Isildurs Bane - Mind Vol. 5 The Observatory (DVD)
Isildurs Bane was, until Mind Vol. 5, another of those bands I had heard of but had yet to consciously listen to, and so I hadn't a clue what to expect. After only 5 minutes I had two questions; why hadn't any of my prog 'deranged' friends demanded that I listen to Isildurs Bane and why is this band not as well-known as, say, Pink Floyd, Jethro Tull, King Crimson etc.? Perhaps each question provides the answer to the other.
For the main concert feature, recorded in September 2004, the apparently ever-changing line-up consists of a drummer, a percussionist (who is an ace marimba player!), a female cellist/vocalist, female guitarist/vocalist, bass player, guitarist, acoustic guitarist/lead vocalist, and the man behind the music, keyboard player Mats Johansson.
The quality of the arrangements and the highly polished performance from these musician's musicians places Isildurs Bane in the top tier of progressive outfits, and I'm thinking in terms of those other bands being in their prime - King Crimson, Gong, Tull, etc. Whatever the band was like when it started out, they now have a refreshingly original sound. That said, I can hear the occasional momentary references (less than 5 seconds at a time) to the aforementioned bands plus The Enid, Camel, Porcupine Tree, Hillage, Hackett and so on, in terms of style. It is also nice to see the old cow bell being used (I could see at least three).
Many of the tracks are taken from Mind Vol. 4 album and The Voyage (both of which have now found their way onto my wish list). Among the masterpieces, my personal favourite, Idea, features both on the main feature and the bonus video material. It is easy to forget that Isildurs Bane is in fact a Swedish band as the vocals are in perfect English and, to be perfectly frank, I wish they were based in the UK if only for the opportunity to see them in concert on a regular basis.
The main feature is interspersed with documentary footage from the band's past from the late 80's, to the present (January 2005), covering Europe and North America. The bonus video tracks include footage from 2004's Gouveia Art Rock festival in Portugal. And also included are four new songs recorded exclusively for the DVD.
The sound is exceptionally good when you consider the choice is limited to Dolby Digital stereo (no 5.1 or DTS mixes) and picture quality is excellent. It sounds pretty impressive through a home cinema set up but even more involving through headphones with the volume turned up. A twelve camera set up is a major undertaking and the one or two momentary lapses in camera operative concentration are too short and negligible to worry about.
The DVD menu takes the form of an old 78 rpm record, the label offering the options of the main feature or the bonus video or audio material, which in turn lead to track sub menus.
A comprehensive booklet is enclosed with the DVD providing information on the band, an interview, reasons behind the 'Mind' series etc.
The DVD is PAL format region 0.
To echo the interviewee at the start of the DVD, I had never heard their music before and am now totally in love. Unless you have an allergy to music DVDs (and strangely, some do) this has to be an essential purchase. And be prepared to allocate at least four hours when the DVD arrives because you will be certain to watch it twice without pause.
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