Saturday May 12th saw two hundred of Mostly Autumn’s hardcore fans gather at The Post Office Social Club in their home town of York for the launch party of their new album “The Ghost Moon Orchestra”. A lot of familiar faces present, many of whom I hadn’t seen for ages. Previous album launches, such as the Heart Full of Sky launch at The Astoria in 2007 had taken the form of a high profile showcase gig. This one, in more intimate surroundings had a rather different format.
Things started with a short live set from the band. Well, most of the band, since they played as a semi-acoustic five-piece minus Andy Smith and Gavin Griffiths. Bryan Josh played acoustic guitar throughout, but Iain Jennings play more than just piano parts on keys, and Liam Davison did some electric lead parts. Anne-Marie Helder doubled up on flute and percussion (is there no instrument she cannot play?). The set consisted entirely of stripped-down reworkings of existing material with no completely new numbers, drawing very heavily from “Passengers” including a great flute-heavy “Pass the Clock”. Other highlights were “Second Hand” from “Glass Shadows” with some very atmospheric lead guitar from Liam, and Livvy’s oldie “Rain Song”, played as a trio with piano and flute. It had been the band’s original intention to play the bonus disk “A Weather For Poets” in their entirety, including some new songs. Unfortunately several of the band were ill in the days immediately before the gig, and there wasn’t enough time to rehearse them. Still, it was interesting to hear fresh takes of those older numbers.
The second part of the evening was a playback of the album through the PA, at something approaching concert volumes, with various members of the band scattered among the audience. It’s difficult to judge an album properly on just two listens, especially for a band of Mostly Autumn’s musical scope. So this shouldn’t be taken as a proper review, which will have to wait until I’ve got hold of the CD when it ships in a few weeks time. Rather it’s my immediate first impressions.
The album starts with a very dynamic and very immediate opening number that reminds me of European symphonic metal bands like Sonata Arctica or Nightwish, and things continue in that vein. There are a couple of Deep Purple sounding songs awash with Hammond organ. There are one or two quieter moments, with a bit of Anne-Marie’s flute, and yet again there’s some Uilleann pipes, presumably from Troy Donockley.
But the overall feel is something heavier and more contemporary-sounding than anything they’ve done before. I wouldn’t have used the word “metal” to describe anything Mostly Autumn have done in the past. This is an album which, if properly marketed, could win over a significant crossover fanbase from the metal community.
Livvy’s vocals are amazing; there is a lot of material that makes full use of her power and range, and sounds utterly unlike anything Heather would have sung. If Go Well Diamond Heart emphasised Bryan’s guitar, this one’s far more about Livvy’s vocals. There are performances here in the same league as the likes of Within Temptation’s Sharon Den Adel.
This is the sound of a very different and re-invented Mostly Autumn. While I liked a lot of “Go Well Diamond Heart” and reviewed it favourably at the time, hearing the new one makes you realise how much the band had been playing it safe for their first album with a new lead singer. Now they’re showing what they can really do. Not only can I not wait until I get the CD so I can hear it again, but I can’t wait to see it all performed live when the band tour in September.