Daniel Cavanagh – Monochrome – Album Review
Artist: Daniel Cavanagh
Album Title: Monochrome
Date Of Release: 13 October 2017
My love and admiration for Anathema needs no introduction. They are a top five band, a very important part of my life. Naturally then, I was ecstatic and hugely excited by the news that Daniel Cavanagh was to release a new solo album, entitled ‘Monochrome’.
Cavanagh is so stranger to solo albums either. In 2013, Cavanagh collaborated with Joseph Garaci, the voice that opens up the immensely powerful ‘Internal Landscapes’ from 2012’s ‘Weather Systems’. The result was called ‘The Passage’ and was quite beautiful. Either side of this release, Cavanagh has delivered more solo material, including the Nick Drake covers album ‘A Place To Be’ (2004) and ‘Memory And Meaning’ (2015), which featured re-workings of important songs in Cavanagh’s life, a diverse range of material from Kate Bush to Fleetwood Mac, to Iron Maiden.
‘Monochrome’ however, is very much an original album, penned by Daniel Cavanagh alone. In addition to the entirety of the song writing, Cavanagh also performed the majority of the music, albeit calling on the services of a couple of notable names along the way to add their own touch of class to the compositions. So into the mix come the angelic vocals of Anneke van Giersbergen and violinist Anna Phoebe, who made a hugely impressive appearance at the ‘A Sort of Homecoming’ DVD show.
Like Pavlov’s dog, I can hear many of you salivating at the prospect of all this. Or is it just me?
About ‘Monochrome’ Cavanagh comments: “The album has a late night, candlelit feeling, evoking the light of dusk as the summer sun sinks below the horizon, setting the scene for thoughts and meditations that many people will relate to.”
Even Daniel Cavanagh’s descriptions of his music are beautiful and poetic. So it will come as literally no surprise to learn that the music itself which spans seven tracks and 48 minutes is equally as beautiful, if not more so. And importantly, what makes ‘Monochrome’ so fascinating to listen to, is that it is such an intensely personal listening experience. This is Daniel Cavanagh bearing himself to the world in musical form, and the result is quite magical, not to mention raw, honest and superbly elegant.
Opening track, ‘The Exorcist’ will ease fans of Anathema in gently because it is very similar in many ways to the output of the last two or three Anathema records. In fact, if Cavanagh can be believed, “It was considered so good by Anathema that the rest of the band would have made this the centerpiece of an album. Taking it from the band was not an easy decision – but I’m glad I did!”
I believe Daniel 100% because ‘The Exorcist’ is, as I sit here now, easily the equal to all the material on ‘Weather Systems’, an album I gave a truly-deserved and guilt-free ten out of ten score. That should I hope, provide you with a fair indication of how highly I rate this first track. A delightfully subtle looped synth sound is joined by a delicate acoustic guitar and a simple yet vibrant piano melody that delivers an unbelievable amount of emotion. As one of those who has always questioned why Daniel Cavanagh has not been utilised more as a singer in Anathema, ‘Monochrome’ adds more fuel to the fire. Arguably not as technically adept as his brother Vincent, nevertheless Daniel has a vulnerability to his voice that conveys a range of human emotions like very few others can. At around the 4:45 mark, Daniel’s voice cracks a little as he begins to increase the intensity in his delivery. Without doubt, it is one of the most powerful single moments in the song alongside the poignant closing guitar solo that’s exquisite or the soul-touching, brutally honest lyrical content. Once again, this master composer has this bitter and wizened scribe fumbling for the tissues through blurred sight.
But then what does Daniel Cavanagh do? He backs up this most amazing of opening tracks with a further eight compositions that, by and large, push it for ultimate supremacy. ‘Monochrome’, which deals largely with the subject matter of love and loss, is not an exercise in technicality or instrumental verbosity. Instead it is deliberately simple and uncluttered in construction, ensuring that the emotion, feel and depth of the music makes the greatest impact on the listener. And, as Daniel quite rightly says, it does create a gorgeously introspective and chilled soundscape that invites thought and contemplation by the listener; it is impossible not to frankly.
And, even though ‘Monochrome’ would be hard-pushed to be referred to as boundary-pushing, it is a genuinely and hugely rewarding listen, displaying enough diversity to the music to keep things interesting whilst injecting a few different ideas to excite those who are open to such things. For example, I hear a definite folk vibe to some of the material. A lot of it has to do with the rich, soothing sounds of the acoustic guitar but it is also more prominent within ‘Dawn’, which is distinctly Celtic-flavoured thanks in large part to the violin of Anna Phoebe.
‘This Music’ sees the mesmeric voice of Anneke van Giersbergen appear for the first time. Whilst still a moving composition, it contains something within the melodies that gives the song a distinctly positive vibe, particularly in the carefully built yet understated crescendo towards the end. I also hear faint echoes of Sigur Rós in the more ambient moments but the duet between Daniel and Anneke gives the beautiful composition an identity of its very own and leaves me with a warm, satisfied glow.
