A whirlwind performance at Australia’s acclaimed Progfest alongside international heavyweights The Ocean, Monuments and Skyharbor; joining forces with Wild Thing Records; a tour alongside alt-rock powerhouse Dead Letter Circus; and a support slot around the country with progressive juggernauts Circles have seen the Ebonivory rise through the progressive ranks over the past 18 months.
“It’s become very real upon some of us that this has been an absolute monolithic undertaking,” explains guitarist Louis Edwards. “There are tracks on here that have been around, in some form, for the better part of a decade, so to finally have it almost out of our hands, it’s going to be a massive weight off our shoulders.”
Led by the inspired performances of singer Charlie Powlett, The Long Dream I is the first of a two-part concept album which sees the band deliver a vision that is pure and unrestrained by musical conformity. Having gone from strength to strength since their very first release back in 2014, this release has been a long time coming for the quintet, who have spent the past four years revealing a string of its singles including 2017’s ‘A Colour I’m Blind To’, 2018’s ‘Persist’, and 2019’s ‘Patting the Black Dog’, among others.
“I don’t think the idea was to ever have had as many singles as we’ve ended up having,” Edwards laughs. “But more sort of incidentally, the cuts that are still on the album are probably some of the softest cuts we’ve ever put out, and probably some of our favourites as far as the band internally is concerned, representing a little bit more of our listening background as far as the band is concerned.
“A lot of us don’t really have an enormous history with prog metal,” Edwards continues. “Most of our background is driven by alternative rock and pop-punk, and I think there’s a lot more of that on this album, especially in those cuts that haven’t been released yet. Our avenue has always been to try and make music as accessible and relatable as we possibly can and having that progressive mantle allows us to be able to take our ideas as far as we want them.”
Delivering an emotional yet thrilling 13 track album, every song presents a completely unique reimagining of what progressive music is capable of, as Edwards explains. Shifting from the punk-inspired moments of ‘Hanmer Street’ into the gritty, futuristic soundscapes of ‘Explosions After Dark’, and transcendental riffs and passages of ‘Introvection’, it’s their diversity that truly brings Ebonivory’s narratives to life.
A complex album at its heart, it’s the shift in moods and dynamics that carries you through the release with such ease. Listeners experience brevity and softness with the 90-second ‘Sea Song’; five minutes of fierce growls, wild drums and high-gain, distorted riffs with ‘Explosions After Dark’; and then there’s the emotional journey of ‘The Bluegums’ which clocks in at eight minutes and 53 seconds, embracing lush soundscapes, booming percussion and layers of soaring vocals.
With composer and multi-instrumentalist Powlett at the helm, alongside long-time musical collaborators and childhood friends Jake Ewings (guitar), Connor McMillan (bass, backing vocals), David Parkes (drums, percussion) and of course Edwards, The Long Dream I is truly an amalgam of each individual’s contributions and a testament to the band’s growth over the past few years.
“We’re in our seventh incarnation of this little group, and it’s the longest one that’s existed. I think we’ve all carved a bit of space for ourselves, as far as where our responsibilities go and what we can provide the band.
“As we’ve done six or seven tours over the last 12 months, Charlie’s personal experience is essentially our personal experience. If we’re not at our day jobs, we’re probably out there nutting out riffs for the album or in a car driving up to Brisbane over five days. The personal experience of the band ends up becoming this one sort of unified experience, where if the songs are coming out of one person’s brain, they may as well be coming out of all of ours because we’ve all come to this point of real unity.
“There’ll be songs that I may have never even touched as far as the recording or writing process is concerned, but I feel so strongly about because I can totally resonate with the place where they’ve come from because I was there too. We’re really proud of the way it’s coming out.”
Having recorded and produced the musically ambitious project entirely by themselves, the band decided to put their trust in Karnivool’s Forrester Savell for the final step of the album, having him assist with the mastering process.
“I can’t even describe how amazing the experience was working with him,” Edwards reveals. “His name doesn’t need any explanation as far as how heralded he is, especially within this sort of prog scene, but it was just the little things that he would go out of his way to do. From sending us mix feedback, to sending 10 different mastering bounces with tiny little adjustments for us to decide what works best, he put so much of the care that we put into our own music on his end which was just so special.
“Having now worked with Forrester, which has been such a positive and enlightening experience, I’d be interested to see what would come of releasing it a little bit to someone else and allowing someone else to have some creative impact on it,” Edwards explains.
“But in the same vein, I don’t think the album would be what it is if it was learning all our parts, get in the studio for two weeks and try and record the whole thing. Most of the album built was from the same session that was the demo of the tracks four years ago,” he continues. “It’s just us constantly going back out to Charlie’s [Secondhand Sight & Sound, his own independent recording studio] and tinkering with basic pop chord progressions and melodies, re-recording, re-doing things and basically running them into the ground.
“It ends up just being us bulking these songs out to the point where you might not even recognise it from where it started to where it finished. But it’s all the same file, all the same session.”
A band forever evolving and reshaping, and one who is creating music that is an engaging mosaic of raw emotion, complex rhythmic devices, and prismatic melody, this world-class five-piece ensemble have truly positioned themselves almost some of the biggest names in the progressive scene with The Long Dream I.
We’re keen to see what they’ve come up with for part two of The Long Dream, but until then we’ll be spinning this one on repeat.