The organ is the strongest instrument on Still Life, dominating large sections of most of the tracks. Interestingly, the opening track, Pilgrims, is lyrically of a piece with the closing epic, Childhood Faith In Childhood’s End. While the latter takes its theme most obviously from the Arthur C. Clarke novel to which its title refers, the former, with lyrics such as ‘The time has come, the tide has almost run / and drained the deep: I rise from lifelong sleep’ does as well. Pilgrims ends beautifully without a resolution and the title track picks up with a gentle vocal backed by simple organ chords which are maintained until the third verse when the rock and roll kicks in. Lyrically Still Life extends a metaphor of marriage to encompass death, decay, and despair. I guess it’s a little late to suggest that Hammill’s poetry is not of the light and fluffy variety. (Here’s a live version from 2011.)

vdgg-slThat said, but this album has a much greater pop sensibility than its predecessors. It helps that two of the five songs clock in at less than 8 minutes and two more at less than ten. Yes, I’m stretching the definition of ‘pop’, I know.

La Rossa is the most distinctly metal song on the album, though the musical styling seems very much at odds with the lyrical content (yeah, I know, what else is new) in which the narrator tries to harness his desire for an object, but knows he must succumb.

My Room (Waiting For Wonderland) opens side two with soprano sax, drums, and vocals. However, the gentleness of the delivery belies the harshness of the lyrics which describe (perhaps, as always with this band) a person succumbing to depression, loneliness, and anxiety. Possibly the most cohesively beautiful thing they’ve done to date.