CD REVIEW: The Pax Cecilia - Blessed are the Bonds
By Alex Jasperse - 08/07/2007 - 10:00 PM EDT
Artist: Band: The Pax Cecilia
Album: Blessed are the Bonds 
Genre: Ambient, Art-Rock and Progressive Metal
Overall Talent Level: 10/10
Songwriting Skills: 10/10
Performance Skill: 10/10
The Pax Cecilia’s second release, Blessed are the Bonds, not only blurs the lines between ambient soundscapes, art-rock and progressive metal, it also proves that in the 21st century, you don’t need a high profile label to be accessible to a worldwide audience. That may not sound like anything new, but here’s the difference: the band is giving their albums away for free. All you have to do is send them your mailing address, and in return, all they ask is that you to spread the word, burn copies for friends, and (possibly) consider making a small donation (which I did, for the record).
Perhaps music’s fatal flaw was that it was never meant to be commodified – maybe it was supposed to be openly shared as a means of communication. With no other intent than to communicate with an audience, The Pax Cecilia has proved that there can be a payoff by doing just this. And as a result, they have quickly become a name that has spread across music forums and review sites faster than many of their independent counterparts.
Music wise, Blessed are the Bonds is an album that never shies away from adding and combining various layers of percussion, low-end bass and guitar riffage and delicate piano lines, as well as the power of a string trio. It’s minimal when it comes to vocals and heavy on the instrumentals and each track is filled with so many new ideas that the intellectual depth to their work is nearly impossible to comprehend in one listen, let alone ten.
Assembling the workforce needed to construct the grand sonic architecture of the album, “The Tragedy” begins to lay a foundation of elegant piano playing and sustained strings. Several minutes in and the bass and drums join forces, carrying with them another layer to be added to the ever-growing structure. Vocals soon flow in and out, and a line (indirectly) outlines the structural progression of the album: “And in songs like this one / they all blend together / seeking out others like themselves...”
It may be too early for the listener to comprehend the depth of The Pax Cecilia’s musical poetry just yet, because their words quickly become part of the accelerating instrumentation that begins to combine and transform into something that’s simply surreal. Alongside an absolutely spectacular descending piano riff, the vocals travel from beautiful and gentle, to frustrated and angry with neither out-balancing the other. It simply becomes another layer of the song and another piece of the larger structure that powers the speed at which things soar and plummet.
Pushing the progressive bounds forward once again, “The Tomb Song” gears up for what can only be described as another mini-epic. Nearly four minutes in, it begins to travel through interchanging melodies of chanting vocals and distorted guitar riffs, all the while being complemented by the piano. There’s a film noir grit mixed with blockbuster epic proportions (think Agalloch meets Pelican meets Ulver), and it doesn’t take much time before it unleashes sonic tidal waves that sweep away the simplicity of its original form. Climaxing into a raw and fiery-metalcore-meets-sludge-metal explosion of crunchy and churning guitars riffs supported by a raging percussive momentum, the energy spills over into both “The Progress” and “The Machine,” adding another two awe-inspiring compositions to the mix.
Going from ravaging to ambient, “The Wasteland” drastically changes the pace of the album, and leaves listeners alone in a chilling environment of distant cries and passing soundscapes. The dominating colours of the first four tracks disappear, while classic Brian Eno-like atmospherics begin to dissolve the passage of time. Seamlessly flowing into “The Water Song,” a delicately picked electric guitar sets the pace once again with the accompaniment of the piano and drums. Near the four-minute mark, everything begins to crescendo and expand with the same velocity that had sped through the previous pieces, with each descent ending in the arms of the guitar.
Even though many of the tracks are drawn out to allow each instrument to have its own freedom to speak, Blessed are the Bonds never feels like a jam session. Everything is arranged with the utmost perfection, and tracks like “The Tree” seamlessly coast between marching guitars, drums and strings, while toying with the ascent by injecting the occasional groove. Almost a deliberate contrast to the rest of the album, the last track, “The Hymn,” travels between structure and free-time, and it’s hard not to get swept up in the little details like the vocals rising in the right ear while the crest of the sonic wave touches left for only a second before plunging back down.
The Pax Cecilia has created an album that reconfigures the possibilities of ambient, art-rock and progressive metal, making it sound beautiful, menacing and refreshingly new as they do it. Blessed are the Bonds is one of the few pieces of art that transcends definition, and transforms nothing more than twelve notes into a musical force that will reveal something different with each listen. For an album that will only cost you an hour, this is nothing short of a masterpiece.
The Verdict: 10/10
For more information, please contact The Pax Cecilia at firstname.lastname@example.org
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