Rhys Marsh: Sentiment
  • Composition
  • Musicianship
  • Production
  • Originality
  • Melancholy level

Rhys Marsh has certainly been a busy man this year. Riding high off of Kaukasus’ stellar debut (which is certainly one of the top debuts of the year), the Norwegian singer songerwriter shows that he’s still got plenty of fresh material in him for another release this year: Sentiment. I’m just going to say up front that despite the fact that I wasn’t really digging the first couple of tracks, by the end I was extremely satisfied with Sentiment, an album that in my opinion may very well sit at the top of my list of favorite Rhys Marsh albums. While only time will tell how it sits and grows, it’s ability to take a bit of a larger step into the prog territory in terms of sound and dynamic is certainly something that grabbed me on the first few listens and continues to suck me in.

The first song to really hit me was “Pictures of Ashes,” a tastefully catchy piece that opens with a light pulsing bass behind arpeggiated chords and an ambiguously optimistic Mellotron flute. We begin to hear the beat build as the vocals enter the picture as the snare starts to strike louder and louder until the chorus hits us with a wall of sound in a wide mix augmented by a mood shift from light to dark. After slight variations on the verse and a repetition of the chorus Rhys carries us to a wall of Mellotrons and full band to end things off proper.  Speaking of massive wall of tron, “Silver Light & Blackened Eyes” gives us a fair dosage, starting around the three minute mark with a brooding, descending motif that is a real standout because of its stark contrast to the lighter sections of the song, and really brings it up a notch following the next chorus where it does it again, this time with a sharp lead guitar soaring beyond to further the emotional heights and increased tension. The great thing is, aside from the big arrangements, most of the track is actually quite subdued, making the big parts more dramatic when a consistent focus on the light, electric piano playing gives us a calm sense of place for most of the track, only to have that reality shattered (in an awesome way) by the occasional and powerful wave of dark moods.

While it seems like most bands tend to bookend their albums, Sentiment did the opposite for me, reaching the height of it’s power right around the center of the album with the album climax on “The Seventh Face,” “The Ghost Ship,” and “In the Sand.” The first of these three tracks is quite sinister; the way Rhys presents the doubling of vocals alongside rhythmic bass and a light layer of tron strings makes for an uber creepy effect. Among a passionate vocal performance, powerful arranging, and a gargantuan synth bass  under Mellotron choir for the win comes something along the lines of what he nailed on Kaukasus earlier this year, making this one of the absolute best pieces on the record. If “The Seventh Face” was a dark song crying out in desperation, “The Ghost Ship,” on the other hand, is a melancholic and introspective beauty. The light percussion, perfect bass tone, and pretty vocal lines bring a strong sense of sadness that I can’t resist. Furthermore, the powerful lyrics bring a notable atmosphere in and of themselves, and the ending where fuzz guitars make a brief, but moving melodic statment makes for a splendid track. To wrap up this trio, “In the Sand” caught my attention immediately with a tight rhythmic sense that is a stark contrast to the more open-feeling previous tracks, this time producing a much more urgent sense of beat which contrasts nicely with the subdued vocals. Great chord changes in the chorus make for a tranquil, yet powerful ride make this trio of songs end off top notch.

If you’ve already been a fan of Rhys Marsh for a while, Sentiment won’t necessarily sound like a change in direction for you but it still offers just enough newness to the way that Rhys does things to make it fresh and entertaining. All the classic elements of Rhys are there, but in my opinion I see him stepping more and more into a field where he’s upping his game musically; the good thing is that he does it without losing what has always been distinctive about him: his focus on catchy, moody, vocal driven pieces.