“The Acoustic Verses” strives to time travel back to the Middle Ages with a multi-track recorder sitting next to the flux capacitor. It’s a bit of a mixed bag. The record has a somewhat jagged, unnatural flow, detrimental to such albums, which rely very heavily on subtlety and understatement. So when something as blunt, over-repetitive and seeming like it could be the ballad from Modern Rock Band X’s new CD as “The Burden is Mine… Alone” comes on, it’s a wrench in the gears.
That “The Burden” is track two doesn’t help much, either. In terms of accessibility, nothing here quite touches the opener, a morbid, shuffling acoustic march titled “Sweet Leaf” that plays like the soundtrack to a Stonehenge sunset.
The instrumental “Child’s Play Part 3″ — sounding almost like a “too poppy” outtake from composer Matt Uelman’s brilliant and understated DIABLO/DIABLO II scores — comes close, and “Alone” comes even closer with a sonic base of acoustic strumming flirting with a sort of Britpop edge. The song is swiftly thrown to the orchestra pit, and dire violin strokes breathe a weird energy under the haunting amalgam of sparkling guitar rhythm, vocals and humming keyboard harmony.
Requisite epic “9-29-045″ fields the “contemplative” side of things, winding down slower and slower until its final movement. Right on the precipice of grinding to a complete halt, the song undergoes a dynamic, emotional outburst at about 12:35, and the ensuing choral textures re-energize the track before it finally fades out in a haze of guitar (one of which has a tendency to sound like a flute).
Later, some lovely flamenco-flavored guitar graces the last quarter of “High Tide Waves,” providing a neat exit strategy for quite a strangely-toned album.
A decent gateway drug for fans of bands like The Gathering, Lacuna Coil and Evanescence; a serviceable appetizer for Porcupine Tree, Pink Floyd, or Espers addicts.