The name 'Phoenix Suite' conjures up images of rebirth; of a new beginning, and in many ways this is an apt title, as this five-track EP is Heather Findlay's first statement to the world as a solo artist.
Best known as the charismatic lead singer, major song contributor and bit of a hippy, with York based band Mostly Autumn, for thirteen years, Heather announced her amicable departure from the band in January 2010, and since then, this writer has been intrigued to hear what kind of direction her solo work would take. Would it be similar in style to the epic sounds of her old band, or something altogether different?
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Now, over a year later - and about bloody time if you ask me - the waiting is over, with the release of 'The Phoenix Suite', the first in a proposed series of three EPs from the singer. The first thing that strikes one is the artwork, a striking Findlay original of a Firebird against a starry night sky, a theme continued on the inside of the booklet.
Heather has assembled an impressive cast of musicians, including Roger Waters Band guitarist Dave Kilminster, Fish bassist Steve Vantsis plus Alex Cromarty on drums, with guitar, harmony vocals and anything else you can think of, including co-production with Heather, handled by Mostly Autumn, Halo Blind and The Evernauts alumni, the mighty atom that is Chris Johnson.
The music is removed from the lush sounds of M.A, and with sparse, stripped down arrangements, this stands or falls on the quality of the songs. And what songs they are, both melodic and beautiful, yet harsh and angry, even in the same song.
The lyrics are thought provoking, with some powerful imagery... "And with you I'm weightless with every step, I give you the deeds to my final chest" from opener 'Red Dust' being a fine example. Whether she is speaking of giving her love, or possibly something darker it sure packs an emotional punch.
Particularly powerful is 'Cellophane', which to my ears could be about the awful events in Cumbria, or Northumbria... "Are you still running man? You can run but you can't hide. Keep running man. With your killing hands, because hell hath no such fire." Chilling.
In fact many of the lyrics are of a dark nature, with a theme of violence, war and death running through the songs. The music itself compliments the often bleak lyrics, and has a very raw, alt-rock, sound to it, with the primary musical colours provided by the guitars of Dave Kilminster, and to his great credit he only plays what is needed to compliment the songs, so no 'I can play faster than you' shennanigans here.
It's the mark of a great player that he knows what NOT to play, as well as when to stick in a well aimed lick or two.
I'd give it 7.5 out of 10.