The Pax Cecilia – Blessed are the Bonds - 4.5/5
The Pax Cecilia, from Brookville, plays a brand of post-rock that takes influence from rock, metal, classical and ambient music. I strongly recommend them to fans of Maudlin of the Well. Blessed are the Bonds, their second release, couldn’t be further from the clutches of the dreaded sophomore slump: It is an immaculately composed epic. This album was available to stream online and they were offering to send out copies of the album at the cost of an optional donation. I didn’t even get through a whole song before ordering my copy, as I could instantly tell that I liked it. I didn’t listen any further, as I wanted to wait to hear the album in its entirety on my hi-fi, to do it justice.
It didn’t arrive until some considerable time later, so I had forgotten all about it. When I opened the parcel I had no idea what it was. It came in a brown card digipack, with an unusual design of owls and a heron printed on it. The insert was a folded piece of paper with further unusual artwork, but still no band name. The inside of the case had a track listing and title ‘blessed are the bonds’. The same title was on the disc also. I assumed I had randomly been sent a self-titled demo by a band called ‘Blessed are the Bonds’. Intrigued, I put on the CD and sat back expecting some low production demo. I was blown away. It wasn’t until later that day that I realised this was in fact ‘The Pax Cecilia’, after I went to throw away the envelope and a small card fell out with their website address on it. The card also contained a very refreshing message, “…the greatest gift you could give us in return is to share our music with others…” (As well as doing this, I donated $10).
Blessed are the Bonds is far more unique than your average post-rock. At times the music is reminiscent of ambient black and folk metal, yet metalcore and hardcore influences are also present. The soft, clean vocals are quite beautiful, with the singer never straying from his fairly limited vocal range (as so many singers do, to their detriment). -core vocals are used at times, but sparingly and tastefully. I was surprised at how well they actually work, heightening the emotion (which is conveyed exceptionally well throughout, both by vocals and instrumentation), and not sounding in any way whiny or annoying.
The album opens with ‘The Tragedy’, a soothing and simplistic ten minute intro that starts with a piano melody, followed by the introduction of soft strings and almost whispered vocals. The second track, ‘The Tomb Song’, continues in the same vein, but slowly builds up reaching a powerful climax of unexpected heaviness. After two piano driven songs, the third is much more guitar oriented. This results in The Pax Cecilia finally unleashing their true ferocity, after 20 minutes of taunting the listener with relative control. There is no let-up until ‘The Hymn’, which closes the album serenely with an acoustic guitar and harmonized vocals.
It is emotionally draining yet uplifting, leaving me feeling calm and upbeat after every listen. Imagine you are sailing on a calm ocean, when a colossal storm breaks out. After the turmoil subsides the ocean feels that much more tranquil than it did before. This makes it perfect for an evening in or a lazy afternoon. For a self-produced album, complete with a case and artwork that at a first glance appears individually homemade and hand-drawn, the sound quality is incredible. Upon hearing this, I was relatively new to post-rock, so I could not compare it to anything similar or judge its originality, but it remains to this day my favourite post-rock album.
‘Blessed are the Bonds’ is available for free download (optional donation), at: http://www.paxcecilia.com/