Athmossmusic – Music Box – The Tragic Story Of Arabella Jones – Album Review
Perhaps it’s best to provide you with the description provided to me in order to fully understand this new record from Athmossmusic…you know, so we’re all on the same page & all that good-stuff…
“This is a progressive rock concept album about a young woman who has lost her beloved man on their wedding day, then caused a fatal car crash that killed a whole family. She thinks that she sees the ghost of the little girl killed in that car crash, every time she hears the music of her old music box. This album is about her journey through remorse and grief, on the edge of insanity.”
…alright…so…by good-stuff, you know what I meant now – details. Obviously the storyline that runs through the new album Music Box is fairly grim; but in that Athmossmusic style, the mix of emotions runs deep…and as dark as the themes may get, there is still a ton of beauty presented along the way. In some form, we’ve been listening to Athmossmusic since early 2015, and whether it’s been solo or collaborations, or the definitive moment where the project changed to the moniker it carries now – it’s been clear that evolution & refinement have continually taken place throughout the adventures. As I’ve said numerous times throughout these pages by now – one of the biggest privileges & honors of being able to review independent music from year to year is the opportunity to listen to the growth taking place as a band, artist, or project continues to expand its scope and really find the path that works. Athmossmusic showed tremendous growth on the last time out with the single “Constant Change” to the point where you could tell that the whole crew was getting dialed right in to the entire vision.
And now here we are – the fruits of that labor – Music Box – The Tragic Story Of Arabella Jones.
For the concept itself – the beginning of “Lost Love” serves the entire storyline perfectly, opening up with what sounds like the aftermath of the car crash we knew we were in for. There’s an eerie stillness & calm in the air, ethereal voices & drifting sirens in the mix…a flickering radio still playing in the background as Athmossmusic sets the scene – then just as quickly as you’ve arrived to the conclusion of what’s just taken place – they launch you into the music at full-speed and begin the massively progressive structure that fuels the heart of the next seven or so minutes to follow. Make no mistake – Athmossmusic is starting this record off with a BEEFY tune full of strengths, flashy rock hooks, incredible breakdowns, transitions, and parts both written & executed exceptionally well. Lyrically, “Lost Love” also sets the standard up high immediately, flexing a poetic approach that wildly satisfies. LISTEN to that bass from Imre Mészáros! It’s impossible not to notice the sheer awesomeness taking place there – the bass-lines of “Lost Love” are freakin’ AMAZING to listen to in this song…so complex, so badass. In general – you won’t find any weak points in the band here…the drums from Sándor Mészáros are WILD, and the guitars from Antal “Slinky” Bosnyák grip, rip, tear & shred crunchy & menacing riffs throughout the music. Slinky & Imre will trade off bass duties throughout Music Box – but on this first cut, you gotta hand it to Imre for making such a kickass impact right off the bat. Atmossmusic will go on to savagely impress even further from there, adopting a nearly Patton-esque approach to the verse before launching into an intensity that a band like My Life With The Thrill Kill Cult would be proud of. Imre snarls his way through this song with noticeable venom & mystery dripping from the microphone – and over the several layers, parts, & ideas throughout this song, he provides the perfect energy & tone to suit the vibe. The chorus is a challenging one – but he nails it and gives the sound full power; I gotta say though – for me, it was probably that hushed menace of the verses and the graceful beauty that invades this song at different points that likely made the biggest impression on me – Imre sounds DEADLY. The progressive sound & structure of “Lost Love” continually reveal themselves in one magnificent moment to the next – like, LISTEN to that quick & innovative verse around the 5 minute mark…and then like, LISTEN to one of the wildest guitar-solos you’ll hear this year from Slinky come ripping in…and then out of what seems like nowhere – LISTEN to the amazing transition into the piano & atmospheric elements that fuel this song’s largest transition into the sixth minute…the list of reasons as to WHY this opening cut is almost theoretically endless. The largest hooks of the song are arguably not even revealed until past the SEVENTH minute mark – if there’s a better definition out there for what progressive music is like for people to listen to, I don’t know what it would be. As a musician or a creator – I always like to remind people like me to embrace the journey and love every part of the ride, otherwise there’s almost no point in reaching that end goal – as listeners, it’s pretty damn key to do the same. The very nature of progressive music pigeon-holes an audience due to the demands on listening ears that can only handle verse/chorus/verse songs…but that just is what it is…they’ll opt out while the rest of us crank this UP.
