Glenn Murawski – The Lone Soldier – Album Review
If there’s an inherent bias towards the positive in the reviews I write, it likely comes from one of two things. The first being that I tend to set myself up for a successful listen…especially the more familiar I am with an artist’s work or what a band creates…once you’ve got an idea of what that is, you can pick & choose when you might be in the most receptive mood to listen. If that’s cheating the system, then sure, I’m guilty…I simply call that the right way to listen to all music, at all times; it’s nothing more complex than that. And if you think about it, you probably do it too. Ever skipped over an album or song that you love just because you weren’t in the right mood for it? Of course you have. We all have. The second reason is perhaps even less complicated – the vast majority of the independent music-scene is verifiably full of sincerity, support, and all-around great people…they’re an easy bunch to love. I’m not gonna lie to ya…you run into the occasional entitled A-hole and I certainly have had my share of them when it comes to this particular week for some reason – but Glenn isn’t one of them. In fact, he’s here in review today because I was specifically starting to feel that wear & tear on the soul a little bit, doubt myself and the moves I’ve made over the years for a moment or two, and generally found myself on the down-side for the last couple days or so. I needed some of Glenn’s good ol’ tunes to ease my mind.
And so here we are. I choose an artist for today’s review that I know I can rely on to provide some tunes with gorgeous melodies and moving moments that’ll gently soothe the soul…that’s what I was looking for when I put on The Lone Soldier for the first time. I’m not gonna directly say the universe, or at the very least this particular week of my human existence seems out to get me or is purposely trying to fuck with my mind…but let’s just say of course this was that time where Glenn decided to light up the intensity and fire up the electro-circuits hard on the very first track. Soul-soothing it would not go on to prove to be, no sir – BUT…thankfully, it was undeniably entertaining. Who knows…if it had been exactly what I was seeking out right off the bat I’d probably still be sitting in my chair wallowing in my own self-pity & listening rather than getting back to work where I belong behind this keyboard with the music I love to hear so much. So thank-you Mr. Murawski…by not giving me what I initially wanted, I think you managed to jolt me back into reality and snapped me back to my full attention. And besides…if you know Glenn’s music…you know he can’t stay away from the sweetened & subtle end of his sound for long…so while “The Lone Soldier” comes out with a much more intense sound than I was originally expecting, I know, you know, and he knows, we’ll eventually get to those exquisitely delicate tunes too.
To sum that up for ya real quick…just because something isn’t what we expect doesn’t mean it isn’t what we want. Music has an incredible way of showing us all new things we had no idea we’d enjoy until we were right there in the moment. When it comes to the songs you all make, as I’ve said here many times…they have the ability to lead many lives…maybe that moment didn’t come the first time around, but maybe there’s still a ton there that could be more relevant later on down the road, or maybe the material just needed a different approach to the production or polished up a bit. The point is, if you’ve got something and you know it, clap your hands then make sure we all hear it somehow. Glenn definitely gets what I’m talking about…especially in revitalizing his career over these past several years and going back through his catalog, which in addition to the new original stuff he’s been pumping out non-stop, he’s taken the time to dust off and shine up songs from his past throughout his Revisions & Remasters series along the way. Going back technically even further, The Lone Soldier is a return to music he had made between 2004-2007…and I mean, if you’re listening, it’s pretty clear that Glenn was ahead of his time with many of these ideas for sure. The underground scene was getting into tunes like this and had already locked-in a loyal following, but songs like Murawski was creating back then were still crawling their way towards the mainstream in their infancy at that point. Now that we’re in a much more widespread and accessible time in music’s history, I’m all for doing what Glenn’s been doing – these songs might not be new to him, but they certainly are for you and me.
When the beat kicked-in to “The Lone Soldier” and the guitars started to chop out their distorted bliss in the rhythm and sear tones throughout the atmosphere in the lead, I felt like Glenn was on solid ground. Overall, you’ll find this title-track to be highly adventurous in sound and structured in that Murawski style of revealing a piece at a time; through a curious-but-epic mix of ideas, you really take that journey you’re seeking out in a listening experience right from the very outset of this record. As for the arpeggio frequency in “The Lone Soldier” is concerned, it kind of felt like the extra ingredient that wasn’t always 100% necessary…sometimes it worked bang-on to support, other times it kind of jarred with the rest of what’s goin’ on…and eventually it fades out to let what’s really working flawlessly have a moment to shine on its own. The effect of that in itself deserves accolades, because the next time the electro-aspect of this song takes hold afterwards, everything seems to come back at a strength x10 and really suits the whole vibe when the sound is at its thickest and all layers are interacting at once. In its own somewhat subtle, still intense way…”The Lone Soldier” continually expands into a whole wall of sound when you really break it down piece by piece to stack up what contributes to the exceptional finale.
