Gleb Kolyadin is a stunning first solo effort from one of the most distinguishing musicians in modern progressive music.

As the central composer behind expressive powerhouse pair Iamthemorning, Russian pianist Gleb Kolyadin has already established himself as a master at uniting eloquence and emotion (keeping in line with most of his Kscope brethren, including Anathema, Nosound, The Pineapple Thief, Lunatic Soul, Steven Wilson, and Gazpacho). It’s no shock, then, that his self-titled debut album captures much of the same devastating grandeur; however, with numerous guest players and a stronger sense of classical ambition, Gleb Kolyadin also successfully marks Kolyadin as a valuable and characteristic solo artist whose virtuosic abilities constantly enhance, rather than usurp, his role as a creative empath.

Expectedly, Kolyadin’s Iamthemorning partner, Marjana Semkina, doesn’t lend her angelically sorrowful singing to the LP; however, guest vocalists Steve Hogarth (Marillion) and Mick Moss (Antimatter) provide equal weight during their spotlight moments. On the instrumental side of things, Kolyadin is joined by plenty more progressive rock royalty, such as drummer Gavin Harrison (King Crimson, Porcupine Tree), flautist/saxophonist Theo Travis (Robert Fripp, Steven Wilson), keyboardist Jordan Rudess (Dream Theater), and bassist Nick Beggs (The Mute Gods). Rather than assign each player a set role, Kolyadin recorded the groundwork on his grand piano and then invited “each music [to record] their own parts separately.” As for its themes, he describes it as “an emotive exploration of self-identity; a story of two parts with interweaving leitmotifs.” In other words, prepare for a gorgeous journey of robust sentiments and scores.

“Insight” starts the record on a technical high note, with plenty of arresting piano malevolence dancing around stylish percussion (Harrison has always been an immeasurably inventive percussionist, after all). Soon, Rudess also adds plenty of sleek and (surprisingly) whimsical flavor, while Travis truly shines with his inherently warm saxophone solo near the end. At its core, “Insight” is a fine example of how to balance chaos and catchiness via unrelenting ominous liveliness. It’s a remarkable opener that paves the way for subsequent instrumental siblings, be they markedly symphonic and playful (“White Dawn,” “Echo / Sigh / Strand,” “Kaleidoscope,” “The Room”) or comparatively reserved and downtrodden (“Eidolon,” “Constellation / The Bell”).

Of course, the tracks with vocals stand out immensely, not only for their innate quality but also for how much variety they add to the sequence as a whole. Specifically, Moss coats “Astral Architecture” with a morose, multilayered matter-of-fact gruffness that complements perfectly the dynamic instrumental distress around him. (It must be said, too, that he sounds remarkably like Eddie Vedder.) As for Hogarth, he’s always been among the most recognizable singers in the genre, and his trademark haunting delicateness shines on the closing gem, “The Best of Days.” Peppered with iridescent echoes and surrounded by a shimmering, slightly carnivalesque arrangement, his matchless passion helps make the track a powerful culmination, as well as a standout of the whole set.

Gleb Kolyadin is a stunning first solo effort from one of the most distinguishing musicians in modern progressive music. Whether in-your-face or quietly kept, his playing is always adventurous and touching, and the ways in which he incorporates his guest musicians is damn near divine. Whether on his own, with Iamthemorning, or elsewhere, Kolyadin perpetually proves his worth amongst the pack, and if he continues to surround himself with so many equally endearing talents, there’s no telling how far his work will go.

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