“Drifting Away” comes crashing in and stomps the speakers with heavy, heavy boots from there. Sounding like vintage Alice In Chains around the Facelift era – Imre’s giving us a Staley-esque grind on the microphone that works seriously well throughout the verse. The chorus…or pre-chorus…you know, the next part to come is what I mean (c’mon this is progressive, there’s a 1000 parts…) takes it almost into punk territory before “Drifting Away” finds its way back into more controlled rock, and then into a completely graceful & melodic mid-section you won’t see coming. Those guitars! Slinky almost can’t help but steal the show on this cut with such an electrifying performance – there’s such intense character and attitude in his musicianship that you can genuinely hear in his instrumentation. Loved the way the song picks up after the breakdown, continually stoking the fire until its dramatic final ending. Lyrically, “Drifting Away” takes you into the heart of the crash, right into the accident with excellent attention to detail in the emotion surrounding a moment as intense as that, with words that still flow as poetically strong as they do in providing the storyline for this concept record. Brilliant use of lead & background vocals in a call-and-answer style towards the end of “Drifting Away” lead this second cut to a super-charged finale-style ending that scorches and eventually smolders out to reveal the third track, “Voices From The Other Side.”
A solid example of WHY people should always be willing to give progressive music of all-kinds a chance on their playlists, Athmossmusic reaches deep into a compelling mix of dark & light on the third track from Music Box in a completely different style. Melodic, beautiful, haunting – led initially by the outstanding piano from Imre, “Voices From The Other Side” is likely the meeting of, visualization, or realization of that ghost implied in the storyline of this tragic tale. Just as a great concept album should, a lot of these songs feel like they need the one before it in order to get the full picture…the pairing of “Voices From The Other Side” and “The Little Music Box” is a highlight example of the entwined way this record threads itself together. On the whole, I think “Voices From The Other Side” is stunning – I think the lyrics are some of my favorite on the album, I love the piano & spaced-out atmosphere coming through to make an impact at this point on the record, and I love the guitars from Slinky creeping in to the music, chiming in with clever additions until eventually switching places and taking on the lead duties as the song expands even further. Smart move with the slight twinkling of keys and whispered voices, atmospheric ambiance and piano closing this tune in a fascinating final twist, breaking down entirely with the subtle crying of Szilvia Mészáros who plays the role of the spirit-girl voice throughout the record perfectly whenever she’s called upon. The shift into “The Little Music Box” continues the whispers & crying into the innocent sound that begins the song, and then through exceptional ideas in the songwriting from the combination of piano/bass that begins the song, to the vocal-melodies that sound as comforting & familiar as they are gritty & powerful – this track develops remarkably. Twisting & turning in all directions, it weaves in classic-rock influences, theatrical structure, highlight violin additions from Mária Markócs that are absolutely essential to this song, and bright, colorful solos from Slinky taking place while Sándor continues to thunder it up from the drum throne with intensity & noteworthy precision in his hits contributing massively to the movement on “The Little Music Box.” You even get a keyboard solo! If that ain’t part of that definition of real progressive music, it should be! Multiple impressive solos at work on this song – probably my favorite one from Slinky on the entire album as he pushes himself to new highlights in the final solo of “The Little Music Box” right before the ending. One thing is absolutely clear at this point on the album – every member of the band has committed to every moment of this material…Music Box sounds insightfully inspired from song to song.
Even on “Turn Back The Time,” which is arguably one of the most straightforward tunes on this album in terms of accessibility, Athmossmusic sounds completely engaged in every second of the song. To me, that’s always what matters most…ideas are great things but they can’t thrive without commitment – and that’s exactly what you’re getting here on every cut from Music Box. “Turn Back The Time” was in some ways spectacular to listen to – I love the exquisite guitar tones, emotional piano sounds, & subtle drums that open the song, and I think the lyrics are adhering to the incredibly high standard that has been set throughout the album – that’s where the song succeeds most for me personally. As it trips past that first minute, the sound of “Turn Back The Time” opens-up and invites you in even more; I was kind of digging that darker vibe of the initial part of this song, which made me resist the lighter-side of sound that it eventually transitions into. I’ll put it this way…I’d likely be fine with that in general, but I also felt like the theatrical/musical-like writing crept in more noticeably here – which again, could very well work for others more than it did for me personally. The performance is every bit as spot-on as the rest have been – but “Turn Back The Time” is where you can hear that there might very well be more at work here than a mere concept album…this could turn out to be a full-on rock-opera or musical. The bookends of this track, aka the beginning & end, were both fantastic to me…I loved the instrumentation there – the middle of the tune provides probably the lightest melodies of the record and highlights yet another style of sound that you’ll find within the limitless ideas & ambitions on this eight-song album.
