Samsara. A word in Sanskrit that means ‘wandering’. The aimless wandering through successive states of mundane existence. The endless cycle of birth, growth, decay and death. Eternal wandering of a homeless soul. It seems obvious, but I have to admit it didn’t occur to me at all before listening to the music. I made no connection from the band name to the album title, or from either to the idea of Samsara. The album artwork appeared to imply a more science fiction inspired tale – and, indeed that tale is told – but the opening track of this fourth album from Russian band Eternal Wanderers almost immediately opened my mind. A quick look through the lyrics (something I almost never do, and even less often before having listened to the music), and although the cosmic story was there, it seemed to me to be an allegorical tale. Samsara.
Homeless Soul is bookended by Invested With Mystery, the abbreviated version of which opens the album, suffixed as a prologue. It sounded reminiscent of Indian music, even though there was no noticeable Indian instrumentation. Even that alone would likely not have made me make the mental leaps required to join the dots, had I not listened to several albums already this year that play upon the theme of Samsara. Kala by Mobius, Metempsychosis by hubris. and The Return by Deep Energy Orchestra all recreate the idea of Samsara musically. Golden Caves use Samsara as a reverse allegory in their song of the same name, further describing the theme of their album, Dysergy – addressing the idea of dysergy in oneself, of not feeling complete, of being disconnected or in discord with oneself or the world. Eternal wandering of a homeless soul.
If it were not clear to begin with, when the album ends with the full version of Invested With Mystery, all that seemed missing from the prologue is included, in all its glory. Although the theme is instantly recognisable from the prologue, it is completed by the inclusion of the sitar. It’s fuller and brighter, and the additional verses provide final recognition that this may be an end, but it’s not the end, and the cycle continues. But I’m getting ahead of myself, as an awful lot goes on in between these two parts of Invested With Mystery – and what a trip it is!
I’ll admit that the track Eternal Wanderer doesn’t do a lot for me, and I find it the least interesting, musically. I won’t go so far as to say I find it boring, but it does come close, and if I weren’t reviewing the album, I might not have ventured past it. For that reason alone, I’m glad that reviewing made me persist, as the album becomes very good very quickly from this point on. Transformations is an amazing piece, largely instrumental, and some very classy symphonic space prog, showing the prowess of all four members of the band. The second instrumental part, after the brief vocals, is easily one of my favourite passages on the album.
Meteor, which follows, is beautiful. After the intensity of Transformations, it provides a change of pace, while maintaining the spacey feel. The bridge after three minutes is simply gorgeous, and guest musician Andy Didorenko’s violin is sublime. But all that has come before is pretty much now blown away by album centrepiece, and longest track, The Cradle of a Hurricane, an instrumental suite comprising six parts. It’s marvellous. It reminds me a little of Progenie Terrestre Pura – though without the blast beats and black metal.
And as Meteor provided the comedown after Transformations, so does I Wanna Give My Life For You – at least, to begin with. It’s a twisted mix of Abba balladry and psychedelic spaciness that really ought not to work as well as it does. It builds and builds, and has some wonderful almost ambient soundscapes breaking the intensity briefly, before a triumphant return. This track really does allow the Kanevskaya sisters, who write the music and lyrics for Eternal Wanderers, to truly shine – with both their vocals and their playing. I Wanna Give My Life For You surprised me by quickly becoming one of my favourites on the album, as it’s definitely not in my normal comfort zone. There was so much potential for this song to be cringeworthy, but it’s simply brilliant.
Chaos of Reason is a little anti-climactic afterwards, but, as with the preceding song, this is deceiving. It’s length proves to be its advantage, as although it may not feel so exciting to begin with, it’s hard not to be swept away, especially when the song kicks up a gear after around two and a half minutes. At this point, the song becomes almost entirely instrumental, including a very nifty jazzy passage, before some quite beautiful wordless vocalisations, which I find more enjoyable than Pink Floyd’s similarly spacey Great Gig in the Sky. One final verse, and then it’s back to another enjoyable instrumental – In Search of the Antiworld. Again, the band excel.
And it’s back to the beginning. The album began with Invested With Mystery and Eternal Wanderer, and ends with Homeless Soul and Invested With Mystery. Two title tracks of a sort, bookended by a track which is the end of the beginning of the end… Homeless Soul is infinitely more interesting for me than Eternal Wanderer, though. I absolutely love the twisted and distorted spoken word. I wouldn’t want to hear a whole album of this style, but it sure provides an impact after the beautiful vocals of the Elena and Tatyana Kanevskaya. The music, too, is twisted and tortured. Until finally, Invested With Mystery provides, if not resolution, resignation. The cycle of life and death is eternal. Samsara. Eternal wandering of a homeless soul.
01. Invested With Mystery [Prologue] (1:51)
02. Eternal Wanderer (4:39)
03. Transformations (6:55)
04. Meteor (5:46)
05. The Cradle of a Hurricane (8:13)
06. I Wanna Give My Life For You (6:40)
07. Chaos of Reason (6:21)
08. In Search of the Anti-World (7:32)
09. Homeless Soul (5:11)
10. Invested With Mystery (6:04)
Total Time – 59:12
Elena Kanevskaya – Vocals, keyboards, Synthesisers, Samplers, Theremin
Tatyana Kanevskaya – Guitars, Backing Vocals, Keyboards, Synthesisers, Samplers
Dmitry Shtatnov – Bass, Keyboards, Synthesisers, Lead Vocal (track 9), Backing Vocals, Samplers, Sitar, Custom DSP Algorithms
Sergey Rogulya – Drums, Percussion
Andy Didorenko – Violin (track 4)
Zhenya Kanevskiy – Voices (track 8)
Kostya Shtatnov – Voices (track 8)
Record Label – Independent
Country of Origin – Russia
Date of Release – 16th April 2020