Iona_AR_90This is yet another project from one of the greatest bands recording music today in any genre. Since this is a double disc project it gets 10 tocks.

Another Realm
Artist: Iona
Label: Open Sky Records
Tracks: Disc 1, 6 tracks, Disc 2, 9 tracks
Time: 93 minutes

This album is about a number of things, but I believe it is mostly about longing, desire and fulfillment. Some have said that this release marks a new start for the band. Others have stated that it marks a return to the groups early recordings, in some aspects both are valid points. More importantly though, this is yet another project from one of the greatest bands recording music today in any genre. The current lineup for Iona consists of: Joanne Hogg on vocals, vocal loops, piano, keyboard & beer shaker, Dave Bainbridge on acoustic & electric guitars,bouzouki, piano, keyboards, autoharp & beer shakers, Frank Van Essen on drums, percussion, violins, viola, electric violin, glockenspiel, keyboard & vocals, Phil Barker on bass guitar & electric upright bass and the new kid in town, Martin Nolan on uileann pipes, low whistles, tin whistles & vocals.

Musically this album covers familiar territory, yet the band sounds fresh and vibrant as always. A mixture of progressive rock, symphonic rock and traditional celtic folk music blend together to make Iona one of the most unique groups in the world. I said that I felt some of the main themes of this project were longing, desire and fulfillment. Lyrically there is present in the songs a longing for the sense of the presence of God in the world that we live in. A desire to be more fully aware that the veil between this world and the other realm can at times be very thin. An sense of fulfillment in knowing that the creator of all things is not only aware of our daily lives and the struggles that we face but is actively involved in those lives

There are times when Another Realm reminds me of the Open Sky project, especially in the tune entitled "An Atmosphere Of Miracles." This piece is a three part suite during which Joanne sings a section in what I assume is one of the most beautiful languages on earth, Irish Gaelic. One of the refrains of the song repeats the phrase, "Our king is here with us." If we could realize this more often how much more would we strive to do the will of the King on earth as it is done in heaven. Another track on disc 1 is called "The Ancient Wells" and speaks of the places where the veil between heaven and earth is indeed thin--oh to be aware of more places like this. It is also one of those times where the band kicks loose with their trademark harmonic playing between guitar and pipes.

Disc 2 opens with an instrumental piece entitled "Ruach" the Hebrew word for among other things, Spirit. I can only look on this song as a meditation on the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Godhead. It is a calming combination of vocal loops, keyboard washes and violin playing. It is tunes like this that remind me of the power of music to bring the worshiper into the mystical presence of God. In the tune "Let The Waters Flow" we are reminded once of just what a master guitarist Dave Bainbridge actually is. I can almost see the flames running up and down the neck of his guitar. Yet his pyrotechnics are so beautifully tasteful it adds to and does not distract from this song in the least bit.

If all recordings by artists who claim to be in a relationship with the creator of all art were this good I would probably alot less cynical concerning "Christian" music. Once again Iona has shown themselves to be a band worth paying attention to. My favorite band has once again spoken to the deepest realms of my heart.

Since this is a double disc project it gets 10 tocks.