Track Review: Formby- The Sea of Tranquility







The Sea of Tranquility



 The Sea of Tranquility is available via:

The album, Black Hole King is available at:

Black Hole King, Formby


Reign- 9.6/10.0

Black Hole King- 9.7

Ghost Shadow- 9.5

Tides of War- 9.5

Some Velvet Skies- 9.4

The Sea of Tranquility- 9.4

Goblins- 9.7

Abdication- 9.6


RELEASED: Nov 20, 2012

℗ 2013 Formby


These Berkshire boys have been busy making plans for their second album. Formby‘s debut L.P. (Black Hole King) contains a mesmerizing blend of Prog majesty and swaggering Rock; delicate and beautiful soundscapes- as well as bucketloads of anthemics. In an album of lunar proportions, The Sea of Tranquility provides an ocean of tantalising reflection.


RECENTLY, I have been surveying a lot of acts…

whom offer up something melodic and soft; romantic as well as hypnotic- their music is definitely the sort you look for when in need of relaxation and seduction. The arrival of Formby has meant I can investigate something more hard-pressing and heavier: sounds that definitely compel you to get up and move your body- that said, The Sea of Tranquility is one of their most tender and melodious offerings. If the name is not familiar to you, here is what you need to know (with regards to Formby):

Formby are a 4-piece Alternative Rock band from Reading, Berkshire. Intelligent sassy U.K. Prog. They have taken the Prog Rock rule book and ripped it up. For fans of Pink Floyd/Faith No More/System of A Down/Porcupine Tree. Formby have been playing for the last year and a half together, in which time they have started building a fan base over the south of England. Since the release of our debut album “Black Hole King”, Formby have been receiving great feed back from our live shows as well as radio stations and magazine reviews. Now they are currently writing and performing the new material from the new album which is due to be released and recorded later this year.

Danny Sorrell– Vocals, Guitars, Synths and Programming

Leland Freeman– Guitars

JFK– Drums

Josh Harding– Bass

In spite of the fact that Black Hole King is a two-year-old, there are plans afoot for new releases: a fresh album is on the horizon and the boys are preparing a return to the studio- and the initial buzz and speculation suggests we could witness something even more arresting and compelling than Black Hole King. A lot of fervent, original and daring music is coming from London and its surrounding counties- it seems that a resurgence of sorts is occurring. In the past, I have postulated that the likes of Yorkshire and Scotland are providing the hungriest and most ambitious act (whereas London and the south seem to be lacking)- yet it seems that a new wave of young artists is coming through. Formby have been gathering a lot of heady praise and fond affection from a lot of reviewers and fans. Latching onto their pure rush of electrifying song: mouths have been salivating and digesting all the quartet have to offer- it seems that the band are primed for a long-term career. Having toured around Reading and Berkshire over the last few weeks, the group are being exposed to new avenues and fans- Formby are gaining confidence from the warm reception they have received. I am not sure what form the upcoming album will take: it is likely to be infused with the same sort of authority, rush and mesmeric cuts that are synonymous with Black Hole King. It is an album that deserves a wider audience and a lot more investigation- for that reason, I sat down to investigate The Sea of Tranquility.

Formby themselves claim to be influenced by the likes of Pink Floyd, Black Sabbath, Muse, Opeth, Porcupine Tree, Smashing Pumpkins and Queens of the Stone Age- it is a pretty good starting point. As well as ignoring (and subsequently tearing up) the Prog rulebook, the group do things their own way- and have their own unique sound. If you are a fan of any of the aforementioned groups, you should check out Formby. There is the hard Desert Rock crawl of Q.O.T.S.A.; the eccentricity and huge proportions of Muse; the rampant thrash of Black Sabbath- as well as touches of early career Pink Floyd. The music they present is instilled with heart and guts; blood and barbwire- as well as plenty of soul and passion. Hardly surprising, then, that the guys are getting exposure and patronage- in a world where band music can come across as predictable and muted, the quartet dare to be bold. I have reviewed acts such as Los & The Deadlines (whom have a similar set of influences and distinct sound): but it would be great to hear more of it- music that sprinkles elements of past masters, yet is very much a modern-day and idiosyncratic monster.

