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Articles Home » 2009 Articles » The Violet Hour - 2009 The Fire Sermon
The Violet Hour - 2009 The Fire Sermon

ARTIST: The Violet Hour
ALBUM: The Fire Sermon
LABEL: Sky Rocket Records
YEAR: 2009
CD REISSUE: Was originally released in 1991 by Sony/Epic.
SPONSOR: Doris Brendel


LINEUP: Doris Brendel - vocals, flute, acoustic guitar * Mark Waite - keyboards * Martyn Wilson - guitars * Andrew Fox - bass * Sean Holborn - drums

TRACK LISTING: 01 Dream Of Me * 02 The Spell * 03 By A River * 04 Could Have Been * 05 Offertory Song * 06 Falling * 07 Hold Me * 08 Ill Wind Blowin' * 09 The House * 10 Better Be Good * 11 For Mercy * 12 In Control (bonus) * 13 Haunting You (bonus) * 14 Cross The Line (bonus)


WEBLINKS: www.dorisbrendel.com

You've read about The Violet Hour in our news section. The former British prog-oriented band now having their one-off 1991 album 'The Fire Sermon' available on reissue thanks to Sky Rocket Records out of the UK. Created around about the time that the neo-prog movement was in full swing, The Violet Hour may dip its toes into that progressive pool but doesn't become immersed in it. The ethereal sound this band produces is somewhere between All About Eve, Clannad, Iona, Mermaid Kiss and Karnataka, all outfits quite capable of building layers, ambience and atmosphere within their sonic tapestry. Described loosely as 'dream-prog', The Violet Hour float downstream with their music, there's not too much in the way of aggressive musicianship or over the top artistry, everything blends into a liquid state. Lead singer Doris Brendel provides an earthy vocal. She will admit to Janis Joplin characteristics, but don't let that put you off, as it integrates well.

The Songs
The album's entrance 'Dream Of Me' is as gentle a start as anything, with whale song and flute providing the backdrop. Eventually it works up some energy with prog layers accompanied by some soothing violin lines. at 8 minutes 23 secs, it's one of the longest opening tracks I've encountered.

By comparison, 'The Spell' is a pop/prog combo, shorter in length (by half), the sound would please Beatles fans with its use of violin and horns over what is a candy-coated tune.

'By A River' is even shorter, and features the first significant guitar solo on the album.

The motif/theme on 'Could Have Been' has a similarity to the opening 'Dream Of Me', particularly with the use of flute - though the overall arrangement is more acoustically aligned. I do like the use of the reverb drenched harmony vocals toward the end.

'Offertory Song' is a musical piece that can be broken down in two-parts. The first section is a piano/vocal duet, and reminds me a lot of Iona's work, particularly the way they incorporate Christian themes/concepts. The second section builds energy, with crashing piano and an increased presence of electric guitar work.

There's a lot of symphonic pop/rock elements on 'Falling'. It's a bouncy near-happy arrangement, like Supertramp but with female vocals, and considering that band initially had a progressive rock infrastructure, it seems like a good fit.

Ballad based piano leads us into 'Hold Me', the track meanders mostly, but by the two thirds mark, a sense of drama and urgency is created, preventing this from becoming too soppy a ballad.

The Violet Hour's sense of Celtic awareness is never lost on the rockier 'Ill Wind Blowin'. It's still heavily laden in ambience, but there's also an earthy component to this song, with some gritty guitar lines and hard working piano. Doris' vocals works out in an equally gritty fashion, and it's on this song where the Janis Joplin comparison is an apt one.

There are a number of mixed ideas on 'The House'. It took a few listens to get to the bottom of this track - because of its ebb/flow time changes and soft/hard edges.

'Better Be Good' is the rockiest track on offer, the choruses come alive with some rabble raising vocals from Doris, it goes to show that TVH can rock out when it matters.

Probably my favourite track is the acoustic bound 'For Mercy'. Doris' vocals has a deliberate British tone on the verses in keeping with the style and lyrics of the song. Mostly though, the acoustic flow carries through, with the odd guitar and flute solo to break things up.

The next three songs are bonus tracks on the album, and were originally B-sides from the original Sony/Epic CD release back in 1991.

'In Control' is the first of these. A mid-tempo commercial rocker which was the B-side to 'Falling'. I can see why these two were placed together as they make a good fit.

'Haunting You' is another commercial effort, with mainstream appeal.

Probably the track that sounds least likely on the album is 'Cross The Line'. It has a blues rock feel to it similar to other British bands of the era including FM circa their 'Takin' It To The Streets' era plus Little Angels.

In Summary
There are a lot of interesting transitions throughout the album, which probably reflects the band's headspace during the songwriting phase. What is noticeable is that the band keep themselves within a tight set of parameters - not wanting to be utterly different and contrasting, probably with the exception of the last track 'Cross The Line'. It's mainly Celtic oriented, they've used the flute as a major soloing instrument, and Doris Brendel gives us a vocal that is not generated from a waif/siren, but is earthy, melodic, and when required - a little bit gritty. The rest of the band hang in there and mostly blend without being standouts. I doubt very much that 'The Fire Sermon' will attract hardened rockers, but for those of you who appreciate the deeper concepts of melodic music which combines progressive and mainstream elements, then The Violet Hour is worth considering. As mentioned, the CD has just been reissued, so is now available from the above website. Fans of Clannad, Iona, Mermaid Kiss and the like, should investigate further.

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