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Iona - 'Another Realm' http://www.rocktopia.co.uk/media/reviews/photos/thumbnail/200x200s/18/5e/a8/2091_IonaAnotherRealm_1333990955.jpg Hot

Added by Central Electronic Brain     April 09, 2012    
 
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Another excellent, beguiling listen from Iona.

Progressive Celtic rock band Iona contains members from diverse backgrounds, but whose common link lies in their strong Christian beliefs. The band formed in the late 1980s, the current quintet being completed by the addition of multi-instrumentalist Martin Nolan who replaced the very well-known, and frequent CRS award-winning Troy Donockley in 2009. The others are vocalist/keyboardist Joanne Hogg, guitarist Dave Bainbridge, Frank van Essen on drums, percussion, strings, glockenspiel et al and bassist Phil Barker. The present studio album – their first since 2006’s ‘The Circling Hour’ is a 96 minute double CD that I am tempted to describe as “business as usual”

Ethereal, quirky, spiritual, multi-layered, textured chill-out Prog with magnificent, haunting female vocals all couched in a Celtic framework comprises what I mean by business as usual in the context of Iona. Their music rarely reaches the pace of a gallop and yet there is plenty to edify and entertain even the most casual of listener. There is always something intriguing going on within the layers of harmonic and yet varied instrumentation and/or vocal arrangements. And there, dear Fireworks reader, is where the charm of an Iona album rests. Book-ended by ‘As It Was’ and ‘As It Shall Be’ (a paean to the island that gives the band its name, and based upon a six century prophecy) this body of material really brings to the fore is just how accomplished the five musicians are with their various instruments. I thought I might have noticed the transition of player in the pipes and whistles department for instance, but nothing could be further from the truth and Nolan is a hugely accomplished replacement for Donockley. I would also like to focus upon drummer/percussionist van Essen and the supreme way in which he uses his kit and extended array of tom toms to enrich and embellish the overall tone and timbre of the performances.

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‘The Ancient Wells’ immediately brings this to attention, a song that builds and builds to a climax. The title track is a wistful song heavily reminiscent of Clannad while ‘Clouds’ is another of varying intensity and complexity with swirling arrangement. The lengthy, three-part ‘An Atmosphere Of Miracles’ is an attention-grabbing epic while closing song on CD1 ‘Let Your Glory Fall’ is a wonderful song, more up-tempo than the others although lyrically quite repetitive.

The second disc begins with the moody, atmospheric instrumental ‘Ruach’. ‘Speak To Me’ is a beautiful ballad, this and the subsequent mid-tempo song ‘And The Angels Dance’ really highlighting what wonderfully clear, emotive, vocals Hogg has sprinkled across the album. ‘Foreign Soil’ is an understated song, while instrumental ‘Let The Waters Flow’ contrasts as one of the livelier tracks! ‘Saviour’ is the most off-beat offering and is followed by the startling and strange instrumental ‘The Fearless Ones’ with Shofars played by guest musician Wytze Valkema. Finally there’s the momentous mini-epic ‘The White Horse’.

 ‘Another Realm’ is a wonderful album of its type and comes strongly recommended.

Paul Jerome Smith

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