There you go. “Minimalisto” comes out with a sparse & haunting piano melody to start, much more akin to what I was originally thinking I’d be getting with the start of Glenn’s record here, or at least inching closer. And hey, I mean, it wouldn’t have been a bad choice as the very first song either…”Minimalisto” has a more subtle & sleek build to it that gradually envelops us, as opposed to the more vibrant nature of the way “The Lone Soldier” grips on to you via a radiant sound-selection. I dig that, while there are certainly patterns to be detected in moments of “Minimalisto,” Murawski’s really got this song designed in a way that feels fresh and original from beginning to end…like he might take four bars to work on one idea, but then he’s flowing smoothly straight onto the next type-thing. While there’s always an inherent risk in wandering or roaming through a progressive structure, no matter how melodic it might be, Glenn combats the potential polarization of the structure with genuinely interesting sound to engage with the entire distance through “Minimalisto.” Excellent low-end in this cut…there are a couple tracks on this record where the bass-lines come out gloriously meaty, and this is definitely one of’em. Drums & guitars are great, the atmosphere of the entire song has a distinct glow to it that masks the rhythmic aspect cleverly and cloaks it in behind an enveloping shroud of sound that soars alongside the main instrumentation. “Minimalisto” is one of the many tunes on this record that’ll audibly confirm that Murawski has had incredible ideas for years & years & years…it’s been awesome to witness this artist spring back to life in such an inspired way over this past couple years we’ve been listening.
“Winter’s Edge” continues to dive even further into the ice-like & isolated, crystalline melodies that Glenn is capable of, and adds in that tangible dose of the emotion I love so much in his music. It is apparently a cover tune, based on the Super Nintendo game Secret Of Mana – how rad is that? Glenn wouldn’t take anything on that he couldn’t leave his own stamp on, so believe me, it’s not like plugging in your old SNES and jamming out to a game soundtrack, it’s much more evolved and expanded than anything like that would be. It’s a lengthy tune for sure at over seven-minutes in length, but I’ll be damned if this isn’t the kind of cut I came here seeking out to begin with…this is the kind of Murawksi music that speaks to me. He gets pretty creative with the drums on this tune, and all-around, he’s really scaled this whole idea up a level & beyond to end up with such an exquisite & extraordinary track like “Winter’s Edge” – you won’t find yourself getting bored, you’ll be right there in the moment and with Glenn every step of the way as you glide through the piano-led melody that guides us through this song. I love how it opens, I love how it ends even more, and everything in between felt like it kept the emotion & entertainment flowing in tandem, striking an exceptional balance that keeps us thoroughly engaged.
On the strengths & merits of the wicked bass-line grooves alone on “Point Of Contention,” you’ll find this song is more than worth your time and apparently wants to slide right into your ears & make a home inside your head. In less than thirty-seconds, you’ll find yourself enveloped in the cinematic sound that Murawski was seeking to create with “Point Of Contention” – and in about forty seconds, every set of ears out there would agree with that assessment. I’d argue it probably becomes a bit more theatrical than cinematic from there in some regards, but that also feels like I’m seriously splitting hairs. What I can tell ya is this…I think he’s working with a brilliant dose of genuine crossover sound on “Point Of Contention” that could virtually appeal to just about anyone under the sun for a whole variety of reasons. Maybe they’ll like the whole thing, maybe they’ll walk away with just a piece they’re addicted to – but the point is that there’s something in this tune that’s bound to connect to listening ears. Once the synth-strings kick-in at the beginning, I found this even more engaging, and when it broke into the sparse rumble of the bass-line, eventually joined by scattered synth-piano tones, the impact he was looking to create was bang-on. The dancing synth-organ lines that show up soon after…I dunno what else to say other than it was one of the more unexpected surprises on this record and one of the most enjoyable delights…it doesn’t take the spotlight for long, but everything about this track shines bright with personality & character that really leaps out at ya by the way that Glenn’s composed & played this.
