At the dawn of the 2020’s, the ship of classic, folk, and progressive rock has all but foundered on the jagged reefs of musical fashion, weighted down with its ambitious pretensions and buoyed on toward ruin by a new generation of music makers. A part from a handful of genius minds and vaguely extinct musical projects, things look bleak for fans of these once-glorious genres. But now, like a phoenix from the ashes, an independent entity arises from the wreck, borne on the wings of rock n’ roll authenticity. Midnight Lands is the latest project from singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Ben Averch, which promises to deliver the real McCoy, on the album “Destroy the World”.
From the outset, this album will give a good indication of Midnight Lands overall. One can hear traces of King Crimson in the elephantine bass sound and Genesis in the passionate vocals; there are moments that recall Yes, when Averch interweaves his layered guitar lines with beefy overdriven textures. There are moments of complexity that remind me of Rush, and other folksy elements that bring back thoughts of Lindisfarne.
But ultimately, this album doesn’t sound like some alchemical fusion of former bands. Because by focusing their attack into roughly four-minute blasts instead of sprawling overlong epics, Midnight Lands strip rock down to its raw sinewy core. Something the genre has managed to do authentically in the past few years.
Being independent, “Destroy the World” comes to us without any red carpets, anticipated by the anthemic choruses of the single “Catch and Release”. The surprise is that it turns out that the impressive single, is far from the album’s strongest point.
This is immediately confirmed by the driving rhythm and high wire vocals of “Love To Give”. And then proved beyond any doubt two tracks later by the sprawling arrangement of “Lost in Time”. The recording boasts very confident vocals and surprisingly intense guitar work, as airy instrumental passages charge the songs with dynamics and atmosphere.
Moving forward it becomes clearer that “Destroy the World” is a strong rock offering, backed by interesting guitar twists and unique tones, which is sustained to a large degree by the splendid drum work, but is ultimately created by effective and complementary playing of all instruments.
These can all be splendidly savored on the powerful arrangements of “Now Dream Now” and “Take Flight”. The album succeeds even in its mellower moments. Especially notable are the moving “Blood From a Stone” sustained by the groovy bass and impassioned vocal delivery, rounded up by the acoustic guitar work, and the harmony-tinged “Caught Outside”, in which Ben Averch puts the goodness of his vocal tones on full display.
“Standing Above” completes the brilliant acoustic driven group of songs, while “Slow Motion Disaster” and “What is Left to Prove” are for me, the album’s rock n’ roll centerpieces, if not the absolute best two tracks on the entire collection. The playing is raw rugged and perfect and Averch turns in his best vocal and guitar appearances. Actually, Ben Averch sounds like he is having the time of his life on these songs.
On the whole, the album is epic and has many stunning moments, both musically and vocally, yet it manages to avoid all the pretentious pitfalls that many of Midnight Lands contemporaries are capable of. When you have such level-headed ambition as Ben Averch and Midnight Lands do, you can only expect greatness as a listener.