Updated: Jan 19
Cucurbitophobia’s newest album, Solstice: An Odyssey Through Seasons and Cyclical Successions, is on one hand an unexpected change from what he is known for and a welcome progression on the other. Being known primarily for unnerving, haunting, and gothic style music; Rob shows his range with this album giving the listener a variety of tracks that range from tense and suspenseful to hopeful and even angelic at times. What’s more, he is able to tie all of these moods and emotions together in a thematic album that is perfectly suited to the end of a year.
The album opens with the sounds of a crackling fire and wind; a sound that will persist throughout creating the feeling of continuity between tracks. It is almost as if winter is telling its own story throughout. The first track, “On the Eve of the Solstice – Scene 1,” communicates a sense of moving forward with a bright melody played on piano and a sense of optimism that is only slightly tinged with uneasiness. This theme is continued on the second track, “Scene 2” of the same eve, except much more forcefully and with an almost celebratory tone. It quite reminded me of scenes in RPGs where the heroes find themselves in a tavern where the town is celebrating some local yearly festival. There is a slight feeling of unease about it, but it is almost as though it can be tossed aside in favor of festivities.
However, it is with the third track, “At the Strike of Midnight,” that the tone of the album shifts dramatically. A tense and repeating piano piece that is accompanied by icy-sounding synths and organs. This is where the Cucurbitophobia we know shows up. Except, there is more to it. As the tension ratchets further and the piano and synths swell, it suddenly disappears and gives us one of the most soothing and beautiful acoustic guitar improvisations I have ever heard. Eventually, this acoustic guitar fades away and is replaced with that same sense of tension heard before. Truly, an intricate and haunting piece of music altogether.
This takes us to the fourth and fifth tracks, which are essentially pieces of the same track broken into two, “On the Dawn of the Solstice” – Scene 1 & 2. The first scene takes us through a confusing, disorienting, and suspenseful solo piano that can’t find its rhythm, save for a brief few moments before losing it once again. At the beginning of the next scene, however, it has found its rhythm in the form of a determined sounding arpeggio that disappears periodically to give room to the soaring icy synths that accompany it. The piece is somewhat dark and foreboding, but also conveys a strange sense of determination throughout.
Then, it is with the two final tracks that we hear the hopeful tone that the album opened with make its return. “As Day Becomes Dusk” gives us an angelic synth and an uplifting arpeggio that tamps down any of the darker sounds that creep in. Almost like sunlight pouring in through cracks in grey clouds onto the freshly fallen snow. The final track, “Winter and Her Return,” Is a wonderful composition that encapsulates all the themes of the album into one song: hopefulness and warmth juxtaposed with darkness, uncertainty, and coldness.
Throughout the album, it is easy to hear the influence of some of the greatest composers throughout history: from Tchaikovsky and Beethoven to Danny Elfman and Hans Zimmer. Truly, this is a fantastic album that can evoke all kinds of emotions in the listener. While it may not be what is considered “Christmas music,” it is certainly the ideal after-Christmas music. It is an album made for the moment in the evening, once all of the festivities are over and you are left to reflect and contemplate what the coming year holds.