer, he tends to represent each song in a similar way – making each song sound similar as a result. More listens bring out the differences in the songs, but the band would do well to add more back-up vocals, or vary the vocal approach from time to time.
“Amnesia Junkies” in two parts starts out with sampling and a rollicking pace. The spoken parts mimic and mock the idea of Pop Idol TV shows. It’s great fun in a Roger Waters sort of way. The second part lays out some crunching riffs and some variance to the vocals. “Time Quake” reminds me of Pink Floyd in Sonus Umbra’s distinctive style. Some great lead guitar closes off the track.
After the short, but powerful “Rust in my Sleep”, the album ends with the epic “Snakes and Ladders” that is less angular and more accessible than the ending of “Snapshots from Limbo”. This track rocks back and forth as if on a boat tossed at sea, with raging winds around. That’s the feeling that I got from it and from Sonus Umbra’s particular brand of alienation.
A hidden 11th track is included on my demo, bringing to conclusion a passionate, stirring new release from Sonus Umbra. In general, no worse and quite similar to their very good first release. This is mood, melancholic progressive rock with a slight symphonic feel. It is very melodic while at the same time challenging. Though flawed in places “Spiritual Vertigo” has some very solid and powerful moments and sustains interest for over an hour.