I first came across Dave Bandana years ago when he was in Salander, followed him to his journeys with Birzer Bandana before he formed The Bardic Depths and released the debut album back in 2020. His colleague Brad Birzer was still involved, but he had brought in a group of stellar musicians and taken a huge step up in every way. Now The Bardic Depths are back with the second album, and this feels far more like a group affair as opposed to a project. History professor Birzer has again worked with Dave on lyrics to much of the material, and the core musicians have been brought back from last time, namely Peter Jones (Camel/Tiger Moth Tales/ Red Bazar), Gareth Cole (Paul Menel/ Fractal Mirror) and Tim Gehrt (The Streets/ Steve Walsh). There are a cast of thousands in terms of guests (especially for backing vocals), but it is the core quartet who share the vast majority of the workload, with others being brought in to add additional nuances and layers as opposed to taking on key roles.
There are times when the music is quite Floydian, with “The Burning Flame” sounding as if it could have come from ‘Wish You Were Here’ with delicate keyboards and a wonderfully restrained guitar solo, while at others they are more into the crossover genre as opposed to symphonic. Whereas the debut album was also viewed in some ways as the third Birzer Bandana release, there is no doubt that what we have here now is a band very much performing on their own terms and with their own identity. Like most people in the prog scene, I am a massive fan of Peter Jones and what he has already achieved within the genre, but this is a band where he has little input into the actual songwriting and is onboard for his skills as a musician and singer, which means some of the pressure is off and there is no doubt he relishes the opportunity, with a saxophone lead on the instrumental “Colours and Shapes” (one of only two songs where he gets a songwriting credit) which is simply beautiful, dynamic and full of power.
Robin Armstrong (Cosmograf) has again been involved as a co-producer (as well as dropping in musically here and there), and he has worked with Dave to create an environment where the guys have been able to express themselves and allow the band to truly grow as a unit. This is by far the best album I have heard from Mr. Bandana over the years, and I am truly looking forward to see what comes of this band in the future.
8/10 Kev Rowland