Album Review of DarWin: DarWin 3: Unplugged
DarWin has followed critically acclaimed albums Origin of Species and DarWin 2: A Frozen War with this album, DarWin 3: Unplugged, a collection of orchestral and stripped back versions of songs from those first two discs.
Starting with album one, DarWin has been on the rich, powerful, orchestral side of progressive rock, but DarWin 3: Unplugged takes this a step beyond. As a result, listening to this album while doing other activities makes it seem as if your life has a surround sound movie soundtrack.
This 8-song album contains five tracks listed as “orchestral,” two as “unplugged,” and one as “a capella,” so there are vocals and lyrics on three of the eight cuts.
The orchestral track that opens the disc, “Escape the Maze,” starts meanderingly, as if setting a scenescape within which one might imagine a stream running through the woods or maybe an eagle gliding, perhaps over the sort of frozen tundra depicted on the album cover. In the woods scene, it brings up visions of calmness at times and rapids and perhaps waterfalls at others. When focusing more on the song’s soaring aspects, I’d picture calm floating interspersed with conflict, perhaps the eagle hunting and swooping to attack or maybe trying to escape danger itself. Anyway, it is like all of the other orchestral tracks in that they are truly symphonic, largely string-heavy pieces that surge and sway powerfully as if telling a story. I’d gladly spend an evening at the local symphony to hear compositions of my favorite past-century classical composers and these DarWin songs, maybe with a sip of champagne during the intermission in-between.
The earlier of the “unplugged” songs in the album sequence, “Slowly Melting,” uses its light instrumentation to direct the focus to the intensely emotional vocals. The other, “One Horizon,” is driven by its rhythm, with the vocals and all of the instruments following along, supporting the thumping power.
The disc closes with the a capella track, “Another Year,” with smoky vocal verses leading up to vocal-heavy, rich, mainstream progressive rock choruses. This is the most radio-friendly song on DarWin 3: Unplugged and great way to end it.
I very nearly reviewed DarWin 2: A Frozen War, and I’m not entirely sure why I didn’t except that I was catching up on a laundry list of overdue reviews and trying to move to more recent albums at the time. DarWin 3: Unplugged is a great companion to DarWin’s earlier pieces, but it’s also presented so originally that I simply had to share it, even though I find myself again in catch-up mode. However, as cool as this album is, if you’re into top-shelf progressive rock and aren’t familiar with DarWin’s music, you’ll also want to check out his earlier albums.