Neal Morse, ©2003 Studio M
Neal Morse, ©2003 Studio M
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Spiritual Vertigo Sonus Umbra
"Spiritual Vertigo" (2004)

A couple years in the making Sonus Umbra has returned with their sophomore release entitled Spiritual Vertigo picking up where their first CD left off. This Baltimore based outfit continues to thrive in the lively prog community that has developed in the area. For their second release the musical style continues to dwell in a Pink Floyd influenced symphonic rock style.

Once again, music and lyrics come from the hand of Luis Nasser and run anywhere from a short 3:31 to a lengthier 10:58. A few of the tracks are linked together giving the impression of longer pieces and one, “Amnesia Junkies” is split into two parts. As on their first outing, Nasser handles bass, keyboards and guitars and has the assistance of Andres Auliet (vocals), Ricardo Gomez (guitars) and Jeff Laramee (drums). Special guest on Spiritual Vertigo include Lisa Francis (vocals) and John Grant (guitars).

Musically the compositions make use of a dominant acoustic guitar, it continues to have a nice ring but more sonically obvious this time around is a more vibrant, and as the liner, notes indicate “crunchy” electric guitar as well. Even more distinct is the obvious bass-line running through the entire CD. Keyboards while present on Spiritual Vertigo play a supporting role helping to create a solid foundation of atmosphere.

Lyrically Sonus Umbra occupies what could be termed a thought-provoking, left-of-centre tone. Subject matter runs the gamut from globalization and American politics to the current political issues in the Middle East. The vocals are delivered in that same melancholy breathy style that will certainly remind you of Pink Floyd, but they are now enveloped in music that has forged its own timbres making it a uniquely Sonus Umbra sound.

Compositionally the music created by Sonus Umbra on Spiritual Vertigo while not overly complex is still rather varied. Most of the material tends to be mid-tempo with subtle shifts in mood complimented by subdued sound effects. Some interesting, memorable musical themes are developed along the way including in the 7-minute instrumental entitled “Fascinoma” that’s filled with atmospheric sound effects. The last track, the 11-minute “Snakes and Ladders” is a great one going through a number thematic changes before moving into a end section that moves along quite quickly building in intensity until its climactic, hair raising tubular bells conclusion. It is a very dramatic ending to a very satisfying CD.

Spiritual Vertigo represents a solid development in the sound and direction of Sonus Umbra. There is still an underlying Pink Floyd homage but it is nothing more than that. The influence has now been fully realized and is served up on a well-executed disc.

Review by Jerry Lucky
May 21, 2004