‘Soho’ starts off in the most delicate and introspective of ways with Anneke’s voice atop more simple but intense and moody piano. Way off in the distant, the voice of an insistent guitar can be heard, eventually leading the increase in drama and volume that culminates in a dramatic wall of sound. It’s not overdone though and just as quickly as it arrives, it is gone. The bold sounds freefall into stark minimalism before re-emerging from the darkness slowly, tentatively, and calmly.
The grandly-titled ‘The Silent Flight of the Raven Winged Hours’ is yet another standout composition, albeit a little bit different from the material that surrounds it. It is an instrumental that is dominated in large part by Daniel’s expressive piano-playing. It blends classical music, ambient, prog rock, post rock and many more ingredients into a captivating nine-minute soundscape through which we journey. The unique violin playing of Anna Phoebe weaves in an out of the song, giving it a haunting feel, as do the echoed vocal sounds that puncture through the layers of sound towards the close. Arguably the most complex and multi-faceted song on the album, it is definitely one of Daniel Cavanagh’s finest song writing moments.
‘Oceans Of Time’, by contrast, reverts back to more familiar territory with Daniel singing softly over another piano-led melody. Anneke van Giersbergen is the perfect foil for Daniel and she delivers yet another captivating performance, full of sophistication and feeling. My heart nearly breaks every time the midpoint is reached and everything except the piano is ripped away, such is its exquisite beauty. It is the cue for Daniel to really let his voice fly, which he does perfectly, segueing into a lead guitar solo that arrows right to my core such is its purity and simple expressiveness.
‘Monochrome’ then ends on a fittingly tranquil and emotional note with ‘Some Dreams Come True’. The sound of waves gently lapping against the shore and the magical sounds of a young child’s innocent and care-free laughter threaten to bring me to tears one final time. Nevertheless, the chills run up and down my spine as Anna Phoebe accents the simple central melody in bright and breezy fashion, lending a glorious bittersweet feel to the finale.
As if his exploits with Anathema weren’t enough, Daniel Cavanagh has now created a near masterpiece under his own name. ‘Monochrome’ is an album to awaken the mind and nourish the soul. The fact that it does so via the backdrop of some of the most beautifully-crafted, elegant compositions I’ve heard this year only makes the experience even more powerful, more emotive and utterly magical.
The Score Of Much Metal: 9.5
If you’ve enjoyed this review, you can check out my others from previous years and for 2017 right here:
White Moth Black Butterfly – Atone
Jag Panzer – The Deviant Chord
Vulture Industries – Stranger Times
Anubis Gate – Covered In Black
Protean Collective – Collapse
Cradle Of Filth – Cryproriana – The Seductiveness of Decay
TDW & Dreamwalkers Inc. – The Antithetic Affiliation
Caligula’s Horse – In Contact
Nocturnal Rites – Phoenix
Arch Enemy – Will To Power
Threshold – Legends Of The Shires
H.E.A.T – Into The Great Unknown
Dyscarnate – With All Their Might
Subterranean Masquerade – Vagabond
Adagio – Life
Paradise Lost – Medusa
The Haunted – Strength In Numbers
Serious Black – Magic
Leprous – Malina
The Lurking Fear – Out of the Voiceless Grave
Prospekt – The Illuminated Sky
Wintersun – The Forest Seasons
Witherfall – Nocturnes And Requiems
Tuesday The Sky – Drift
Anthriel – Transcendence
Decapitated – Anticult
Cosmograf – The Hay-Man Dreams
Orden Ogan – Gunmen
Iced Earth – Incorruptible
Anathema – The Optimist
Solstafir – Berdreyminn
Dream Evil – Six
Avatarium – Hurricanes And Halos
Ayreon – The Source
Until Rain – Inure
MindMaze – Resolve
God Dethroned – The World Ablaze
Bjorn Riis – Forever Comes To An End
Voyager – Ghost Mile
Big Big Train – Grimspound
Lonely Robot – The Big Dream
Firespawn – The Reprobate
Pyramaze – Contingent
Shores Of Null – Black Drapes For Tomorrow
Asira – Efference
Hologram Earth – Black Cell Program
Damnations Day – A World Awakens
Memoriam – For The Fallen
Pallbearer – Heartless
Sleepmakeswaves – Made of Breath Only
Ghost Ship Octavius – Ghost Ship Octavius
Vangough – Warpaint
Telepathy – Tempest
Obituary – Obituary
Fen – Winter
Havok – Conformicide
Wolfheart – Tyhjyys
Svart Crown – Abreaction
Nova Collective – The Further Side
Immolation – Atonement
The Mute Gods – Tardigrades Will Inherit The Earth
Ex Deo – The Immortal Wars
Pyogenesis – A Kingdom To Disappear
My Soliloquy – Engines of Gravity
Nailed To Obscurity – King Delusion
Helion Prime – Helion Prime
Battle Beast – Bringer Of Pain
Persefone – Aathma
Soen – Lykaia
Exquirla – Para Quienes Aun Viven
Odd Logic – Effigy
Mors Principium Est – Embers Of A Dying World
Firewind – Immortals
Slyde – Back Again EP
Sepultura – Machine Messiah
Deserted Fear – Dead Shores Rising
Kreator – Gods Of Violence
Borealis – World of Silence MMXVII
Pain of Salvation – In The Passing Light of Day