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Aethellis: Northumbria

Classy, 80s-tinged offerings in search of an identity.

Aethellis’ eponymous 2008 debut album was a barely disguised solo project from Maryland keyboard player, guitarist and composer Ellsworth Hall. With Northumbria Hall has ostensibly surrounded himself with a ‘proper’ band, although much of this still sounds suspiciously programmed rather than played.

On many levels this is a mixed album. The title and packaging might suggest something distinctly old school, with a host of folk and faux-medieval references, but the reality, the musical content, is very different. We’re treated to an assortment of pieces: some sound like they might have been originally destined for some 80s action/comedy film (The Awakening and Exchequer Prague could well be Harold Faltermeyer on a prog bender). Others could have been penned by any number of keyboard players striking out on a solo career. And then there are moments like Dire Need, which wouldn’t seem out of place on an Asia album, right down to the Wetton-alike vocal. Ellsworth’s undoubted talent is clear from tracks like The Peace Path, with its bouncy and sunny jazz/funk-meets-Yes vibe, and Sounds Good, which could sit next to any of Brand X’s more commercially-minded offerings. For all that, an unfortunate lack of cohesive identity across Northumbria tends to obscure its many attractions.

Via Melodic Revolution