Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Verbal Delirium - From the Small Hours of Weakness

One of my best recent musical discoveries has to be an album by the Greek band Verbal Delirium - "From the Small Hours of Weakness". I believe I was recommended it through contacts on Facebook, and picked up a copy through Bandcamp for the princely sum of 'pay what you like'!

The album artwork gives the initial impression that this is going to be a dark, brooding collection of songs, but don't let the decay and desolation fool you. This is a wonderfully varied ensemble of pieces with light and shade in equal measure.

The album opens with '10,000 Roses', a lively start to the album, with drums and flute interplaying for the first 2:40 or so before the guitars kick in over the repeated 'I've got 10,000 roses in my head'. There is, for me, a distinct Porcupine Tree vibe about this song, which can't be a bad thing.

'Desire', the second track, starts quietly with piano and acoustic guitar, but builds around 3 minutes into something a little more 'orchestral', but with the piano still dominant. Then we have a couple of instrumental tracks: 'Erebus', a short (0:49) atonal saxophone piece by Nikos Nikolopoulos; and then 'Dance of the Dead', which draws on Saint-Saëns' 'Danse Macabre'. It starts with bass notes on the piano, before sax, keys and other instruments come in.

The stand-out track on the album for me is 'The Losing Game' - this track gives us the album's title in its lyrics ("from the small hours of weakness to the big hours of anger"). It opens with a gentle interplay between piano and guitar, leading into the verse with organ, sax & guitars supporting each other as the song builds, alongside some strong vocal harmonies. At about the mid-point of this near 9-minute piece the guitar solo kicks in: a lyrical melody which had for me echoes of Santana, without the melodrama of some of his work. The guitar is replaced by the sax, continuing over the recurring chord sequence, before the guitar returns to draw the song to a close. The interplay between Nikos Nikolopoulos (sax) and Nikitas Kissonas (guitar) here is quite breath-taking.

'Disintegration', the next track, is more of a rocker, beginning with bass and piano before the rest of the band join in. It has a steady, driving beat, which accelerates towards the end. This leads into a brief (0:37) reprise of 'Dance of the Dead'.

'Sudden Winter' evokes for me in its opening bars of higher register piano a picture of falling snow. It was a slight disappointment, therefore, when the lyrics started up, to only be told of "Drops of rain on the window..." - maybe there's not much snow in Greece. a good song, with trumpet working with the keyboards in the middle section.

The album closer is a two-part 'epic' - Aeons. Part 1 has a dreamy, ethereal feel with voices at times quite far back in the mix and becoming almost mantra-like. It builds to a driving beat, with guitars & keyboards fighting for dominance. Part 2, from around 4:00, is a much slower movement, with a melody played on the bass interplaying with piano and then drums, some 'spacey' guitars and 'airy' vocal that put me in mind of Saucerful of Secrets-era Pink Floyd. Essentially an instrumental piece, the vocals do return around 9:00, but are never dominant, and the track fades out to an almost ambient vibe.

This recording has grown on me with every listen, and I would recommend you check this band out. While you're at it, have a listen to Nikitas Kissonas' other project, Methexis: another extremely good album.