A single deep resounding tom-strike introduces Boundaries, the latest composition by The Night Watch, entering it into the annals of Progressive Rock/Metal with an intensity and ferocity that borders the realms of Symphonic Rock by its sheer lyrical imagination and impassioned dramatic scope which pulsates through an ardent spectrum from the perilously grim to the tranquil transport of deliverance.
I can only impart my impressions of Boundaries, for it must be experienced, one must be immersed in it, to truly appreciate the multiple intertwining levels of instrumentation and the evocation of one’s imagination through this visceral auditory odyssey.
In its genesis, one is plunged headlong into a tenebrous surging maelstrom of pounding guitar riffs and violin strains alternating between beserker-lust thrashing and the keen wheeling of hunting birds impelled by pummeling drumming and combative bass then, a quiet passage, as if entering a docile vitreous lake – but only momentarily – for, like the contention between mountain trolls and forest elvin – or the struggle between one’s id and their super-ego – a turbulent powerful undulation between instruments progresses underscored by periodic abrupt reticent truces.
This first fourteen minutes is savage, vivid, and virtually brutal in intensity. Boundaries is a journey, as a river passage, with tumultuous rapids, clear-flowing broad avenues and swift currents – but you are traversing upstream away from the comfortable lowlands into the thin airs, strident zephyrs and stringent tempests of a desolate asperous sierra.
This composition is an allegory, yet no voice relates its steps, its triumphs and pitfalls. In contrast to the vast majority of Progressive Rock/Metal, The Night Watch – Evan Runge (violin), Nathanael Larochette (guitars), Matthew Cowan (fretless bass), and Daniel Mollema (drums/percussion) – chose the violin as the primary voice to relate this story in its own language. It is music that reveals this story, and music alone that, through the diapason of the fusion of their instruments, countless domains of emotion are evoked throughout. Fervent crescendos interject this composition, escalating one’s emotional state to an acute height – then reversing abruptly as to submerge one in the formidable embrace of a frenzied instrumental tsunami.
Boundaries is also a journey of struggle, of reclamation, of becoming that which one is. It is revealed with unrelenting advance through portentous bass lines and swift flurries of violin notes, classical guitar and marshall drums, from fiery explosions of apocalyptic doom-laden riffing punctuated by strident pauses to pounding percussive solos and riffs of sawtooth guitars to melancholy-dirge violin soaring above and around the other instruments like a swallow wheeling, turning in stormcloud-laden skies. This tale travels through movements rapt with shrouded fuzztone guitar star-stepping somber spaced notes to still passages of gentle classical guitar soloing unceremoniously shattered by incoming harsh feedback guitar riffs and circuitous violin keenings like sanguine-crazed battle-valkyries propelled by mountainous drumming and cyclopean bass – only for all to drop to taunt eloquent tensions – as if Daedalus plunging to his fiery grave.
Nathanael, Evan, Daniel, and Matthew – through a consolidation of acoustic and electric elements from BlackMetal, NeoFolk, DoomMetal, Classical, and even Jazz – cross multiple presumed boundaries throughout this entire composition, not only in supplanting violin for voice, but in the unmitigated audacity to compose such a brilliant endeavour… and to perform Boundaries live… an unforgettable event in and of itself.
On June fourth, I was privileged to be a witness to The Night Watch debut Boundaries before a capacity audience at Pressed in Ottawa, an ideal setting for this premiere – spacious enough to accomodate this audience comfortably yet, intimate enough to be baptised by this exemplary piece of artistry. There is honestly nothing I could write that would convey the extent of this encounter. All I can say is – if you have the opportunity to experience Boundaries live, do so… without hesitation.
Boundaries is not merely a continuation of their accomplished self-titled debut album, it becomes an achievement in its own right as an original composition developed and nurtured over the course of almost a year’s dedication. Though suggestions of it can be surmised from their former album – especially sections of Don’t Creep and the extent of War Whales and Apocalypse Beach – the sheer breadth of emotional latitude inherent in Boundaries and its approach to the epic in composition set it in a class by itself. One must inquire as to how these skillful musicians will surpass themselves… we shall see.
The sojourn returns to its source theme, as a Prodigal Son would, though as brighter, less somber, almost joyful or relieved – though still powerful – and perhaps wiser and freer. In these thirty-six minutes of Boundaries, these four consummate musicians who comprise The Night Watch – Nathanael, Evan, Daniel, and Matthew – have succeeded in creating a musical masterstoke…
…an opera without words in the theatre of the soul.
Boundaries will be officially released on July 15th.