Review by Paul Monkhouse for MPM
A member of legendary thrash band Seventh Angel and acclaimed prog metallers Fire Fly, Si Bibby has always cut a distinctive figure in the music world, his approach bringing real soul from the harshest of realms.
Always looking for a different angle in which to bring his visions to life, there’s an artfulness that instructs his work that reveals multiple layers that have the power to dazzle whilst having his feet firmly on the ground.
Never someone to guild the lily, Bibby may push boundaries but never loses himself in an endlessly introverted spiral that some fall into.
This latest project is testament to his art and arguably the finest thing the polymath has produced. Deeply personal yet touching on universal themes, ‘Pilgrims on the Path of No Return’ has a sense of the cinematic as darkness is shot through with shards of blazing light. It’s certainly a journey that’s best explored through full absorption, headphones encasing ears to be able to be drawn body and soul into this world.
There is a cascading arrangement of instrumentation and vocals that seem perfectly placed to paint extraordinary pictures in the mind, the dazzling highs and darkest lows brought in crystal clear clarity. ‘As the Light Fades’ is the first step on this path and its epic and swirling atmosphere is at times crushingly heavy, the guitars and Bibby’s distinctive voice full of shadows and a gleaming hope. Even darker, ‘The Precipice’ has a grandly Gothic feel that is a shot through with a sense of danger that perfectly conveys its title.
From there, the profoundly moving and panoramic ‘Yearning’ taps into a feeling of universality and the choirs, organs and bells of the utterly heart breaking ‘When the Spirit Leaves the Body’ touches Heaven, its sense of loss shattering. ‘Confessions’ again brings more of a musical, than just emotional, heaviness but it’s cathedral size sound contains a great howl that fills the cavernous space and continues on into the blackest of nights.
‘Aefnian’ acts a few minutes of relief, its mystical Celtic beauty speaks of something as ancient as the very earth itself, its roots tangled and entwined in the very civilisation. Again, full of a potent, but never overbearing, instrumentation, the music has a filmic and goosebump-inducing sheen that speaks of a finely honed craft, perfect arrangements and a commit to capture this all in a way that breathes a vital life into the album.
If the emotional tumult of everything that has come before hasn’t sated mind and body, then epic and lengthy closer ‘The Search for Meaning’ should find that particular Nirvana well and truly ticked. Coming in at a hefty quarter hour, this distils all that went before into one, epic piece that is a pleasing an end as even the most demanding fans of intelligent and punishingly heavy rock and metal could hope for.
There are certainly big guitars, a tsunami of sound and a range of dynamics that would make Jimmy Page and Steve Wilson envious but, again, it’s the very humanity at its core that makes this just so effective and affecting.
With the hallmarks that have so informed and heightened the acclaimed output thus far in his
career, Bibby has poured every fibre of his being into ‘Pilgrims on the Path of No Return’ and the results are breath taking. A late, and very worthy, contender for album of the year.
Thy Listless Heart: