GR2 90This is a pretty unique brand, and well played, but I wonder how much rock is lost by the Gregorian approach.

Label: Independent
Time:  10 tracks / 40 mins
Site: www.

The name says a lot. You won’t really need me to tell you that this is an Enigma-like project, but this one adds Gregorian chant stylings to a rock-based, rather than dance-based format.

Roland Dale Benedict multi-tracks vocals and treats the sound to create a feel of monks singing, full of echo and harmony-rich.  Sometimes it works (lead track “Deus Lux” and the beautiful “As Water Reflects”), while mostly, the effect is just one of processing, which takes away the authenticity and makes the lyrics harder to decipher (“Love is Standing Near”).

The lyrical style sometimes echoes Taizé in its reflective simplicity and this also aids the Gregorian feel.

His Twitter account makes clear that Benedict loves technology and this comes through in the quality of the mix, which is completely clear, with a good balance of instruments.

Often, with plenty of other material to compare it with, covers of well-known tracks show the true value of a new approach. On popular hymn “O the Deep, Deep Love of Jesus,” the Gregorian Rock style pays off. It is a strong tune to begin with and does not need a driving rhythm to make it work. The slower, atmospheric treatment fits it like a glove, especially the break beats.

Benedict reveals his influences. There are Wakeman-like flourishes aplenty, right from the opening moments in “Deus Lux” and particularly on the instrumental “The Good Guys Win,” which has the strongest melody of the collection. “O the Deep, Deep Love of Jesus” has a Keith Emerson “O Lucky Man”-tone synth break, and there is another ELP tribute break in “The Battle.” But it is in tone, rather than virtuosity that Gregorian Rock reflects these masters.

A piece like “Semper et in Perpetuum” stands out for the exotic feel of the crisp, percussive rhythm it rides on. Like several of these works, it has a distinctive feel, giving the project form and character.

While Benedict is being creative in this monk persona, the rock is tempered by the Gregorian stylings, so it loses its intrinsic drive. The project web site’s strapline is “Gregorian Rock combines ancient with modern to create a serene, yet pummeling sound.”  Serene maybe, but pummeling? No. Some tracks need something extra to carry the weight of the concept.

But this is well worth investigating for anyone who wants to mix proggy influences and faith for a monastic take on 21st century music.

Derek Walker

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