Rick Miller – Heart Of Darkness
Rick Miller – Heart of Darkness (2014)
Reviewed by Mark Nagy
While my primary coverage is the metal side of the progressive world, occasionally I come across a progressive rock album that’s so good that I have to cover it. For those of you that can’t exist without distortion, feel free to tune out now, but for the rest, I implore you to read on. Rick Miller is a Canadian composer and recording artist. He’s got a long career that I’m presently ignorant of, but after hearing his 2014 release Heart of Darkness, I could see that changing pretty quickly. Heart of Darkness combines rich and haunting ambient soundscapes with the instrumental strength of progressive rock. There’s a fair comparison to a nightmarish Pink Floyd, or even, at times, a more song-oriented approach to horror soundtracks.
I came across Heart Of Darkness on bandcamp, and I was completely blown away by the strength of the atmosphere of the album. Being “dark” has been in vogue for progressive rock for quite some time, but to be honest, I’ve heard so much that it often comes off as pretty cheesy. Rick Miller manages to capture a bit of that noise that creeps in the night, but also presents it with the subtlety to fully enhance the effect, leaving plenty of contemplative open space in his music.
The opening track, “Heart of Darkness”, is an incredibly potent hook for the album. It’s slow, methodical, and even a bit tribal sounding with the pounding drums and flutes. What’s remarkable is how the introduction manages to fuse this rather primal acoustic feeling with very new age synths, all the while making it sound very natural. This kind of unity is what keeps the album fresh and quite authentic. Miller’s vocals create another valuable contrast to the music, because for as dark as the music is, the vocals aren’t trying to enhance that atmosphere. Instead, they adopt a more dreamlike approach.
Perhaps this style of music is heavily directed at a very particular niche. For that niche however, it’s absolutely wonderful. Heart of Darkness is a captivating ride in effective songwriting, as well as featuring particularly potent and extremely poetic lyrics. The power of this passage from “Blood Of The Rose” is particularly striking. “Stammering and staring, it was their last hour, a madness of farewells. A man who had given all other bliss, and all of his worldly worth for this, to waste his whole heart in one kiss, upon her perfect lips.” I mean wow. If a dark progressive rock album, rich in phenomenal songwriting, and stark musical contrasts sounds appealing, you absolutely can’t go wrong with Heart Of Darkness.
4.25 // 5