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Album Review: "Candle Opera" (2022) by Candle Opera

Intro: A year after releasing their first single, Mirror Pools, Candle Opera from Connecticut comes back to the scene with a whole album including their first piece. Candle Opera aims to give prog lovers the absolute prog rock experience. The influences of bands like Yes, Genesis, and Deep Purple on Candle Opera might surprise you when you hear the band was founded in 2019 by a 20-year-old young man, James Rafferty. Despite his age, James gets influenced by classic and old progressive rock pieces. The mission of Candle Opera got done after their first album release on May 26, 2022. Now, Candle Opera invites you to this 35-minute journey!

Here is the track-by-track review of this promising album!

1) The Witness (6:42)

Just from the beginning, Candle Opera throws a punch at us. Guitar riffs, bass, and drum are integrated professionally. Every component’s beauty and the talent of Mick and James can be felt there. Wait until you hear the keyboards, and you’ll take a second punch. If you close your eyes throughout the short keyboard solo part you might confuse James with Richard Wright. With vocals coming at us, the name of the track becomes more understandable. “The Witness” tells his story and the tone perfectly fits into the song. Through the middle part, we encounter Mick’s mad riffs, and then it is inevitable to experience the old progressive style but with a new perspective. With that being said, Candle Opera surprises us with a fusion of Deep Purple and Pink Floyd at the end.

2) Six Dreamer's Suite (6:38) After the grand opening with The Witness, the second longest track of the album opens up with a piano arpeggio of James, setting the tones differently from the longest track. This pedal riffing works so well over the 70s-inspired ethereal soundscape that has been created with percussion and Genesisian progression. The suite bears all the ingenuities and tricks of James as a composer and keyboardist. Chordal and riff alterations, transitions, layerings of different keyboards, vocals that are only meant to be instruments, structural experiments… Although the 7/4 could do more than remind of The Cinema Show, the later use of the rhythm in the instrumental jams section emerges as one of the best moments of the album with experiences such as guitar and bass dueting. Different sections bring different abilities to the table, such as the juicy blues interlude, but have their problems of coming together as a whole. The section between the 4th and 5th-minute mark could be the best musical moment of the album, marking the best use of choral atmosphere and major 3 harmonies. As an achievement in production, the album has a big soundscape that one can lose itself in and finds new layers with every listen such as the beautiful use of the chimes and other percussions.

3) Off Course (5:31)

The third track could be expected to become the most popular of the album, as James’ vocals feel like a perfect reminiscence of the 70s and 80s. The song just shows the point between an influence and rip-off, as James can show how he combines many influences such as Camel, Genesis, Pink Floyd, and Rhodes as era instruments, Deep Purple, and just goes beyond the point as he gathered 40 more years into the song. This risky song turns into something beautiful and certainly shows James’ point that one can still make new authentic experiences with the old prog influences. The nostalgic tone rules over the song, as it does with the album, but the influence and use of tape recording couldn’t be felt more in such a beautiful context.

4) King's Goodbye (5:38)

This time, a quick opening greets us. Encountering some heavy keyboard doesn’t surprise us since we expect such things from James’ talented fingers. With the rhythm, “King’s Goodbye” reveals the influence of Genesis. Lyrics kick in and the familiar vocals from “Off Course” happens to be the complementary element of this piece. We keep hearing the fusion of Pink Floyd and Genesis on the keyboards and the similarity to those good old ‘80s prog pieces becomes clearer. Not to forget the guitar riffs on the downs of the vocals, they, too, add to the proggyness of the track. In the last quarter, Candle Opera leaves us with their mad Pink Floyd vibes. Rhythm, keyboards, and guitar riffs, all together, create the perfect ending for “King’s Goodbye” and leave no place for an alternative ending.

5) Mirror Pools (5:05)

Nope, sorry that’s not an Eagles intro gentlemen. You might think it is, till you hear the back vocals. And with the back vocals, it might sound like an epic metal intro, but no. This intro is a product of very professional artists. It intrigues you with all those similarities and takes you in. And presents you with something better than them, progressive rock at its finest. And of course, the beautiful voice of Emily Russell takes you into the song too. After one and a half minutes, Candle Opera change the style and play their “modern progressive rock” card. No one cannot deny that they enjoy the diversity in this song. It is more than awesome how Candle Opera puts those together in a perfect way. We hear the mad guitar riffs for a minute and come to the prologue, the best part. We turn back to the epic metal style again with Emily’s vocals and the keyboards and all. Slowly fading away “Mirror Pools” definitely satisfies its listeners.

6) Gates of Beira (4:49)

As the final track of such a promising album, it is expected James to hit the listener with a different and grande composition overall— and fortunately, the opening sequence Delivers. Although the organ riff has similarities with previous riffs of arpeggios along with the pedaling, it is obvious that James added these techniques and compositional elements to his musician DNA and this makes the songs coherent as well. As a song to showcase all with balance, the transitions between parts that don’t necessarily suppose to work together could sometimes be in a snap. However, comparing this to experimentalism and jams that uses instruments to their utmost potential in James and Mick’s hands, the parts don’t so feel out-of-context. Over such a useful 6/8, the drums, guitars, drums, and no other instruments feel overused—as they are just dueting. Little details make an album great, and such layerings of not-very-long-lasting guitar harmonies or the perfect runs of bass are just little examples of an album that pays attention to every little detail. As a guitarist from the old generation of pentatonic and blues, Mick’s playing never ever bores you as such creativity never repeats itself and always finds the perfect feel for every opportunity at the scene. Another thing that makes the album coherent, but sometimes can cross the line between using as an influence or using it as it is, is the Genesisian 12-string transition to the outro that walks us through and out of the Gates of Beira in such peace after 35 minutes of pure potential and modern-day progressive rock.

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