Based in Grand Rapids, Michigan, The Aquaerials are a project founded by musically brilliant composer Mark Swanson. The Aquaerials captures the feel of a widely produced, cinematic listening experience with a heavy emphasis on texture, atmosphere, and a style of composition that captures sadness, despair, and loss of hope. Having a body of work that traces back to 2016, the project contains influences from artists such as Lights & Motion, Radiohead, Sigur Ros, and even Hans Zimmer for good measure. On the newest Aquaerials release, Doomsday, Mark has put forth an effort that really brings out an even more poignant mood within the composition.
Released on January 22, 2021, I was immediately sucked in to the haunting and suspenseful nature of Doomsday upon first listen. Much of the music sounds as if it were a soundtrack or designed for an orchestra to perform. The piano performance is more rhythmic and in your face, backed by majestic symphonic synth/string arrangements that vary well in dynamic range on each music work. Most of all, the music itself is emotionally moving.
Opening number "The Skeletons in the Closet" instantly sets the tone for Doomsday. Feelings of isolation, loneliness, sorrow, and a sense of helplessness - one where there is no escape or easy way out - have sprung to my mind on each listen. "Murder of Crows" is an outstanding music work - one that I think should end up as the opening or closing movement of an adventurous movie saga or TV series set in an ominous or dystopian environment. "Prelude for Time Feelers" conveys a sense of being lost while still forging ahead with the hope of something more meaningful to appear on the horizon. Despite its repetitive nature with little variation in structure, the mood is what sets the tone for this work; one should be absorbed and moved by its hypnotic atmosphere to be fully entranced in the moment. "The Lost Year" showcases a dreary, heavy-handed piano piece walking the listener through a period of reflection and past regret. The major key setting of the piece is, interestingly enough, one that brought a tear to my eye. "Doomsday Sonata" is one of the most glorious, evocative pieces on the album. A more minimalistic piece containing only piano and a faint, airy synth in the background, the piece tapped into the unconscious reservoir where sorrow, sadness, and dread lie dormant and gently awoken those emotions without jolting them in a sudden or jarring manner. Finally, it's the closing number, "Suicide is Painless", that really sums up the melancholia that cloaks the compositional nature of Doomsday. A dark, haunting, slightly disjointed piece in terms of texture, tonality. The tension builds up occasionally at the perfect spots, as the theme of the piece paints a picture of how depression hits individuals; although beauty and kindness appear on the surface, the darkness can eat one from the inside and out.
Despite the dreary, saddening nature of the compositions that may not appeal to some listeners, I think that the music on The Aquaerial's newest release, Doomsday, is an outstanding listening treat. Mark's style of writing, arranging, and recording puts it all together so that it doesn't have a "one person", one dimensional, stuck-in-one-place feel. If you enjoy Suspense films and the tense, pensive music that accompanies it, then you may very well be astonished by the thought and craft put into this release.
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