“The Journey Goes On” is a great example of how Murawski’s able to combine the old with the new and make it fresh for your speakers today…this is why it’s more than cool to revisit your past and see how it can play a role in your future. You’ll hear the epic nature of sound, structure, and composition come thundering to life here – and that’s certainly noteworthy on its own…there’s a seriously mystifying & outright legendary atmosphere that brews like a storm & rages like a battle in slow-motion. What really makes this track rad though is its slight tint towards a Celtic-inspired sound and how Glenn’s able to use that in such a compelling way that wouldn’t instantly have listeners thinking, ‘oh this is just old people’s music’ – know what I mean? Every time it came on, “The Journey Goes On” felt like a genuine highlight – and to a degree, I’m kind of surprised I felt that way, just based on my own personal taste. Usually I can appreciate a track like this with a Celtic twist more than I feel like I’d spin it on my own playlists, but this track has that rare ability to really reach me in ways other similar ideas can’t. Perhaps that’s a credit to Glenn that can’t be thoroughly described, but one I’m certainly grateful for – it’s artists like this that have the capability of being able to introduce us to new dimensions of music and what it can do.
Again Glenn, I’m just gonna say the quiet parts out loud man…I wasn’t coming here today for “Final Desperation!” WHERE did this dude come from? Murawski has clearly been pent-up in the studio for a minute or two more than he’d perhaps like to be during all this lockdown we’re in…and it seems to me…that he might just be…let’s say, working out a slight amount of aggression on this cut? I know, I know, he didn’t record this yesterday in quarantine, I’m just kidding around. “Final Desperation” dates back just as far as the rest I’d imagine…and YUP, it is LOUD & ROWDY. At the very LEAST, it’s loud & rowdy by what we know in comparison to the catalog of tunes we’ve heard from Glenn so far. You might not think so at first, but let that thirty-second intro play out and see how you feel right after – you’ll be onboard with what I’m tellin’ ya here. There will eventually be moments where he calms this cut down an iota or two, but really not all that much until the final minute or so – and even when he does, for the most part, it’ll be the savage guitars and gripping intensity that remain the most defining aspects of “Final Desperation.” I have no real issues here though…it can sound a bit full in between the first & second minute as this machine gets revved up in ways we haven’t heard’em him do, or at least that I can recall….I certainly wouldn’t change anything about this cut from the way it is in this 2020 mix here though, it comes out with boldness that never lets up. “Final Desperation” is one powerful cut that almost can’t help but stand out, jolting us back to life like it does after the more decidedly delicate songs that had taken place beforehand. No doubt that this is a side of the amped-up Glenn roaring to life on “Final Desperation,” but he’s thriving & thrashing hard inside of an environment as well; the inspired amount of creativity and pure dedication he applies to the art of making music is apparent everywhere.
Case in-point. Clocking-in at an impressive 13:43, in this cornerrrrrrrrrrrrrrr – “Call Of The Brave” is a highly ambitious endeavor, no doubt about it. I mean, if you want a quick frame of reference, this one track alone is practically half the length of most of Weezer’s full albums, you feel me? Much tougher to sing along with too. This particular track, is also the second ‘cover’ on the record…which is probably taking just as many liberties with the definition as Glenn does with the material in the way he expands these ideas and makes them his own. “Call Of The Brave” is based on the ol’ original PS1 fame Final Fantasy Tactics – and I’m just glad the man’s not inducing some sort of weird rental-store PTSD in me is all. What Glenn, and likely many of you don’t know, is that many moons before I ever started this SBS thing I do here now, I worked in, and eventually managed a video-store for about a decade. So believe me when I say, not from personal experience logging in hours on the screen myself, but from renting out these games endlessly, reserving them daily, taking calls like crazy on their release days…I know full-well just how many people out there a song like “Call Of The Brave” has the potential to appeal to, just based on its relation to the original alone. I think fans of the Final Fantasy series would be more than stoked about the epic adventure this track provides…Glenn’s done the cannon justice with “Call Of The Brave.” There’s no doubt it’s a much taller ask of the everyday listener out there, but hell with it – let the people that ‘get it’ get it, and let those that don’t, don’t. I can fully admit there are going to be times where I’m really into a song like this and times where I wouldn’t be, but that’s fairly true of all music fundamentally speaking. The facts are that “Call Of The Brave” does play in what sounds very much like a complement to something visual…there are transitions that morph very slowly, which will prove to be the tough part for the average listener out there; essentially, as tight as it is, it can feel really loose as it switches from moment-to-moment, nearly dropping off entirely for a couple seconds or two here & there as it plays. For those that are able to hang with “Call Of The Brave,” those breaks will feel like the separation of chapters in a great story…and you can feel yourself brace yourself for what might come next – especially the longer it plays on. You’ll find the intensity & depth of the melody continue to dig in deeper as “Call Of The Brave” continues…and those split-seconds of silence or moments where Glenn will transition the sound of this song become a moment for us to catch our breath in time for the malevolent & menacing twists the entire melody will take on before it’s all said & done.
