I had not known Onsegen Ensemble prior to stumbling upon a post a few days ago by Mr Tom Hanno (Tom’s Reviews). And even though I do love a prog album as much as the next guy, I was by no means prepared for this astonishing gender-bending ride in the “Realms” of this album. Buckle up and have a read below to find out why!
The first song of the album, “The Sleeping Lion”, sweeps across a canvas of cinematic melodies that literally sound like a sunrise! And of course you ‘d be right to ask “what does a sunrise sound like?”. Well, I would say that a wonderful instrumentation with wind instruments, psychedelic guitars and some brilliant vocals should not be very far from describing it. While listening to it, the first time I thought “huh, this what King Crimson could sound like if they ever collaborated with Simon and Garfunkel”.
“Naked Sky” comes next, with a sinister sounding flute melody that quickly transcends any analogies to the mighty Jethro Tull. Easily one of the highlights of the album, this song boasts of glorious eerie vocals that create a heroic ambience, the kind that you would expect to find in a Sergio Leone western movie, but shot in space. Especially the latter half of the song is out if this world, revealing song-writing skills that could only be matched by Tool (Aenima era).
“Abysmal Sun” enters with a beautiful guitar twang and if you still haven’t sat back and plugged your headphones to enable this masterpiece to properly blow your mind, now is as good a time as any. The first half of the song sounds like an elegy to the sunsets of the old Far West, yet it quickly transforms into a 1970s prog anthem, linking the melody of the “Sleeping Lion” towards the end, making you feel that the first chapter of the album is closed.
“Collapsing Star” opens the gates to the second chapter of the album, starting with a soothing melody that sounds like waves on a quiet August night. And as it builds up, the vocals, horns and guitars come in, layer after layer, to create an ambience of a thunderstorm that is only just about to break out. Towards the end, I couldn’t help thinking that the chorus could have easily been one of those classic choruses sang by Chris De Burgh.
And right after the cleansing melodies of the Collapsing Star, “The Ground of Being” kicks in with some of the best vocal work that I have heard in a long time, and an unparalleled melody that tells Pink Floyd to their face where their “Sorrow” could have (or perhaps should have) culminated. While the wind instruments work wonders throughout the album, in this song the saxophone literally blows right into your heart.
And if the previous song is the album’s “Sorrow”, then “I ‘m Here No Matter What” could be the band’s space rendition of “Welcome to the Machine”. The bass guitar and the drums literally shine towards the end, providing a rock solid canvas for all the other instruments to converse and guide the listener towards an exit with a whirlwind of sounds and images that will have you hit the repeat button in no time, as you will want to re-enter their “Realms” again and again.
In all, “Realms” is one of those rare albums that slowly but masterfully weave a brand new world, lyric after lyric and note after note, luring you in its embers. All you have to do is listen and their world will reveal itself before your eyes. Hands down, this is one of my albums of the year for 2022!
PS. The band is currently running a campaign via Bandcamp to fund the vinyl for “Realms”. If you want to support them and secure your copy on wax, make sure that you do in the first week of December 2022 before it expires!
Words by Ioannis Valiakos