CD REVIEW: In the Midst of the Raging Storm
Posted on Jul 21, 2011 at 12:41 PM
Artist: Sean Patrick
Album: In the Midst of the Raging Storm
Review by Bryan Rodgers
New Jersey guitarist and songwriter Sean Patrick gleefully tests the patience of listeners from the first moment of his “mini pop opera,” In the Midst of the Raging Storm. The album’s storyline is a reflection of Patrick’s approach to the music, which is indulgent and intensely personal. The introduction is the title track, and it’s well into the realm of overblown rock opera. An effect-laden voice drones on about faith and contemplation while pianos and synthesized choruses drift between electronic windstorms.
Those who endure the introduction and dig into the album will be surprised by the amounts of fine ideas that materialize throughout. The sound is driven by pop hooks, like the wistful chorus of “You,” in which the story’s main character wrestles with relentless thoughts. The sharp choruses are punctuated with moments of bedroom prog-rock, just the kind of stuff that one would expect a rock-worshipping musician like Patrick to create when given such freedom. Reggae-scented rhythms wind around a terse guitar riff while Patrick’s big 80’s-rock voice spins the tale. Suddenly, the band busts into an instrumental flourish reminiscent of Rush, displaying serious talent all around. The dramatic climax of “You” bleeds directly into the ballad “Something About Here,” and it’s a blessing that Patrick chose to keep the album moving rather than get overly cinematic and drawn out. The whole thing clocks in at 34 minutes, and he’s likely to get a lot more listeners willing to give the album a chance because of it.
Patrick still gets his poignant point across, though. You can close your eyes and see the sepia-toned streets of someone’s hometown whizzing by during “Something About Here,” feel the dreadlocked dread growing in the irie crunch of “See the Light,” and float in the dizzying, diverse atmosphere of “Like Yesterday.” “Calling for Rain” is pleasantly funky, but it is at that point of the album that the experience starts to wear thin. Beyond Patrick’s vision, which will be appreciated by some and mocked by others, there are a few issues that keep In the Midst of the Raging Storm from fully succeeding. “Calling for Rain,” for instance, features another fine instrumental segment and guitar solo along with a catchy hook, but the song is beset by overwrought synthesized strings that only distract the ear. Michael White (drums) and Hal Jordan Ketofsky (bass) make a fine rhythm section that should be featured, not hidden, as they are too often here. “Into the Storm” is the album’s weak point, as one can hear Patrick’s formula beginning to reveal itself between the songs keyboard twinkles and sappy lyrics.
The finish is a bit of redemption. The refreshing classic rock crunch of “My Little Darlings” displays how Patrick thrives in an uptempo environment, and the climactic “Reprise: In the Midst of the Raging Storm” allows him to wax as melodramatic as he can dream. Somewhere between the sound effects, constant synth embellishments and layered vocals lurks a fine four piece rock band that could benefit from a little less orchestration. But even through the electronic haze, it’s easy to see the potential Patrick and his mates possess