As a founding member of UK prog band Anathema, Daniel Cavanagh is no stranger to writing powerful music that wears its emotions firmly on its sleeve; most recently personified in the sublime The Optimist (Kscope). Cited at various places throughout that album’s promotion was Daniel Cavanagh’s struggle with depression and the low points that he reached in that time. In the light of these battles, solo album Monochrome (Kscope) is a deeply personal record that, in comparison to the emboldened vision of The Optimist, feels more to the bone and loses none of the expected emotional resonance.
As much as this is an album that shows fragility throughout, there are also hints of positivity and enlightenment, such as on the near euphoric and tranquil ‘Dawn’, with its opening bird songs and folk-like instrumentation and chanting vocals. Despite being largely piano-based, and the album’s early brace of more stripped-back songs, Monochrome also shows moments of exploration and long form; particularly on ‘The Silent Flight of The Raven Winged Hours’ which is a much more overtly influenced by classic progressive rock than much of Cavanagh’s contemporary repertoire, culminating with ‘Some Dreams Come True’, which evokes a peaceful journey of both melancholy and some sense of hope.
Opening track ‘The Exorcist’ is the most “familiar” sounding piece on Monochrome, based on looping piano passages and gradual builds, complete with Cavanagh’s similarly building, heart-wrenching singing, which feels and sounds like a tearful outpouring and both an omission of some form of loss and yet somewhat thankfulness (with the lyrics “because you save me from myself”). The presence of Anneke Van Giersbergen gives a further vocal dynamic; their chemistry in harmonies and interplays, and her differing range, such as on the mellow ‘This Music’, making an impact.
At the risk of continuously throwing them both together, in contrast to Anathema’s cinematic The Optimist, Monochrome in some ways feels a more subtle record, with fewer effects and layers; yet more than matches up in capturing the listener in emotional gravitas with its deeply personal and reflective nature.