Searching for the time that’s hidden in the mist of days, American folk-art team find spiritual uplift in frost-bitten, if stupendous, tunes.
For all the myriad of ensembles Steve Unruh is involved in in parallel with his individual endeavors such as "71319" that stand the stage test too, the quality of the American multi-instrumentalist’s oeuvre hasn’t diminished over the years. On the contrary, the veteran’s been perfecting his fusion of folk and prog rock for decades now, and “The 5th Season” could seem the most polished of the artist’s work if not for its naturally rustic feel. As a result, the listener will get immersed in it to an extent where epic scope of a few pieces can’t matter.
That’s the secret of magnificence offered on this album’s opener “Winter” which is chilling in its picturesque chain of sonic events, running forward from a military march commanded by Barry Farrands’ drums before the barrage of riffs brings forth Unruh’s vocals – drenched in an anxious six-string pulse, stricken with effects and spiked with violin – and renders the flow almost spastic. However, the crossfire of Fran Turner and Steve’s guitars solos shall resolve in the still-tense, soaring serenity whose accelerated swirl comes shrouded in synthesizers’ cocoon, shot through with folk filigree and rock ‘n’ roll licks until the drift has triumph pouring out of every bar. So when flute and acoustic strum emerge in “Saint Iris” to alleviate the aural assault and drive lyrical alliteration across the countryside, genuine idyll may descend on the record’s otherwise electric grooves and see “Seraphim” bear the orchestral bliss further.
So while the short “Cricket Season” provides a delicately unplugged contrast to the album’s fervent start, “Till Spirits Rise” creeps up on an already-prepared psyche, reigniting instrumental fire and allowing “Aurora” to alloy reels with heavy metal and pure progressive passages – expansive and comforting at the same time. Not as comforting, though, as the embellished improv “Falling Snow” that swells with Rob Winslow’s bass and slides on delay to take the quartet back to the record’s wintry beginning. It’s a strangely uplifting trip which keeps on delivering new truths with each new spin – a milestone of sorts.