(All Album Reviews by Jonathan Pine)
The cover of the album took my fancy from the very first. Twelve identical eyeballs. Half of them take pleasure in a morning swim, while the rest keep watch hovering majestically over the boundless blue ocean …The image reminds me of the following words: “Where did you get your eyes so blue? Out of the sky as I came through.”¹ Thus, the cover is not scary. On the contrary, because the eyeballs are spotlessly clean, with no blood traces, they seem to be … Well… easy on the eye.
Sonus Umbra means in Latin “the sound of shadow” and it is the second incarnation of the band previously known as Radio Silence (founded by Luis Nasser and his colleagues in 1992). The album contains ten tracks, inc. two instrumentals (”Doppelganger” and “Erich Zann”) and a three-part epic ”Insects”.
I would say that the CD is the kind of record that one can get hooked on from the very first listening. The reasons are obvious: first-rate musicianship, especially in the perfectly beautiful acoustic guitar passages (with Latin-American influences), excellent keyboard playing, great guitar solos and remarkable percussion work. Another important part of Snapshots from Limbo is the vocalist. Andreas Aullet’s voice is calm, warm and sometimes dreamy. However, his relaxed style of singing does not make the music monotonous, because there is also a female vocalist, Lisa Francis (as a special guest from Kurgan’s Bane), who adds diversity to the vocalizations. Together they create truly wonderful harmonies. The compositions from the album exemplify everything that progressive rock should be: long and complex structures, catchy melodies, outstanding solos. In a word, a great and original sound.
The CD begins with a track “Ghosts from the Past” (and a very nice music box melody as an intro). It is the shortest song of the album (2:38). The composition is based on gorgeous acoustic guitar (Ricardo Gomez). A very bitter landscape of the corrupted P.R.I. ruling in sharp contrast with the warmness and calmness of Andres Aullet’s vocalization. Next is the instrumental “Doppelganger” in which you get an idea of the skillfulness of the entire band. To me the track sounds as if Alan Parsons Project united with Clanned. An absolute masterpiece. The second instrumental track is “Erich Zann” (do you remember the mysterious fiddler from Rue d’Auseil ? ²). It is captivating due to its incredibly hypnotic percussion mantra. Perhaps the most glorious use of acoustic guitar Ricardo Gomez makes is in “Soul Dusk”. Now and then his acoustic passages are complemented by tasty guitar solos (“Homo Homini Lupus”). Very interesting is also the aforementioned epic “Insect” (the last composition on the album). Lyrically, it is an allegorical story of a man who noticing the similarity of his life to the existence of ants wants desperately to be born again. The solution that he finds has nothing in common with a religious rebirth or enriching of his karma. In fact he could be a good crony of Jame Gumb’s ³ since he chooses violence in the end ….
Summing up: This is an outstanding prog release recorded by extremely talented musicians. The music will surely appeal to fans of Camel, Arena, Karnataka, Satellite, although in my opinion it is a real must for all progressive rock lovers.
¹ “At the Back of the North Wind” by George MacDonald
² “The Music of Erich Zann” by H.P. Lovecraft
³ the notorious serial killer known as ”Buffalo Bill" the main character from The Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris.