Apr 2013 12

The Clockwork Dolls - When Banners FallThe Clockwork Dolls
Category: Ambient / Darkwave
Album: When Banners Fall
Stars: 3
Blurb: Hovering at a lush but subdued atmosphere in need of a more explosive punch, this sophomore release from The Clockwork Dolls is enjoyable enough with great prowess in production and lyricism.


Hailing from Baltimore, MD, and led by multi-instrumentalist and producer Allison Curval, The Clockwork Dolls emerged in 2009 with Dramatis Personae, a finely tuned mix of classical and darkwave textures evoking a vibe akin to the likes of Black Tape for a Blue Girl with a steampunk vibe. After three years, the band transitions away from the brass and bronze tinkering of the first album to explore a more historically epic theme – WWII. When Banners Fall showcases the band honing its classical soundtrack sensibilities with plenty of melody and provocative lyricism to boot.

“The Great Crusade” starts the listener off with swells of strings and rolls of timpani and snares, recordings of Dwight Eisenhower’s inspirational call to arms resonating as “The eyes of the world are upon you.” Twinkling arpeggios of harp and piano float through the mix and lead us into “Flyboy,” on which a layer of distorted guitars provide a subdued yet gritty counterpoint to the symphonic wall, Trinket Bramage’s emotive vocals weaving a mournful tale of soaring heroism and sacrifice. Unfortunately, even with the buildup of drums and restrained guitar solos, the track seems to remain in a rather sedate mode that always hints at rising tension toward an epic climax that falls somewhat flat. Similarly, “Hold the Line” begins quiet and lush as Bramage’s vocals harmonize with Colette Lovelace’s to create a beautiful chorale with shimmering guitars echoing amid somber pianos and the familiar swells of strings and drums. While this track is more successful than “Flyboy,” it is still short on the delivery of its epic promise, always rising just enough to have the listener anticipating an explosion of musical power and emotion that it never fully reaches. One can imagine that live performances of the song would perhaps achieve a more visceral and profound effect. With “May 8, 1945 (VE Day),” the mood shifts toward a more uplifting tone befitting the speeches of enemy surrender and allied victory, the Morse code pings guiding us into the lovely processional of the title track. While somewhat thematically divergent, an A cappella rendition of Eric Bogle’s “And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda” is quite a joy to hear. The album ends with a 28-and-a-half minute long suite culling together the album’s music, creating a sweet and superb instrumental that would play well as a short film soundtrack.

All in all, When Banners Fall is another exercise in fine production and sparse but effective musicianship that is altogether pleasantly atmospheric, though lacking in any real punch. The album title and intro track (and even the art style in the liner notes) evoke the likes of VNV Nation circa Futureperfect, but the prevalent tone of ambient vocals and orchestral swirls remind this writer of Howard Shore’s scores for Peter Jackson’s J.R.R. Tolkien adaptations. Overall, the album’s strongest points are in the depth of its lyrics and production and possessing a high degree of precision performance that hints at better presentations in a live environment. On record, however, the album is enjoyable if not entirely memorable.
Track list:

  1. The Great Crusade
  2. Flyboy
  3. This Poignant Hour
  4. Hold the Line
  5. May 8, 1945 (VE Day)
  6. When Banners Fall
  7. The Band Played Waltzing Matilda
  8. When Banners Fall (Instrumental Suite)

The Clockwork Dolls Website http://www.theclockworkdolls.com
The Clockwork Dolls Facebook http://www.facebook.com/theclockworkdolls
The Clockwork Dolls Twitter https://twitter.com/theclockworkdol
The Clockwork Dolls Bandcamp http://theclockworkdolls.bandcamp.com
Purchase at:
Amazon CD
Amazon MP3
Ilker Yücel (Ilker81x)

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