Album Review: DarWin – DarWin 2: A Frozen War

Album Review: DarWin - DarWin 2: A Frozen War

Album Review: DarWin - DarWin 2: A Frozen War
Reviewed by Paul Hutchings

Supergroup? Superhero? Superman? The first question to ask when given this album to review was who or what is DarWin? Well, it transpires that DarWin is the name of the musician who is behind the concept and musical entity that bears the name. Songwriter, guitar player, creator, and producer, influenced by bands that range from Dream Theater to The Beatles. DarWin the musical project which bears his name originally developed in 2018 with the first instalment in a saga that addresses the challenges of mankind in the coming decades. ‘Origin of the Species’ explored the changing planet, the potential and limitations of technology to help address and solve the challenges faced.

Ironically the landscape of the world has changed substantially since that debut, with climate change a real issue which is impacting on humanity with devastating force and of course, the continued chaos that the pandemic is wreaking on the earth’s population. ‘DarWin 2 – A Frozen War’ picks up the story and once again involves a number of rock’s illuminati who have combined through the pandemic via digital technology to create a progressive rock album that is crafted, polished and at times simply breath taking in its composition.

Album Review: DarWin - DarWin 2

DarWin recruited drummer and producer Simon Phillips for Origin of the Species, and Phillips is once more closely involved in this record, forming the core of the outfit with DarWin and vocalist/bassist Matt Bisonette (Elton John, Dave Lee Roth, Joe Satriani). Alongside these three, guest appearances from Billy Sheehan, Guthrie Govan and Greg Howe amongst others provide more than a touch or two of class.

‘Nightmare of My Dreams’ is the opening track, centering on the wildfires that ripped through Australia at the beginning of 2020 (it all seems so distant now). An intricate and progressive track, it features a blistering solo from Govan, which blends in with a more melodic groove, pumped hard by Sheehan’s signature bass lines. Bisonette’s rich vocal style is ideally suited to the track, his warm tones emotional and honest. The string sections add drama, layers, and depth. It’s all a bit special. ‘Future History’ is next, with Howe allowed free reign to show his chops, Sheehan adding groove and foundation to Bisonette’s soaring voice.

In fact, the whole album is one sonically shifting soundscape which blends melody with progressive expressiveness and ample muscular guitar work to appease those who want a bit more fire and passion. Sweet harmonies, changes of tempo and flowing passages of cohesive rock music littered with virtuoso guitar playing. Lyrically, there is plenty to explore, including the chilling narrative of the opening track, the unsettling ‘Eternal Life’, which touches on vaccines which make humanity immortal and the horror of ‘Frozen War’.

At times, this album does appear an exercise in self-indulgence. The feelgood choruses on ‘Eternal Life’ are saccharine coated, the guitar solos may feel a tad excessive, the rich layers of keyboards at times over power and there is possibly a little too much in the show boating arena. But generally, that kind of feels appropriate. This is a progressive rock concept record after all. At a mere 31 minutes in length, it’s easily listenable, and if you enjoy the lighter side of this genre, then it’s hard to beat.

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