February 15, 2019 Noctorum – The Afterlife (Album Review)
The bell in the name of Marty Willson-Piper may not ring as loud as that in Johnny Marr’s (“The Tracers”) or Roddy Frame’s (“High Class Music”), but he surely belongs to the same strum of brilliant and amiable guitarist/singer-songwriters.
Born on May, 7, 1958, in Stockport, Cheshire, England, Willson-Piper is well-known for having been a longtime, pivotal member of The Church (“Under the Milky Way”) and All About Eve (“Farewell, Mr. Sorrow”) during the respective career peaks of these bands, contributing his distinct shimmery and jangly guitar flourishes. As early as the mid-’80s, Willson-Piper embarked on a solo career, releasing his first solo album in 1987, titled In Reflection. And then, in the early 2000s, along with producer Dare Mason, he assumed the moniker Noctorum, and began issuing albums under the name, the first of which was 2004’s Sparks Lane. This was followed by 2006’s Offer the Light and 2011’s Honey Mink Forever, respectively. Now, almost a decade after, a new one has arrived!
Slated to become commercially available on February 15, 2019, on Schoolkids Records, Noctorum’s latest offering, The Afterlife, may be easily associated with Willson-Piper’s penchant for the so-called Psychedelic Folk/Rock sound as pioneered in the late 1960s by the likes of The Byrds (“The Bells of Rhymney”) and Syd Barrett–era Pink Floyd (“See Emily Play”).
The Afterlife opens with the spacey, rustic, folky, and ambient glow of the semi-ballad “The Moon Drips,” swinging mellifluously like a comforting pendulum. The mood then immediately shifts to a higher gear, as the bright and upbeat, Alternative Country–flavored “High Tide, Low Tide” rings and subtly slashes engagingly. Following next is the beautifully structured, slightly Progressive “Piccadilly in the Circus Rain,” whose galloping rhythm and rich instrumentation make it an album highlight. The ensuing “Show” is a trek back to Willson-Piper’s ’60s Jangle Pop roots, echoing melodies of The Hollies’ “Bus Stop.” And then there is the slow, bluesy, Pub Rock sentiments of “A Resurrected Man.”
Aptly placed in the middle, being the album’s first single, “A Girl with No Love” exudes undeniable strains of The Church’s breakthrough album, 1988’s Starfish; in particular, the song “Reptile,” which Willson-Piper cowrote with his former bandmates from the iconic Australian group. The cinematic “Trick” then plays ominously—dark and brooding, hypnotic and alluring. Still on the same film-soundtrack mode, “Head On” is sinister-sounding with its mélange of various-styled guitar tracks.
The second-to-the-last song is the title track; its playful and tuneful tendencies return the album to its cheery predisposition. Finally, Willson-Piper and Mason finish up their new collaboration aptly with the sweet, soft, and nostalgic lullaby of “In a Field Full of Sheep.”
His career may not be as stellar as that of many of his contemporaries, but Willson-Piper has carved an equally memorable, respectable, and influential niche in the Alternative music scene via his slew of solo and collaborative works. The Afterlife is just the latest proof of this—an apt title to characterize the resurgence of his sonic and creative vitality; a worthy addition to his prolific discography. For these reasons, Cryptic Rock gives The Afterlife 4 out of 5 stars.