ROBB FINLAYSON - Winter's Apprentice
January 30, 2018, a year ago
Canadian multi-instrumentalist Robb Finlayson makes his solo debut under the nifty Winter's Apprentice moniker, turning out a dark, prog-heavy and altogether surprising seven-song outing. As a student of Devin Townsend Project drummer Ryan van Poederooyen, Finlayson has learned his lessons well with regards to creating a rock-solid foundation, and having the production skills of DTP guitarist Dave Young behind the project only strengthens the Hevy Devy feel that binds the album together. By no means is this a Devin Townsend wannabe record, however, as it ebbs and flows over a soundscape reminiscent of Lacuna Coil at their darkest, Ayreon at its proggiest (see "Seasons"), and wet-behind-the-ears Dream Theater (back when they knew how to write actual songs). It's interesting to note the Woods Of Ypres vibe (unintentionally) threaded through the whole of the album, recalling the late David Gold at his most melancholy.
As Winter's Apprentice is his bucket list album, Finlayson is responsible for the music and the concept behind the songs, which explains the dominant (and occasionally plodding) mid-tempo / mood to the proceedings. That said, he was going for a very specific tone to fit the story and hit his mark thanks to the vocals of Nashville-based pop singer Cristina Taddonio, who quite frankly gives the lovely Cristina Scabbia of Lacuna Coil a run for her money in a big way. Taddonio could have easily phoned in her performance for the paycheque, but instead she attacks the arrangements like a born metalhead. She crushes in particular on the symphonic Evanescence-ish "In Bloom", a song I'm guessing a certain Strapping Young Lad would have no problem sinking his own teeth into.
Standout tracks are "Fractured" - another stellar performance by Taddonio - and "In Bloom" at the outset, with "Uncertainty" turning out to be the Winter's Apprentice cornerstone thanks to a brilliant over-the-top arrangement. Looking forward to hearing more from Finlayson, who was diving into Winter's Apprentice album #2 at the time of this writing.