Arise From Thorns is a band that continually reinvents themselves. Core founding members Scott Loose and Trevor Schrotz began creating music in early 1997 under two separate project band names: To Dance By Moonlight and Arise From Thorns. Both were two distinctly different musical styles, the former being an acoustic/folk style and the latter a more metallic format. Not long thereafter the duo removed most of the metal-laced sound of Arise From Thorns, and combined this with the folk style of To Dance By Moonlight to reinvent themselves towards a new direction. The addition of Michelle Loose as pianist to AFT further enhanced the old world feel of the music and moved them further on towards where they are now.
Michelle, after finally being coached to sing, was shortly thereafter the lead vocalist for AFT, and her voice is as close to perfection as one can find in today's ethereal offerings. Their debut album in 1998, self-titled, achieved worldwide acclaim and from this album the single Remember the Stars became an instant hit and appeared on a number of compilations. By the end of 1999, Arise From Thorns had become a five piece band, adding bassist Chris Welborn and guitarist Tom Philips. The addition of these two further increased the power of their sound and in November of that year Before an Audience of Stars was released to the world.
In 2000, AFT once again reinvented themselves, changed their name to Brave and began moving in more progressive musical directions. New acclaim was garnered in the early part of this year when Dark Symphonies re-released Before an Audience of Stars and re-introduced ethereal and dark-folk fans to AFT, while not long later they released a self-released EP under their new name Brave, Waist Deep in Dark Waters. Dark Symphonies, knowing a good thing when they find one, will be releasing Brave's upcoming full length album.
I always enjoy writing for the first time about a band with a solid history and interesting past. But without further adieu, let's take a look at the music now that we've covered most of their biography. Classical and medieval in make up like most of Dark Symphonies' artists, Arise From Thorns/Brave utilize a sound similar in form to one of my favorites, This Ascension.
They open Audience with the moving and powerful Dreaming, immediately from the get-go showing the musicianship of all the members of the band. Acoustic guitars combine with synthesizers and strong female vocals. Michelle is not as high-note diva-esque as you might be used to with this style of composition, instead retaining an alto level and remaining heavy and pushing through the surrounding assortment of instruments to grow above the arrangement without being watered down by all the music taking place around her.
Time Alone is one of my favorites of the album, more of a rock song with an electric guitar heavy chorus. Here her voice mingles among the guitars during the chorus, but remains easily discernible, which in many times is a problem with bands that have a decent number of instruments going at once. This is not a problem here. Michelle is easily one of my favorite singers now, and I find the musical arrangement styles of Trevor and Scott much to my liking.
By the fifth track we're getting softer and slower. Not one of my favorite tracks, Lure is still a good song. I particularly like the electric guitar work by Tom here. I also like track 11, Blue Skies, which has a commercial appeal to it. Opening with folky acoustic guitar strums with minimal but effective background synth chords, it moves into a stronger rhythm with subtle, interesting bass lines. Their live track, To Dance By Moonlight, shows that AFT are as good live as in studio.
I'm very happy with Before an Audience of Stars. The band takes old medieval styles of folk and Renaissance and infuse it superbly with modern sensibilities and instrumentation, occasionally injecting it with good rock and roll. For a track closer to the former, listen to To Dance By Moonlight. For a taste of the latter, I draw your attention to Blue Skies. But all are good tracks and all balance the two musical directions together wonderfully. I look forward to the Dark Symphonies release of Brave's full length album, and am quite curious where this latest reinvention and progressive push will take their music.
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