Tom Byrne - "The Last Druids"
(self-released 2002, CDR)
From Aural Innovations #22 (January 2003)
Let yourself be whisked away to the ancient, mythological past with Tom Byrne’s new CD, The Last Druids.
As the title may suggest, this is progressive rock heavily influenced by British and Celtic folk music. Though, intriguingly, there is not an acoustic instrument to be found. Byrne creates his sonic paintings entirely with keyboard sounds. At first it can be a little unnerving, because you keep expecting to hear an acoustic guitar, or tin whistle or Celtic harp to join in, but as you relax and get into it, Byrne’s music seduces you, and you forget that you are listening to primarily synthesized sound.
While the album is conceptual (it follows the lives of some semi-legendary figures at the dawn of Dark Age Britain, including the bard Taliesin and prophet wizard Merlin Ambrosius), it is entirely instrumental, four long tracks, ranging from 10 to 14 ˝ minutes, and two short tracks in the 1 to 2 minute range. Lush and dynamic, Byrne’s music is full of abundant themes and atmospheres, brought to life by haunting and exuberant melodies. The music is intricate and often multi-layered, though Byrne shies away from using any really complex time signatures or changes, which may disappoint some prog rock fans.
Nonetheless, this should still appeal to fans of classic Rick Wakeman and Vangelis, as well as modern acts like Soniq Theater and David Arkenstone.
The Last Druids can be ordered directly from Tom Byrne by contacting him at: email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Reviewed by Jeff Fitzgerald