The band show how deftly they can mix paradoxical sounds alongside one another: here is an example of the ‘softer’ end of their spectrum. The introduction is built around growing and romantic guitars: acoustic solidity mixes with vibrating and echoed electric guitar- the kind of intro. you might expect to see on The Bends. Formby demonstrate their keen attention to detail and consideration; lines and guitar offerings are intelligent and atmospheric: the pace and sound mutates and develops gradually building up a mesmerizing sense of occasion and anticipation- ensuring that the listener is on the edge of their seat. The vocal from Sorrell is evocative and calmed; his voice impassioned yet restrained- it is an impressive and effective performance. Whereas other tracks on Black Hole King provide breathlessness and a heady rush: The Sea of Tranquility is appropriately cosmic and twilight. Sorrell speaks of “waiting in shadows” and “feelings don’t compare“; introverted investigation and moonlight metaphors blend, to give the impression of a young man in need of answers and direction. The strained and aching vocal at times put me in mind of a young Thom Yorke (I hope that is a fair comparison): there is that same quasi-operatic power in the lungs: that pleasing and stunning tenor (with hints of falsetto)- adding weight and emotion to the song. The most atmospheric and stunning aspect of The Sea of Tranquility is the composition itself. Covering so much ground, the sonics mutate and evolve: there is a sense of itinerary and time shift. Haunting and yearning strings play alongside pugnacious, stirring and stoic percussion- the energy and mobility is scintillating. One of the most pleasing moments occurs at the 2:37 marker (after the chorus has been completed; it reminds me of (Nice Dream) by Radiohead): a subtle but powerful shift occurs that takes you by surprise- one where underpinned strings ascend to rule; a percussive crackle kicks the dust away and you cannot help but be impressed. Before long we are in Dark Side of the Moon territory: a spoken word sample arrives, giving the song some Pink Floyd embers- as well as providing a nice contrast to the central vocal. With a final bow from the chorus, the track reaches its finale: emotions have poured out and a great deal of burden has been exorcised. Before I highlight all the positive aspects of The Sea of Tranquility, one or two minor negatives come to mind: concerning intelligibility and clarity. At times it is hard to understand some of the lyrics; whether because of the production or weight of the composition, Sorrell’s words can be hard to decipher and understand- some of the voice gets buried down in the mix. It is not a major gripe, but some of the lyrics and words get missed or misconstrued- making it a little difficult to put all the jigsaw pieces together. That said, it is the most slight of criticisms: every other emotion that comes from me is possessed of positivity and fond tribute- so I shall begin. The band performance is tight and intuitive; no loose edges or rough surfaces can be heard- you can tell that there is an innate sense of affection and understanding between the members. The vocal from Sorrell (in spite of my moan) is emphatic and filled with nuance. I have hinted at early-career Thom Yorke: smatterings of Matt Bellamy and Bono come through, but I found Sorrell’s voice to be more unique- there is no infantile whine or needless over-emoting. When assessing any song, the vocal is at the forefront: as such it needs to impress and convince- which it does with ease. The composition itself is perhaps the star of the show; each band member adds something unique and distinct- making the song rich and filled with emotion. The guitars are contrilled and measured, yet add so much colour and life to the track: parables and codas shift from snaking sensuality to cosmic exploration. The percussion keeps everything in check and focused: shifting from powerful to gentle, it is stirring and eye-cvatching throughoput. The bass work is solid and urgent throughout: impressively subtle at times and potent the next. The Sea of Tranquility is a song you will listen to again and again: the melody and composition require repeated investigations, and you will find yourself addicted to certain moments and movements- such is the gravity of the song itself. Whilst not the most urgent and direct moments on Black Hole King, it is one of the most detailed and fully rounded numbers: a gem from the band that is hard to forget- and highlights their talents to the full.

Black Hole King’s title track is abound with chugging riffs, rifled percussives- and a powerful and impressive vocal performance. With a potent quiet-loud dynamic and epic swathes of strings, it is a song that you will struggle to forget in a hurry. Tides of War is a sub-two minute gem of contemplative beauty and purity: an instrumental that mixes Pink Floyd proportions with The Cinematic Orchestra-style transcendence and aching beauty. Goblins is a kick-ass slice of Absolution-era Muse, mixed with System of a Down-esque grit and punch. Some Velvet Skies is a made-for-the-mosh-pits headbanger: a swaggering goliath that mandates you to turn up the volume- and surrender yourself to the music. Having spoken with JFK (the band’s drummer), I know that Formby are heading back into the studio soon- new material will be released later this year. Since the release of their debut L.P.: the four-piece have been busy touring and promoting their music; picking up fresh inspirations and stories- raring to parlay them into cracking new numbers. I am still seeing reviewers and publications feature Black Hole King– it is an album that you will not get tired of, and find new surprises each time you investigate it. The Sea of Tranquility is a perfect starting place (if you are thinking of investigating Formby): I would advise you check the album out in full, and replay the tracks- there is something in there for everyone. It has been great looking at gentler and more introverted music (as-of-late), but my thoughts and attentions invariably turn towards bigger and brasher sounds- like a musical dowsing rod. The home counties are producing some wonderfully diverse and intent acts; from Electro Pop anthems through to Led Zeppelin-esque epics- a great deal of bold and eye-watering music is coming through. It will be interesting to see what 2014 has to offer (with regards to home counties musicians): but one thing is for sure- Formby will laying down plans for a big future. Their debut album marked them out as one of the most instantaneous and striking acts around: so their sophomore offering is sure to tip then over the edge- and see them rise to the ascendency of national radio mainstays. This young quartet is still learning and experimenting; pushing themselves as an act and seeing what they can come up with- they are getting stronger, more optimistic and focused with each passing month. For those of you that have grown tired of generic Indie Rock misfires; the dragging and ponderous musings that leave you cold- steer your ears towards Formby. The rest of this year will see touring, songwriting- and the conception and completion of their new album. I have been informed that the material (that will feature on the album) will be their strongest year. The Sea of Tranquility is an insatiable and glistening slab of Prog brilliance; so if their best days are still to come…

THAT will be a very exciting proposition indeed.


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