Dave Brons goes for the gold on Based on a True Story…
Slice of Life Records
9 tracks / 48:13
If you’re wondering just what ‘true story’ Dave Brons’ new project is based on, it will become very clear by the time you finish listening to the last track. Based on a True Story is the story of Brons himself, and it’s all out there for you to digest. Not strictly autobiographical (there are no lyrics), the music instead tells us about the passion and soul of the artist expressed not only through impeccable guitar playing but also through the emotional tone of the music.
The soundscapes on Based on a True Story are big, often cinematic mini-epics that tease at a fusion of prog and Celtic. Described both as ‘Star Wars meets Van Halen,’ and ‘Steve Vai crossed with Lord of the Rings,’ and there’s at least a bit of accuracy to both statements. More nuanced that Van Halen and less technical than Vai, Brons has found that sweet spot of being able to fire off amazing runs or long, languid phrases at will – and yes, there’s an epic feel to several songs, especially “Drivin’ Rain” and “Hammer and Nail” (inspired by “The Passion of The Christ”).
Brons invests a lot of emotional energy into these songs, which all seem connected to things he cares about. The album starts off, in fact, with a recording of his son singing “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star,” as the piano picks up the rhythm of the phrase, soon joined by some wonderfully fat drums, bass, synth, and eventually some fantastic riffing by Dave on guitar. “Kai Rohan,” inspired by the birth of Brons’ son, continues with some clean toned guitar and crisp bass over a wash of synth keys. The drums come in and give the song a sharp edge while the main theme is stated on guitar. The repeating guitar break is a thing of beauty and there are some seriously furious runs around the four-minute mark.
The influence of both Dave Bainbridge and the Celtic-prog band, Iona, can be heard on “Miracle Maker.” Former Iona band members Troy Donockley (Uileann Pipes) and Dave Bainbridge himself appear on the track, adding Ionian gravitas to the atmospheric, slow instrumental. Bainbridge also co-produced the album along with Brons (what a pair of Daves!) and played keyboards (‘the difficult parts’ according to the liner notes) and played some typically-impressive guitar on “Voyager.”
“Desert Rose” is a lighter, jazzier, more listener-friendly tune with clean, textured guitar and busy drums. The aforementioned “Voyager” follows – a deliberately-tempoed song with soaring guitar lines and busy drums effectively playing with the rhythms under the melody. The guitar work, drums, and organ at the end bring the piece to a powerful close.
“Father” and “Drivin’ Rain” each are in that slowly building mode that works so well for Brons, starting with simple phrases, adding instruments, and building to big, powerful themes driven by a heavy rock sensibility but immersed in an orchestral setting. The latter track in particular, starts with a piano phrase that would feel at home in one of those ‘the scary gut with the knife is somewhere in your house’ scenes – but the tempo picks up part way through and the whole thing ends with a grand percussive conclusion.
There’s a big, quest-like feel to “Hammer and Nail,” with dramatic, sweeping themes from the guitar and switches from major to minor and back. It ends in a frenzy of guitar runs (the amazing Paul Bielatowicz is credited for the outro solo) over some dark, gothic organ work. “Voyagers Return” ends the album sounding very much like the last word. Extended notes from the guitar, heavy drums working hand-in-glove with bass lines, and a huge, out-of-tempo section at the end featuring a ghostly arrangement of voices over an extended chord.
The songs on Based on a True Story are all written by Dave Brons or co-written by Brons along with Mark Swift and John Biglands, in various combinations. Swift also plays keyboard (as does Dave Bainbridge) and Biglands plays some big-sounding drums which, by the way, are beautifully recorded and will perk up the ears and put a smile on the face of any drummers who give a listen! Brons himself plays guitar and the ambiguous ‘anything else’ that you hear on these tracks.
Dave Brons wears his heart on his sleeve as much as is possible on this, an instrumental album – and the fact is, the music reflects the heart of a man who loves his God. It’s something that is there for sure, yet it’s not intrusive. Sometimes our words don’t make sense – they fail to properly convey what we mean – but there’s no mistaking passion and expressing love through your instrument, and you’ll hear that on Based on a True Story. Brons is going for the gold.