The Sea Within by The Sea WithinRelease date: June 22, 2018
Label: InsideOut Music
The “supergroup” label is always a problem for any band. There’s always a reason the members are considered among the best in their fields, but working together more often than not doesn’t translate into particularly good music. Progressive “supergroups” are often worse. You know these musicians are some of the most talented in the world, but, with some exceptions (ELP, most notably), too many such projects have an air of showing off. The Sea Within certainly comes under the “supergroup” banner. Featuring The Flower Kings duo Roine Stolt and Jonas Reingold, Tom Brislin (Yes, Meat Loaf), Marco Minnemann (UK, Steven Wilson, Joe Satriani) and Daniel Gildenlow (Pain of Salvation), there is no shortage of talent in the band, and when guest spots by the likes of Jordan Rudess, Jon Anderson, Rob Townsend and Casey McPherson are thrown into the mix, it could easily be a case of too many cooks…
Yet their self-titled debut hangs together pretty well. There seems to be a real focus on the songs, and each is well crafted, feeling like it has thought behind it rather than an overblown excuse to let loose. Each member gets a chance to shine – from Gildenlow’s aggressive vocals on ‘Ashes of Dawn’ to Minnemann’s explosive drumming on ‘An Eye for an Eye’, through a tasty Moog solo on ‘The Void’. The guest spots for the most part also feel quite natural – Rudess’ and McPherson’s contributions on ‘The Hiding of Truth’ and ‘Goodbye’ respectively are most welcome, and if Townsend’s saxophone solo on ‘Ashes…’ feels a bit out of place it doesn’t hurt the song too much. If there is one disappointing track it is ‘The Broken Cord’. While not a bad song, as the 14-minute centrepiece, it’s hard not to feel a bit short changed, as the song never really develops and like so much progressive music relies a bit too excessively on solos to extend its run time. This is a shame, but the band has to be commended for reining in those excesses on the rest of the album.
Another problem is that the album as a whole fails to flow particularly well. The Flower Kings influence is fairly persuasive throughout, but largely each track feels pretty separate from the others. Officially each track was a collaborative effort, but it feels like each had a defining voice. As a result, there’s little that links the songs, either lyrically or sometimes musically. While not every album has to have that overarching concept, it creates a detached feeling – ‘Ashes…’ in particular sounds unlike everything else on the album, seeming to come from an early album by Gildenlow’s Pain of Salvation instead.
A word must also be said about the superb 26 minute second CD that comes with most versions of this album. It could easily have been full of B-Sides and outtakes that weren’t good enough for the main record, but instead it’s a more sombre, melancholy release that could easily have been a separate EP instead. ‘Denise’ is the highlight – an emotional cry from a prisoner to his loved one – but the whole CD certainly adds some fine music to the package.
The Sea Within goes down as a success for the “supergroup” label then. What could easily have gone down as an exercise in soulless wankery has instead delivered an emotional slab of progressive rock, and a worthy addition to these talented musicians’ back catalogues. Hopefully this isn’t the last we see of this project – with other commitments already keeping Gildenlow out of a series of live shows it may be a while before the band get the time in their busy schedules to record again, but even if this record has to stand alone it will stand proudly.