Track By Tracks: Gates To The Morning - Return To Earth (2019)

1. King Obscure is the tragic, hauntingly beautiful opening instrumental track that features Jon Lopez handling acoustic, classical, and electric guitars along with fretless bass. The band's architect and composer Sean Meyers handles the keyboards and synthesizers.  “Return To Earth” is a concept album and King Obscure is the sudden and profound realization that everything the main character is built upon an empty and hollow ego. None of his/her true gifts are being shared, and they are hoarded and withheld, creating a sense of tragic emptiness.  Even the instrumental tracks contain lyrics that act as a narrative for the overall concept of the album.  “I shine bright, I soar! But seek me not, you’ll never find me. I remain a King Obscure.”

2. Terra Incognita follows up the first track seamlessly, opening up with the same chord progression as King Obscure, except with heavier guitars and strong backbeat.  The track features yearning clean vocals that abruptly and violently switch to brutal growling entwined with grief.  The lyrics are an extension of the first track, speaking of the crippling realization that the protagonist is not who he/she thought they were.  Terra Incognita is a latin phrase for "uncharted territory", and has often appeared on old maps to describe unexplored land.

3. Surveying Forgotten Landscapes is the third track of the opening trilogy of tunes.  Once again the same chord progression that ends Terra Incognita opens up Surveying Forgotten Landscapes.  It is another short instrumental that showcases the band's jazz and blues influences and features the lead guitar work of Mark Glaser interweaving with the standout electric bass work of Dylan Jacobus.  The lyrical themes are cohesive with the first two tracks, yet this time speaking more of forgotten relics of the past. “Land of forgotten treasures, Land of neglected pain.”

4. My Star is based on a very old riff that was written nearly a decade prior to the release of “Return To Earth.”  There are just a handful of riffs on the album that are quite old, and I won’t reveal any of them except for this one.  Lyrically, the protagonist is vowing that he/she will return home to his/her star.  It is contrasting to the ultimate pervasive theme of returning to earth.  It is a yearning to leave and transcend the earthly plane and go find a home in the stars, perhaps where the soul originated.  It is a short but powerful and earnest track that leads seamlessly into the next track.

5. Crossing the Abyss is an abrupt fall into the void.  If “My Star” is the begging of a spiritual journey, then "Crossing the Abyss” is the unforgiving and punishing grant to that request.  It is a cosmic punch to the gut that gives the protagonist much more than anticipated.  Things become a sort of esoteric nightmare and the protagonist realizes that he/she might have bitten off more than they can chew.  A harrowing initiation to the depths of one's soul, madness becomes a necessary tool to navigate across this abyss and obtain necessary wisdom.  The song sonically reflects all of these concepts with chaos and horrible fascination.

6. Freezing the Sundials finds the protagonist thrown into the winter of his/her soul.  It is cold, yet beautiful.  The track opens up in 11/4 and soon leads into a powerful and progressive section of clean vocals that echo from the highest mountaintops.  There is something triumphant and beautiful about it and the opening half of the track showcases many rich harmonies.  The second half of the track enters a heavy and grinding ode to winter with a beautiful release at the end that is like a fire that somehow burns amongst ice and snow.  The track closes with a sense of longing and lavish melancholic beauty.  Musically the track is very progressive, featuring an abundance of odd time signatures and modal harmonies, along with clean and growling vocals.

7. Chapel Perilous is a unique track on the album that features Jon Lopez once again handling acoustic and classical guitars. Sean Meyers handles the solitary and hermetic vocals along with keyboards/synthesizers.  Perhaps most notably is the beautiful Lever Harp that appears on the track, handled by Ædan McEvoy.  The track is an isolated hymn from the depths of doubt and confusion.  It is a cry from the deep that the protagonist laments, yet fully acknowledges his/her fate, and the path they must travel to emerge from the abyss. It is the harrowing height of the Dark Night of the Soul.

