It's been a long time. For five years, brave Saint Saturn fans have been awaiting the final chapter in the story of the USS Gloria, a fictional spaceship whose crew went up to study the planet Saturn. On the previous album, the crew got stranded on the other side of the planet's moon, Titan, and just when vocalist (and the crew's captain) Reese Roper was singing about giving up hope of being found, the ship started drifting out into sunlight, the power came back on, and they started their journey home. Anti-Meridian acts as part three in the trilogy, and marks the return home for the crew.
The opening track, "Here Is The News," begins with a dominating voice reciting an excerpt from Dylan Thomas' work "And Death Shall Have No Dominion," which then shifts into a little synth mixed with some upbeat, almost-punk-rock guitar and drums. Yes, fortunately, brave Saint Saturn's signature astro-rock sound has not been left in the past. Anti-Meridian features many upbeat songs like that, such as "Hero's Homecoming," as well as highlights "Through Depths of Twilight" and "Blessed Are The Land Mines." But bS2 also shines in their softer songs, like "Starling," an acoustic-driven, quasi-lament, similar to their older song "Binary." Other good examples of their softer side are the Dennis Culp-led "Begin Again" (one of the four songs in which he provides lead vocals), and the almost-worshipful "These Frail Hands." In addition to the upbeat songs and the slower ballads, Roper and gang also specialize in music that's a little different. Perhaps the strangest song in bS2's repertoire is "Fortress of Solitude," a very odd, very progressive song - starting off with a kind of a humorous voicemail, followed by an industrial style beat with Reese's haunting vocals, heading into a high hat-laden chorus, with a bridge that begins with a few hip hop-ish verses, and ends with a nice combination of harder guitars and some yelling and screaming.
Now, fans of brave Saint Saturn from the beginning know that, despite the whole bS2 project being centered around the story of the USS Gloria, not every song of each album was directly about the story. So Far From Home had very little to actually do with the story, while The Light of Things Hoped For contained several story-related songs, such as "The Sun Also Rises" and the tear-jerking "Daylight." Anti-Meridian doesn't feature as much of the storyline as anticipated, but there are several tracks that do. "Here Is The News" acts as a newscast talking about the coming return of the crew, while in "Hero's Homecoming," Dennis sings about the illustrious ticker tape parade and huge crowds that gather to honor the guys when they return. And in the vein of "Mercury" and "Gemini" from The Light..., we hear from Reese and Dennis in the tracks "Ammodramus" and "Aegolius," respectively. Reese talks about the return and about how the crew's lieutenant, Keith Hoerig, sacrificed his life to save the mission, and Dennis gives some advice to the next generation of astronauts. The rest of the tracks just help create the feel and emotion that the guys were going for. The album ends with a "feel and emotion" song, and brings with it the possible best ending they could have had. "Invictus" is just a straight-up "I'm broken, but I'm broken for You" song, and it's also almost as teary as the aforementioned "Daylight."
Altogether, Anti-Meridian ends up being another beautiful piece of work from our beloved astro-rockers. Admittedly, I was a little let down, as I had expected pure brilliance. Though the album is gorgeous in many ways, there were a couple letdowns. "Underground" felt a little empty at times, and "Fortress of Solitude," albeit a good song, took a little while to get into. Aside from those small details, the only other bad thing is the amount of silence on the hidden track (approximately twelve minute's worth).
But then again, when we find out what that silence builds up to, it's almost worth it. The last 30 seconds are a little snippet of Dennis talking about the possibility of the boys going back up into space for another mission, possibly pointing to the idea of another bS2 release in the future. Who knows? All I know is that it's really exciting to think that, after all these years of "knowing" that Anti-Meridian would be the final release from this amazing foursome, there just might be more to come from them. Hopefully we won't have to wait too long to find out. As for the USS Gloria and its Saturn mission, I think I can safely say that it's been an exciting ride, and one of the best concepts in the history of Christian music. Head over to their online store, and make sure to pick up Anti-Meridian, as well as their first two albums if you don't already have them.- Review date: 9/22/08, written by Scott Fryberger
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