IO Earth Sanctuary (2023)


A special album deserves a special review. My first thought after hearing Sanctuary was, this is really a kind of melting pot or stew of musical influences and from there the following arose.

Good evening, with restaurant progrock what can I do for you? Good evening, I wanted to make a reservation but I have a few questions. Go ahead sir. Does chef Dave Cureton still work for you? Of course he is the reason for our success and the menu is put together by him but don't underestimate sous chef Adam Gough he is also very important for the finishing touch. Ah, great, now I have eaten with you before and I particularly liked the stews, Solitude was delicious, a bit spicy, and Aura was also delicious and ate away so easily with a nice aftertaste. Well, then you'll be happy to hear that we just got a new stew on the menu, Sanctuary. That sounds good, what's in it? It is a very spicy stew with heavy guitar riffs, sharp guitar solos, electronic soundscapes, heavenly women's vocals, beautiful melodies, pinches of acoustic guitar but also prog metal herbs. That sounds interesting, can make a reservation right away? Of course you are very welcome, we are curious what you think of it?

Okay, all joking aside, (very lame , I know) the new album of IO Earth has reached me after a journey of no less than four weeks, thank you Dutch customs (not), and is a real challenge for me as a reviewer. I am on board from Moments on and I admire the courage to innovate and the attempt to surprise with every new album. The two masterminds behind IO Earth are the aforementioned Dave Cureton and Adam Gough on guitars and keyboards respectively. Dave released his solo album State of Mind not too long ago and that's a really heavy album and I feel like he's still in that vibe because there are quite a few pounding pieces packed into the songs. But these are interspersed with all kinds of quiet soundscapes and electronic rhythms so that there are no straightforward songs. And then, of course, there's the wonderful, clear, crisp vocals of the returned Linda Odinsen that lies like an unctuous blanket over all the songs on Sanctuary.

I'm not going to go into all the individual tracks this time, partly because there is a kind of pattern to be discovered. It's variety trumps and that actually within all the songs themselves and that's very intense for the listeners. Of course, I listened to Sanctuary several times and was overwhelmed and exhausted each time. (well, proverbial then). We are dealing with medium-length songs between four and nine minutes that, except for the ballad Close By, are all full of variety. Sometimes so much that it even gets a little tiring and you long for a recognizable chorus. It's a daring album, that's for sure.

In terms of lyrics, it's generally about overcoming adversity and even yourself to ultimately feel better. Self-knowledge and self-sacrifice are often necessary to gain better insights. And in the end there will be Sunshine.

The guitar work is stunning again and the solos are very virtuoso and are usually played at great speed, often supported by rock-hard riffs. I am not a big prog metal enthusiast myself and sometimes have some trouble with these pieces. Fortunately, there are also some more mellow, melodic solos because Dave can do that very well too.

What makes the music of IO Earth different is the input of Adam's keyboard work that is often reminiscent of trance or house and you expect a monotonous, pounding rhythm at any moment. Yet you also hear very subdued pieces that create a very beautiful and sometimes threatening atmosphere on which Odinsen can let her singing qualities shine. Luke Shingler's playing on saxophone and flute is less noticeable than on previous albums and personally, sorry Luke, I don't mind that much but that's purely due to my attitude towards wind instruments and certainly not his qualities.

The rhythm section, Christian Nokes on bass and Tim Wilson on drums is a major influence on the enormous dynamics of the music on this album and the tight playing of both provides the right backbone.

I think The Child and Changes are my favourite songs, but the rest is right up there. Won't be afraid is a very good closing track. The cover is very beautiful and completes the whole experience. This album will definitely be in my annual list, but I don't know exactly where to rank it at the moment. There is still a lot to discover and I will definitely do that.

And sir, did you like it? Yes, it was very tasty, but I had to get used to the sharpness of the dish. Very spicy with quite a few hard pieces but with the necessary wine to accompany the food it went down fine. I am afraid that it will be a bit heavy on the stomach for some, and will take some time to digest, but I would definitely recommend the dish. Until next time.


Music 79

Cover 86