8. Crestfallen is an immediate punisher and an ode to second-wave black metal, with some contemporary spins on it.  The track opens up with the grieving and agonizing screams and drumming of Sean Meyers, and guitars that howl through the depths of some forsaken woods. Anthony Gobeille’s keyboards help paint this haunting picture. It grieves the pain of being empathic and strongly connected to a forsaken planet.  Meg Moyer makes an appearance with a beautiful vocal harmony, her voice echoing the solemn petition of Mother Earth.  “As the masquerade fades away, in the wandering wind I will be.”  When we are ready to take off our masks, mother earth will remind us of who we truly are and why we are here.

9. Haunting the Third Chamber is a short and reflective segue that leads us into the land of the shadows.  The ambient and cryptic guitar work and synthesizers blend together indivisibly and remind us of the ghosts and fractured spirits we carry within us, through the eyes of the weathered protagonist.

10. Chasing Shadows in an acknowledgement that there is no way out, and that we (the protagonist represents us collectively) must go through the heart of our most daunting fears for some type of salvation.  “The way out is through.”  The track opens with a foreboding, tribal intro that leads way into a dynamic chorus of Sean Meyers’ clean vocals that showcases the variety of the bands influences.  Chilling keyboards support the opening half of the track and even chaotically unravel as the track transitions into an epic and triumphant ending that culminates in a building up of guitar harmonies and adventurous drumming of Meyers.

11.  Two Winters is yet another ode to nature as the protagonist acknowledges that he has been enduring the winter of his spiritual journey, so long that two simultaneous winters have passed.  The opening guitar riff is like the falling of snow and is beautifully compounded by the lead harmonies of Mark Glaser.   It is an instrumental track that journeys through the heart of a snow-filled landscape and finally ends with an introverted meditation on the sound of winter.  "Earth seized me, sent me to the heart of Two Winters, then she released me, to carry her sound everywhere I go…"

12. Steadfast is the instrumental moment of enlightenment.  It is the relief, the culmination of gratitude and the realization of purpose. It is a sense of unshakeable peace that is the product of earnest spiritual work. "I try not to think, because you can’t be thought of , I wait mindlessly for your experience, I know you are always on time.  The track starts off with gently shimmering guitar work and eventually Dylan Jacobus’s very timely bass work enters the zenlike musical conversation with the drums of Sean Meyers swimming along.  Mark Glaser’s electrifying and transcendent lead guitar work enters the picture and hits a tearful, chilling apex.  A subtle fire is light within as the track fades away and the segue into the next song is setup at the very end.

13. Rekindled enters with vigor and vitality, showcasing progressive counterpoint guitars in odd time signatures.  It is glowing and fiery, hence the name, and conceptually the protagonist has found the fire within that is necessary to guide him on the rest of his journey.  The road ahead still seems long, but no longer quite as arduous and impossible.  Perhaps the most important aspect is the knowledge that this gift must be shared with others, a conceptual answer to the hiding and hoarding of the intro, King Obscure“Beacons are lit, reach the flame to every corner.  Leave none unchanged.”  These lyrics are belted from the depths of a renewed soul and a righteous, victorious, and elated guitar solo by Mark Glaser follows up the clean vocals of Sean Meyers.  The track ends in epic fashion while seamlessly transitioning into the final track of the album.

14. Return to Earth, the title track and climactic culmination of the album enters using the same chord progression Rekindled ends on, with a different and forward moving rhythm.  The drums kick in and the hopeful, auspicious keyboards of Anthony Gobeille drive the song into a faithful chorus of Meg Moyer’s ethereal, transcendent and healing vocal performances that promises there is always hope, and there is a love that always awaits us.  "Ill catch you when you’re fading, My heart will always sing your song, Earth is the place you belong now, and when you’re weak , I am strong…”  It is an answer to the misplaced hope of “My Star” that the journey and purpose of the protagonist is anywhere but Earth.  Being human is perhaps the greatest task, and however challenging that can be, there is a love that will always catch him or her.  Mark Glaser righteously follows up Meg Moyer’s vocals with a bright and transcendent guitar solo, while Sean Meyers takes the track and the album home with a simple and promising guitar lead. 

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