Label : Black Sand Records

Review by Stina & Mark Hateley

In their more than fifteen years of existence, Mostly Autumn have gained a reputation as one of the most influential British prog bands of the new era – partly because of their spellbinding soundscapes, and partly because of the figure of frontwoman Heather Findlay, who parted ways with the band in 2011. “The Phoenix Suite”, the debut solo recording of Heather, is the first 5 track EP in a series of 4, and, alongside Heather herself and guitarist Chris Johnson, it features performances from Dave Kilminster on guitars, Steve Vantsis on bass and Alex Cromarty on drums. Much as the title seems to imply, it marks a new beginning in her career – which means that, of course, those expecting something reminiscent of what Mostly Autumn became known for, would be disappointed. As it’s normal for an artist deciding to embark on a solo career, Heather is clearly striving for colouring outside the lines required by her work in Mostly Autumn, and trying to sail through uncharted seas – or better still, fly towards new horizons. Much of the EP sheds her prog roots in favor of a more up-to-date and probably more mundane palette described as ‘dark’, ‘quirky’, ‘rocky’ and ‘bohemienne’: what Heather is doing at this time of her career on “The Phoenix Suite” is laying down an elegant, but accessible brand of Rock that is sure to please fans of her as a singer but will probably leave fans of Mostly Autumn quite perplexed. That’s not to say that she doesn’t have potential as a solo performer – but it’s rarely realized here, rendering this small collection of songs, for the most part, inert if easily listenable. “The Phoenix Suite” seems to find Heather pursuing a personal vernacular she’d yet to define: here’s hope the next episodes in the EP serie will see her closer to her musical personality.

Rating – 65/100

 

For those of you who don’t know Heather Findlay spent 10 years as the lead vocalist of York band Mostly Autumn. Towards the end of 2009 Heather announced her intention to leave the band to pursue a solo career. This was a major surprise to the band and the fans alike. Mostly Autumn decided to give Heather a send off they performed a farewell concert at Leamington Spa’s Assembly Rooms this was a very emotional concert for all who attended and performed. Fans were wondering what to expect from Heather, asking question what she will do perhaps carrying on where she left Mostly Autumn. Well here are the all the answers with Heather’s first release this being a 5 track EP “The Phoenix Suite” with former Mostly Autumn member Chris Johnson co-producing later in the year another EP will be released as a follow up. “The Phoenix Suite” open with the track “Red Dust”, Heather‘s vocals on this remind me not dissimilar of 90’s rock band Garbage’s lead singer Shirley Manson, being very edgy and very dissimilar to what we are used to with Mostly Autumn the song has a very catchy chorus and descriptive lyrics of coming to the end of something be it the world or asking a lover to rescue her from the pain of losing him. This carried along by the backing of guitarist Dave Kilminster riff (who is currently on tour with Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters). This is followed by “Phoenix” which is a slower track not far removed from Mostly Autumn but again with the added edge to her vocals. Next is “Cellophane” a more up- tempo track than the former, again the catchy tune continues throughout again with a excellent Kilminster guitar riff, and nice harmony vocals provided by Heather, culminating in the near metal vocals assume to being provided by her co-producer Chris Johnson. “Seven” the next track is ballad with Chris Johnson providing a guide vocal underneath Heather lead vocals to e this track seems a fantasy story relating to the modern days troubles with word like every king is armed and draw the line and cure life . The final track the epic “Mona Lisa” opening line being how did she come to hate you? How did you fall? Tells you this is not a soft ballad back with Heather‘s eventual best Shirley Manson vocal. The screaming guitar solo and Steve Vantis bass and drums by Alex Cromarty keep the pace of the song gaining speed throughout. I think Heather‘s voice on this track is her highlight of the album full of confidence. Judging by what she has recorded here I think she will have not disappointed her legions of fans and will leave them wanting to hear more of Heather Findlay’s solo work. Listening to the EP you can feel how much she enjoyed recording the songs starting with a blank piece of paper moving away from the sound she brought with Mostly Autumn and the enjoyment of working with different musicians. I for one will look forward to hearing her when she performs live. I recommend you buying this EP you won’t be disappointed.

Rating – 84/100

 

Tracklist

  1. Red Dust
  2. Phoenix
  3. Cellophane
  4. Seven
  5. Mona Lisa

 

Line Up

  • Heather Findlay – Vocals
  • Chris Johnson – Guitar
  • Dave Kilminster – Guitar
  • Steve Vantsis – Bass
  • Alex Cromarty – Drums 

 

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