In the ol’ notes I’ve got here that came along with the record, I’ve actually got the least amount of information about “A Rose In Time” – and there’s a reason for that, whether Glenn realizes it or not – some things just can’t be described in words. I could pound away at this keyboard all damn day and never get close to accurately nailing down just how much I love this song, or why, or what it is about it that seemed to instantly invade my heart and carve out its own special place there. On that initial listen, when “A Rose In Time” first began to blossom and brighten-up around the 2:15-ish mark, I wasn’t quite as such as I was about the moments before…BUT…I felt like I got on board pretty quick. It’s too beautiful at its core not to give in to it, that’s the facts folks. There’s something genuinely mesmerizing about “A Rose In Time” that no other song seems to have…and I’d imagine that, even though it somehow defied his own description, Glenn understands the powerful connection this song makes. I ain’t gonna lie to ya folks…by the time I got about a quarter of the way into this track, I was convinced it could very well be the gem of the record. That being said…I dunno…if there’s a potential knock to be made against it, it’s merely that the intro takes its time, and what’s behind it is so spectacular that it feels like it takes twice as long to get there as a result…BUT…damn is it worth the waiting! There are even moments like around the 2:10 mark where you can hear maybe a slightly better fade-in with the extra-layer could be smoothed out a lil’ bit…there is more about “A Rose In Time” that you could argue is less polished than a lot of the rest on The Lone Soldier…but it’s within that balance, you’ll find a steady composure to this composition that reveals a humble & stunning raw beauty that can’t be missed.
“Seize The Day” is a highly interesting tune to me. As a long-standing fan of The Cure, Glenn’s actually drifted really close to a melody-line that is featured in the song…hmm…I should probably double-check this to be sure, but I’m gonna say it’s “The Same Deep Water As You” from the Disintegration album. Obviously the pace and sound is much more different overall, but this tiny fragment of “Seize The Day” also becomes the centerpiece of this tune and it’s most memorable aspect as well…it’s changed just enough to be Murawski’s own design for sure…but I have the feeling other fans of The Cure would likely pick up on what I’m picking up on here. Either way…I mean…if it sounds like I’m complaining I’m definitely not – that’s as good a company as any artist/band could ever keep in my opinion; I’ve been on record for years & years saying that The Cure and R.E.M. have been my all-time favorites and it’s been that way for about more than half my life at this point. So more songs & sounds of anything that even remotely resembles the two of those bands is always a highly welcome thing in my world, just sayin.’ I could have all this mixed up in my head of course…I listen to a heck of a lot of music, so forgive me if I’ve got all this wrong. My gut tells me the balance here is a bit more towards the artistic tendencies and probably an iota or two too far for mass consumption…BUT…hopefully the people out there stick it out through this cut, because the latter-half really brings out the personality & character in “Seize The Day.”
The gong splash around the forty-five second-mark of the final track “Revelations” will have you quickly wishing you wore your brown pants if you’re not ready for it, so consider yourselves warned; after the brilliantly low-key intro of “Revelations” runs on for as long as it does, you settle in for a moment to listen extremely closely…and then BAMMO – that’s right when Glenn hits ya with it, flips the script, and takes this whole song in a completely different direction than where it all began. No surprises when it comes to the kind of music Glenn tends to create – because we expect surprises in the music he makes – but even when you think you might have an idea of what the great reveal in the next part may be, he still proves to be innovative & creative in how he chooses to go about it, thus thereby creating surprise even when we know to expect it somehow. How you go about doing THAT, I have no idea, ask Glenn. If anything, I’m 100% guilty of being WAY attached to the beginning of this song…there’s just something about how down-low this moment is, that if it had stayed that way for the full 2:46, I’d have been more than happy & fine with that. Murawski’s never one to sit still though, and soon enough, with the splash of a cymbal or gong or whatever that is, we’re off into the melodic glow of one last epic before the end. He’s got a flute-sound up high on the surface of “Revelations” that really stole the show, and the subtle addition of the piano layer that stays at the core of the melody on this last song always hit that mark of sincerity in sound, especially in tandem with the strings warming up the vibes around them. “Revelations” is a solid cut to finish off another great album in Glenn Murawski’s catalog, and you already know based on his track record as of late, that there are certainly many more still to come.
FUN FACT: If you didn’t know this already, you can get yourselves copies of Glenn Murawski’s entire catalog for free at his page at Bandcamp – so do that! Find him here: https://glennmurawski.bandcamp.com
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