Album Review: Transport Aerian – Darkblue
Genre: RIO/Avant Progressive Rock
Release date: 1 May 2015
Label: Melodic Revolution Records
Previous releases: Blessed (2009), Charcoal (2010), Bleeding (2014), Live.Blood.Live (2014)
Length: 41 minutes
Recommended to: Fans of Riverside, Lunatic Soul, Storm Corrosion, Porcupine Tree, The 3rd And The Mortal
Mammal’s rating: 4.2 out of 5
The Transport Aerian project have done it again with an album of fascinating and engrossing music that sounds unlike anything recorded by anyone else. Once more the project have thrown away the artificial constraints that bind music to a particular genre or style.
Even better, the project has a female vocalist, Rachel Bauer, on “Darkblue”. This does more than expand the possibilities in the musical compositions. It also greatly broadens the form of the lyrics. Since Transport Aerian is almost always a one-man project, the previous albums have been structured around self-examining monologues. With Rachel Bauer on board, the project engages in narrated dialogues. The emotional intensity is just as high as before, but now it becomes more participatory.
I came into the Metal State team with a liberating mandate to write about Other Music as well as metal. “Darkblue” is completely Other Music. It may not win many dedicated metal fans. However, it should appeal to you Metal State readers who enjoy the stimulation of exploratory, experimental music which is extremely heavy in its own unique way.
Transport Aerian’s 2014 studio album, “Bleeding”, made a deep impact on me. I reviewed it here. Like “Bleeding”, the new “Darkblue” is as much a shared emotional journey as a hypnotic listening experience.
As I did for the 2014 album, I’m borrowing the best-fitting tag to file “Darkblue” in my monster iTunes library and my already long, rapidly growing lists of albums of the year for 2015. The best match I can think of is RIO/Avant prog. This is a well-established branch of prog, and still a type of music with a rather smaller following than, say, power metal or Miley Cyrus. The RIO stands for “rock in opposition” – not against any social or political institution, but against the limits rock accepts for itself and against rock’s pursuit of art for money’s sake. The Avant part recognizes the highly experimental nature of the music.
I’ve picked this tag because Transport Aerian doesn’t bother about tags. Hamlet, the man behind the project, prefers to describe what the music sets out to embrace. He lists expressionism, metarealism and anti-music. That last adjective is very misleading; there is good music aplenty on this album.
Up top I suggested Transport Aerian to fans of bands like Riverside or The 3rd And The Mortal. This is merely a pointer. It’s also misleading because Transport Aerian is quite different to both of those bands, although “Darkblue” is packed with the atmosphere, dolefulness and melancholy that characterize Riverside’s prog metal, and it is also rich in the strange combination of atmospheric doom metal and art rock that made The 3rd And The Mortal unique in their day.
Hamlet does everything except the female voice on “Darkblue”. He’s as versatile and accomplished as Mike Oldfield, an expert on guitars, keyboards, bass, drums, drum sampling and programming. His vocals range from almost whispered intimacy to powerful, anguished roars. Rachel is also a different kind of singer. Maybe she and Hamlet will approve if I say her style is “anti-pop”. If they don’t agree… well, I say she is.
I’m making Hamlet write the following description – you’re correct, I lifted it from the project’s Facebook page:
“Darkblue” is a conceptual album based on a surrealist, self-penned story of exile, self-isolation and love.
Transport Aerian is essentially a one-man, progressive-oriented project led by producer and multi-instrumentalist Hamlet. It sets no strict genre borders, knows no musical or spiritual limits. At the different times, the project has worked with different musicians, always changing and shifting its live and studio experiences depending on what the current creative state demands, performing drastically different kinds of music, yet always retaining a poetic, sharp-edged, artistic shape.
“Darkblue” is good. On second listening, it is better. The more I play it, the better it gets. Like life, it’s complex, and the more you indulge in it, the more rewarding it becomes.
“Epitaph”, the longest track on the album, is a good introduction to the sweep and beauty of Transport Aerian’s music for lovers of many styles of experimental rock and metal.