The Emerald Dawn – Searching For The Lost Key

2014 (World’s End Records)

1: Beyond The Wall (12:03)
2: Buridan’s Lament (10:48)
3: Shadow In Light (10:12)
4: In Search Of The Lost Key (11:08)

Some time ago I had a chat via Facebook with Ally Carter, the guitar-playing multi-instrumentalist of the Scottish band The Emerald Dawn. It was obviously about writing reviews and to make a long story short: he sent me all their albums digitally and I’m going to review them all. Although I largely focus on CDs from my own collection with Prog & Rock, I also find it a challenge to occasionally write about albums that are unknown to me, such as the work of The Emerald Dawn for example. I’m going review their albums one by one, starting with “Searching For The Lost Key” from 2014.

On this debut album, the band still operates as a trio. In addition to Ally Carter, there are singer Tree Stewart who also plays keys, flute and acoustic guitar and drummer Tom Jackson. Well, from an early retired professor of moral philosophy and from a circus artist and trapeze teacher, you can expect well thought-out and idiosyncratic music and that’s what you get. The Emerald Dawn makes music that comes across as a psychedelic jam full of neo-progressive atmospheres that are dark, mysterious and always appealing to the imagination.

The album has only four songs, epics that all clock over ten minutes. Opener Beyond The Wall even puts just over twelve on the clock. What is immediately noticeable is that Carter goes crazy on his instrument in a Steve Hillage-like way. Also noteworthy is Stewart’s dark, almost declamating vocals that seem to have run away from an 80s wave band. All this takes place on a surface of constantly present woolly synth sounds and falling organ attacks. In the ensuing Buridan’s Lament, Ally Carter takes care of the lead vocals and that is almost necessary since it is a lament from a monk in  the 12th century. In the song there is a beautiful passage with Carter’s deep dark saxophone and it is here where a contrast is created. The instrumental Shadow In Light may count as the highlight of the album, not least because guitar and keys meet so blissfully. It drags and it pulls into the song where melodic guitar splendor turns into vehemence and where the subdued degenerates into exuberance. When the melodic Hackett guitar line resounds from the beginning, you are happy with what you have heard. The album closes with Tree Stewart’s In Search Of The Lost Key. Her part in this epic is in any case remarkably large because in addition to singing, she also comes with catchy organ chords and graceful loops. A large part of the song is also reserved for her flute. Tree for president.

It is a bit of a joke to say that a search for an identity is the key word on this album. The opposite, however, shows more realism. The band members of The Emerald Dawn did not have to look far at all, they just stayed very close to themselves and you can hear that. Uncompromising passion.

Ally Carter: guitar, saxophone, keyboards, vocals
Tom Jackson: drums
Tree Stewart: keyboards, flute, acoustic guitar, vocals

© Dick van der Heijde 2022