Novena is the solo effort from Phil Strangman. However, on the Bandcamp page for his album Vespers 16 it states that Kurt Helmer and Dan Meehan helped out on the album.
Before even listening to the album it was obvious there were going to be some major religious overtones. From the cover art to the fact that three of the songs have the word “lord” directly in the title. According to Strangman “Vespers 16 loosely follows the structure of an Antiochian Orthodox Daily Vespers service. Some lyrics are directly from the liturgy and others are from the perspective of a solitary individual who has stumbled into an Orthodox church.“
Strangman doesn't hold back his convictions on these songs. Some artists who are Christian such as Sufjan Stevens subtly emerge religious allegory into their songs. Suffice it to say Strangman isn't subtle hence these songs will most likely resonate with someone who already believes in a higher power. There's nothing wrong with that but his lyrics have implications that some people will either get behind or not.
Musically, there is some great stuff on here along with some perplexing stylistic deviations. The album opens with “Proemial” which centers around some fantastic guitar picking work. This is his strong point and I was hoping to hear more as the album progressed. Luckily, the next song “Lord, Have Mercy” which is one of the highlights features inventive guitar work along with inspired vocal work. The song is slow moving and melancholy but fairly powerful.
“Lord, I Have Cried Unto Thee” is another well written song. He mixes organ with guitar and drums and the results are smooth and palatable. His vocals again sound good and well delivered. “How Merciful You Are” is a builder in emotion that reminded me of something you might hear at morning worship.
I thought I had accidentally switched to a different band on “Joyous Light.” He opens with a standard club beat. The song feels completely out of place and just doesn't fare well with his style. I think he should stay away from this style all together. Luckily he does for the remainder of the album. The closer “Holy Mighty” really has some soft, serene instrumental work which is where he thrives.
Besides “Joyous Light” I thought the songs were not only enjoyable but deviated from a lot of the typical styles you associate with music that has a religious nature. Recommended.
We are dedicated to informing the public about the different types of independent music that is available for your listening pleasure as well as giving the artist a professional critique from a seasoned music geek. We critique a wide variety of niche genres like experimental, IDM, electronic, ambient, shoegaze and much more.
Are you one of our faithful visitors who enjoys our website? Like us on Facebook