Ben Craven — Monsters from the Id
(Bandcamp no#, 2022, CD / DL)
by Jon Davis, Published 2022-09-17
Monsters from the Id Cover art
I’m going to start off by making a distinction between Symphonic Rock and Orchestral Rock. The former is rock music that has a large element of classical music in it, normally of the late 19th Century variety, and may or may not feature instruments beyond a normal rock band. The latter, for my purposes in this review, is rock music that was conceived of with the participation of an orchestra in addition to rock instruments. I’m using both terms as descriptions of music, not as genre labels. When The Moody Blues released Days of Future Passed in 1967, it was the first major effort melding a rock band with an orchestra, though it could be argued that the album consists of some songs featuring the band and some orchestral passages where the band wasn’t really involved. Later recordings from Renaissance, Procol Harum, Rick Wakeman, and a host of others had varying levels of success, both commercial and artistic, and the urge to produce true integrations of orchestral music and rock has never gone away. Setting aside movie soundtracks such as those of Hans Zimmer, the sheer expense of involving a whole orchestra for a recording (let alone a tour) is a daunting obstacle. Australian composer and guitarist Ben Craven is one of the many attracted to the prospect of such music, and it’s probably safe to say that he’s a fan of both Hans Zimmer and Rick Wakeman. Monsters from the Id features two side-long tracks, “Die Before You Wake” and “Amnis Flows Aeternum,” which are performed by guitar, bass, drums, keyboards, orchestra, and choir. Also included are four shorter tracks excerpted from the epics. While the majority of the music is instrumental, Craven has a pleasant voice that carries the lyrics well. His guitar work is solid as well, with a touch of David Gilmour phrasing. Probably my favorite passage is the section of “Die Before You Wake” called “Wicked Delights,” which is a short, energetic workout that makes me think a bit of some of Steve Hackett’s work with an orchestra. There are also some sections with flashy synthesizer solos that will make you scour the credits for someone named Wakeman (which you won’t find). Craven has come up with a quite enjoyable entry into the field of orchestral rock, which is something I don’t usually enjoy, and I can recommend the album to anyone who likes their music on the epic side.