It’s been 6 years since Iona’s last studio release "Open Sky", during that time several band members did their own projects including Bainbridge/ Donockley’s 2004 'From Silence' and Dave Bainbridge's 'Veil Of Gossamer', which were both reviewed by ProgNaut.com.
Now after an amazing DVD release earlier this year called Live In London, the band returns with a strong studio album entitled The Circling Hour. The Dvd was my introduction to the band’s music and gained some insight as to what I was to look forward to in future releases. The Circling Hour is the first studio album I have heard and it makes me want to dive into the rest of their catalog.
For those unaware of the sound of Iona, they blend Celtic folk with progressive rock and some new age qualities. As part of their Celtic roots, the band utilized several traditional instruments including whistles, bodhran (Celtic drum), bouzouki (acoustic guitar) and uilleann pipes. Iona is the blueprint for many bands including Mostly Autumn, Karnataka, The Mermaid Kiss, Magenta, Queccia and so many others.
Over the years the band has had their share of personnel changes (what band I modern times hasn’t) and the current line-up is Dave Bainbridge (guitars and keyboards), Joanne Hogg (vocals), Phil Barker (bass), Frank Van Essen (drums, percussion and violin), multi instrumentalist Troy Donockley (uilleann pipes, whistles, guitars and backing vocals) and special guest Heather Findlay from Mostly Autumn (vocals on “Fragment of a Fiery Sun”).
Highlights for me are the opener, ‘Empyrean Dawn’, ‘Factory of Magnificent Soul’ and ‘No Fear In Live’. To me these songs sum up the feeling of the album, not saying the others don’t, just these stick out for me. I must say that Joanne’s voice is by far the best in the genre. It’s so beautiful, dare I say, angelic. Bainbridge and Donockley continue to amaze me, as a new listener. With Bainbridge’s impressive guitar that revivals David Gilmore’s and Troy’s multi-instrumentalist contributions are equally amazing.
Their Live In London DVD was the hook and The Circling Hour was the one that caught me! I will in the near future dive into their previous releases. I think fan’s of their previous albums with accept this with open arms and hearts. Those new to the band must, I repeat MUST experience this album ASAP. It’s one of the better releases of the year and deserved to be in your collection today!
Reviewed by Ron Fuchs on December 12th, 2006