Now, mind you I’m new to the music of Austin’s own The Aaron Clift Experiment. Their new album in which it’s a follow up to their 2012 debut, Lonely Hills is entitled, Outer Light, Inner Darkness is a spellbinding and jaw-dropping piece of work that composer Aaron Clift has brought into the inner light. They received some recognition, word-of-mouth, even named as one of the best unsigned bands of 2013 from Prog Magazine.
For me, that’s a real support, but let me get back into the review train. Outer Light, Inner Darkness is one of those albums that won’t leave my portable CD player and I really love what is going on here. Aaron Clift is not doing this for himself, he’s doing it along with his bandmates to work together as a team. The band considers alongside keyboardist Aaron Clift himself is; Eric Gutierrez on Guitar/Mandolin, Devin North on Bass/Double Bass, and Joe Resnick on Drums and Percussion.
It’s also a concept album about contemplating dualities between light vs. darkness, hope vs. despair. The first half deals with the conflict that they go through the forces as the second half goes into a journey as they try to reconcile the extreme measures they go through and how they can become one. It’s very much finding out who you are as it’s almost like a spiritual journey to find what lies ahead to fight for your inner self.
The music itself is melodic, hard, and spellbinding. Opening track, Kissed by the Sun stars off with a killer guitar riff followed by the violins and Aaron singing “Remember the day/when the sun kissed our backs?/Remember the way/light would fill the cracks of our life?” It’s a great way to start the album off with amazing lyrical touches to the story in the pattern of a waltz in the ¾ time signature and Eric’s guitar going into a crunching sound with unexpected momentum and Clift’s Rhodes and Keyboards filling in the atmosphere.
Not to mention Devin’s Bass solo in the midsection that resembles Jaco Pastorius and Geddy Lee. Ascending melodies come into mind that sees Clift reaching for the highest mountain tops as the band follow along to reach into climbing beauty. I love Fragments of Sleep. It has a melodic ballad that reminded me of Beardfish doing a continuation of Styx’s The Grand Illusion. It’s dramatic, touching, and dealing with the dreams being in front of you, but jumbling down.
Your Arms Hold Them to the Dark is a dark and sinister composition with a metallic punch. There’s a bit of Haken thrown into the mix as if the song was written during the sessions of their second album, Visions. Layered sounds, spooky keyboard touches, and intense rhythm setting the haunting vibrations with a thunderous attitude that fighting the darkness will be a task to take.
The Last Oasis is classical at its finest from the string section. It gives a symphonic metallic introduction on what is to come that shines brightly with hope for the first three minutes before kicking into a Queen-like melody and touches of The Who’s rock opera Tommy thrown into the mix before Aaron sings as the climatic finale comes into the swing.
The 12-minute suite Moonscape is perhaps one of my favorites. It is the power of the ring of Progressive Rock at its best. The three-part suite are militant, atmospheric, and spacier that will have your jaws dropped. There’s the inspiration of the Italian Prog sounds of La Coscienza Di Zeno’s second album Sensitivita, early Genesis, Pink Floyd, and Bigelf thrown into the mix. It will sends chills on your arm hair to raise up at the right moment.
The Aaron Clift Experiment’s second album has completely taken me by surprise. I have listened to it three times now and I have to say he has come a long way to bring the Prog genre into full circle with the stories thrown in. I have to highly recommend this album big time and there will be some competition on the best Prog albums of 2015. And it will probably be this one.