‘My mental space is just a tomb, wrapped with lace and thoughts of doom’
Death is Just a Feeling, sparked by experiences of personal tragedy and attempted suicide, is a dark moody prog album from the tortured mind of Lebanon’s multi-instrumentalist Amadeus Awad. This haunting display of emotion throughout the album is brought to life with the help of some special Dutch guest vocalists – with the unmatched voice of Anneke Van Giersbergen and fellow prog wizard Arjen Lucassen making appearances throughout the album. It’s a bleak trip through the sufferings of Amadeus’ mind, but all coming to an uplifting conclusion with a cathartic closing track. With often gorgeous instrumentation, varied song writing, a lovely warm production and a sincere display of emotion, it’s definitely an enchanting listen.
Gorgeous analogue synths and acoustic guitars provide a lovely backdrop for the narration on opener Opia; bleak musings on the concept of love. The effects on the bends of lead guitar over his narration make one swoon from the outset, the warm production on each instrument is superb. Anneke Van Giersbergen’s voice in the tracks’s second half is stunning as ever, showing the higher register of her voice, emotional and sincere and with just a hint of an endearing fragility which perfectly compliments the subject matter and the soft instrumentation. Sleep Paralysis is a heavier track, with great guitar riffage, impressive knob twiddling in the experimental synths, and Anneke showing her boundless talent with the rockier side of her voice, powerful vocalisations hearkening back to her days with The Gathering on a great prog-rock effort.
Anneke’s absent on the following track Monday Morning, more narration giving way to bubbling synths and lovely guitar arpeggios pierced with dramatic cello in a short brooding instrumental. Tomorrow’s Lies has vocals this time from Elia Monsef, a rich high pitched voice that carries the emotions in the track, while more of that dramatic cello brings to mind Anneke and Arjen’s The Gentle Storm project, which alongside Ayreon are obvious influences. The solo that runs through the centre of the track snakes it’s way through brilliantly with a great pace and a lot of feeling, injecting energy into a good symphonic prog track.
The twelve minute Lonesome Clown is the true centrepiece of the album. An epic in the real sense of the world, brimming with drama, tragedy and intensity – inspired by Amadeus’ suicide attempt. As such the lyrics are really heavy-hitting, a glimpse into the tragic mind of the depressed artist. There’s not a vocalist around who could bring them to life as well as Anneke – in a twenty year career everything she’s touched has turned to gold. Again displaying her higher register, her powerful vocals are beautifully haunting, in the context of the song she truly sounds like an Angel of Death. The track starts with hazy exotic guitar, before heavy guitar riffs, cello and sharp synths join into create the thick, almost creepy atmosphere that pervades the track. An instrumental interlude has the drums building up the drama ever further, before it slows down for a beautiful smooth guitar solo played with intense feeling amid a soft haze of synths. The track reaches a climax with Anneke once more belting out the chorus before the narration reveals bitter, heart-wrenching thoughts on the experience. The aforementioned closer Temporary however goes in the other direction, an upbeat cathartic release after the darkness of Lonesome Clown. Ayreon’s Arjen Lucassen provides the vocals on a lovely uplifting piece of prog brilliance,eight minutes of lush instrumentation, the lyrics and wonderful clarinet and guitar solos oozing with a positivity that comes as a joy after the melancholy of the preceding piece.
Like practically every prog album Death is Just a Feeling does sometimes revel in it’s self-indulgences in some of it’s experiments and solos, but never at the expense of feeling and songcraft. The first and last two tracks in particular are special, and with the last phrase of the narration on Temporary leading into the start of Opia, it leaves you with a desire to play it all through again.
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