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Artist: Sully Erna
Title: Avalon
Genre: New Age Rock
Release Date: 14th September 2010
Label: Universal



Album Review

SULLY ERNA is many things: rock star, a musical producer, a writer, a father, a spiritual believer, and an individual who understands the importance of music. “Music enhances our good times, and helps us through our bad times, and it NEVER asks anything of us in return”, ERNA notes. “It is a universal language that we all connect to in our own personal way.” This was the concept he kept in mind the last two years of trying to create his solo album, which he wanted to be a different kind of album from his hard rock band, GODSMACK.

The closest thing to GODSMACK that ‘Avalon’ will come to is the brief acoustic EP ‘Other Side’ that GODSMACK released in 2004. It is a different kind of unleashed emotions for ERNA, who sees GODSMACK as a way to get his anger out of the way, where as his solo debut is delving into the softer, more personal things about his life. It is mostly composed of acoustic guitar melodies, piano ballads, tribal drumming, cello passages, and even a bit of electronic influence. Also inducted into this mystical experience is former DEAD CAN DANCE drummer Niall Gregory and vocalist Lisa Guyer, who made a guest appearance on the track ‘Hollow’ from GODSMACK’s album ‘IV’. Here, she is more than just a guest vocalist… she’s a full time part of the band.

ERNA gave rumours about his solo album back in 2006, but it took four years for completion. And the finished result was well worth the wait. While some have complained that GODSMACK has fallen into a trend of making the same type of songs over and over during their last two albums, ‘Avalon’ is a fresh slab of music per track. ‘Avalon’, the opening track features beautifully placed acoustic guitar notes, percussion, and even background chanting that really gives a mystical feeling that enhances the experience of the song. Lisa Guyer’s vocals in the background add the perfect contrast to ERNA’S and help weave the tale. The production is very clean and also ethereal, which makes the track almost come to life and puts the listener right in the lyrics. This is something that will most likely happen frequently.

‘7 Years’ is an epic track that features both acoustic and electric guitar passages. It is one of the more vibrant track on the albums with multiple beats; some from the percussions, and some from the backing electronic bleeps that go on every once in a while. There is a strong middle-eastern influence here with how the cello passages are set up along with the midi. Throughout most of the song ERNA and Guyer trade verses before layering vocals during the chorus. The energy of the song rises and falls, but the really energetic part is during the end when the electric guitar makes an appearance. It is a one-time thing on this album, and perhaps that is what makes it so special since it a combination of new age rock and the more hard rock that GODSMACK performs; just a momentary glimpse for ERNA to give fans that he hasn’t given up all thought about his other band while recording this.

‘Avalon’ also includes piano ballad tracks such as ‘Broken Road’ and ‘Until Then’. These are some of the more personal tracks. The tone of the music is unfortunately depressing, which is a bit of a discredit to the lyrics which inspire more hope than the instruments give off. The cello arrangements really bring out the classical music influences between both instruments. Although Guyer’s vocals are absent from both these tracks, ERNA does fine singing on his own. There’s ‘Sinner’s Prayer’, the first single off the album, which unfortunately is one of the weaker tracks on the album. It sounds too much like ‘Hollow’ from ‘IV’, both in guitar style and the way the vocal arrangements between Guyer and ERNA. The only dynamic difference between tracks is that ‘Sinner’s Prayer’ has a more orchestral feeling near the end and features deep, choir chant vocals that are similar to the ones heard on ‘Avalon’.

‘The Rise’ does a full switch on the vocal duties. This time Lisa Guyer has the floor and ERNA only comes in near the end. This track is really spooky and sounds heavily religiously influenced (ERNA is a pagan after all) and really shapes an enlightening experience. The percussion is the highlight of the music, and when combined with the cello and occasional midi, along with more ambient soundscapes such as crackling rustles and droning bass. The bass doesn’t really get to be heard much amongst all the other instruments, but on ‘The Departed’ it really shines. The deep rumbling acts as the right shroud for the pulsing beat of the track, making ERNA’s vocals sound distant and even more so with Guyer’s, who every once in a while erupts into a wailing chant that sounds unique compared to her usual folk inspired tone.

The album closes on ‘In Time’, which involves hardly any vocals and just a very slow, even flow of the acoustic guitar and bass. There’s a very soft percussion in the background, but it is just a tap; very hard to hear. ERNA and Guyer do add vocals but it is just distant wails, like spirits bidding a farewell. It is the perfect closer to ‘Avalon’ that starts out slow and then slowly begins to pick up as the sound gets thicker and thicker (mostly because of the bass guitar) and then suddenly just fades out with the acoustic guitar, like approaching the gateway to reality. The ending result is a relaxing breath of fresh air. And the fun part is it makes one want to listen to the whole album again.

For GODSMACK fans who felt that their latest album, ‘Oracle,’ was a letdown due to a lack of tribal / spiritual influences, ‘Avalon’ is the perfect remedy for that. Every song is a spiritual journey that doesn’t preach religion, just the stuff of life. ERNA certainly respects his Wicca/ pagan beliefs, but his ultimate goal with ‘Avalon’ was to connect his own life through readers in numerous ways, not his religious practices. Definitely worth looking into for those who like new age or acoustic music with strong messages.


Tracklist

01. Avalon (4:57)
02. 7 Years (8: 41)
03. Broken Road (5:08)
04. Sinner’s Prayer (4:17)
05. My Light (5:28)
06. The Rise (6:45)
07. Until Then… (5:10)
08. The Departed (5:50)
09. Eyes Of A Child (4:40)
10. In Through Time (3:43)


Line-Up

Sully Erna - vocals, guitar, piano
Lisa Guyer - vocals
Irina Chirkova - cello
Niall Gregory - percussion
Tim Theriault - guitar
Chris Decato - keyboard
Chris Lester - bass
David Stefanelli - drums


Website

http://www.sullyerna.com/


Cover Picute




Rating

Music: 9
Sound: 10
Total: 9 / 10


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