Heading into the guitar-chop fueled energy of “Memories Of Life” – you get a wild rock stomp through some Zeppelin-esque riffs to create the movement…smart keyboard additions play a huge role in bringing the extra hugeness to the song’s overall sound. Lyrically, it’s another one of my favorites – for the most part, I think Imre did a really great job on the vocals here again…he gets pretty damn close to the hair-metal edge at points, accented by the treble-up crunch of the guitar chords, BUT, at the end, I think he falls on the right side of that fence and managed to steer clear of getting too cliché in style. Instead, the song continues to develop into that theatrical style as it surges towards the end, introducing that more performance-based approach to the vocals and severely furthering the concept through the words. As far as ear-catching sounds are concerned, you get tons of them here…plenty of style & swagger on “Memories Of Life” through both the music & vocal-rhythms; the progressive tendencies run deep here…this is where you appreciate the art, or you find out that music like Athmossmusic is making right now asks more than you bargained for when it comes to taking in the full scope of this record. You CAN listen to a piece of it and you’ll certainly enjoy it – but if you’re really listening to the way this storyline unfolds, you’ll get so much more out of Music Box. Ultimately, I know deep down that a song like “Memories Of Life” is harder for the masses to absorb…because the album really has drifted heavily into its concepts here and made the effort to maximize its theatrical potential in addition to its ever-present progressive ideas already in full-swing…it narrows the scope of the audience whenever a musician expands the scope of ambitions in the songwriting. The more ideas a song contains, the less of a discernable & easy-to-absorb pattern of verse/chorus/verse & catchy hooks to latch onto, sadly, quite often, is what shrinks the potential audience. I’m also a firm believer that this isn’t WHY musicians like you’ll find in Athmossmusic do what they do though…there’s more than enough people out there that’ll be severely impressed with what they’ve pulled off on this album – but even that’s a bonus side-effect of simply pursuing ideas, ambitions, music, and ART, that they truly WANT to make. Which again, is also why you hear the band so impressively engrossed in every ticking second of this album; they’re driven by the organic excitement of making music that now achieves the exact results they all envisioned for it. For the mainstreamers out there…art-music is always tougher to understand or absorb, but for the creative-types, the artists, the musicians, the entertainers…there’s so much here for you on Music Box.
The gem of the entire record writing-wise might very well be “Nothing Left To Lose” – it’s definitely a tune worth getting right into lyrically. Not only does it examine the feelings of the storyline’s main character insightfully well, but it can also be taken further…you can back this one out and internalize it in a way that’ll likely bond with many emotions you might have very well experienced yourself at some point. “Nothing Left To Lose” brilliantly takes on what it would feel like to have lost it all and the desolate feelings that would come along with that scenario…the lack of motivation or will to try to put life back together when it would potentially be so much easier to throw it all away. Excellent job on the lyrics of “Nothing Left To Lose” – I really thought they were outstanding. More highlights from Slinky soar throughout the final minutes of this song in wild solos…I love how much time they’ve given to the instrumentation on this song and throughout this album…another stamp of true progressive music. While the verse/chorus/verse & top-40 crowd will always roll their eyes at the mere thought of a guitar solo or instrumental section – the rest of us out there eat this kind of stuff right up enthusiastically.
And as I mentioned earlier, back-to-back, song-to-song, some of these setups and threads really tie together. After the intense examination of the emotions and despair within “Nothing Left To Lose,” Athmossmusic shifts gears one last time into the final song “Long Road,” which ultimately stresses the importance of finding the way past the darkness and back into the light. It’s a solid conclusion that draws on a theatrical nearly Queen-like approach that brings the storyline to a definitive close of this chapter, hinting at the one potentially to follow…almost like they’ve left it open to the sequel of second-chances and a whole new life for the main character to live ahead of her still. Or again, you can back this one out even further and apply the theory to your own life – and realize that no matter how bad, hard, scary, or impossible the circumstances around you may be, there’s always redemption to be had. There’s always a reason somewhere, even in the darkest of places, to reach for that light…and whatever it is you have to go through to get there, is always worth the journey & effort it takes to get past the struggle. “Long Road” has Athmossmusic sounding great in the finale of this concept record – they’ve sounded completely tight in every moment along the entire adventure from ideas to execution. What I really loved…is that this really IS a concept record you can roll with – I think a lot of artists/bands out there THINK they’ve got themselves a concept album, but most of the time, that concept speaks to them on a level that can’t speak to us or connect us to it. That’s where Athmossmusic really succeeds with Music Box – you feel like you’re practically watching this music in your mind like a movie as it plays. You get right into the characters, the storyline, the music, the vibe…the concept works magic & mystery and the music is expertly performed…Music Box is another serious step forward for Athmossmusic.
Find out more about Athmossmusic at the official website: http://www.athmossmusic.com/