Sometimes, you can tell when a band approaches music on a different level than most. That’s precisely the case with Karnataka and their album “Requiem For A Dream”.

“The album explores themes of personal adversity, loss, despair, and forgiveness, experienced through the prism of global chaos, climate change, and environmental destruction,” says Ian & Sertari. “A beautiful world slowly dying and tinged with fear, yet grasping for hope. We are reminded of the fragility of Sagan’s unique ‘pale blue dot’ floating in a vast ocean of stars. We are dancing in the rain. This is our requiem for a dream.”

Beats the crap out of those bands that tell you they’re “stoked” with the new stuff, right?

In truth, the eight songs here almost demand that you don’t listen to them on a superficial level. They’re not the type of music that floats by while you’re in the car or checking your phone. Instead, these songs carry weight and meaning; they have been carefully crafted.

For the opener, “All Around The World,” my notes said: “bold, expansive, and exquisitely done.” The same holds true for all the tracks, but it’s the subtleties that matter most. The keyboards, guitar lines from Luke Machin (who also produces), the spoken word segments, and the promise of regeneration.

On the other hand, “Sacrifice” is a wonderful showcase for Sertari’s incredible voice. The orchestration from Ian Jones (the only other full member here, with the rest listed as “special guests”) adds depth, but the focus remains on the songs.

This sets the album apart from its most obvious peers. “Look To The East” wraps itself around real poetry, for example, and while “Forgiven” returns to epic territory (not that the other tracks have been short!), it is a love song like no other. The operatic section is glorious, and it’s the peaks and troughs that make this album so very special.

And that sentiment applies to every song. Each one offers something unique. “The Night’s Dance” blends elements of AOR and prog as the piano tinkles, and one can’t help but marvel at the sheer ambition of this piece.

Karnataka also enjoys surprising the listener. “Say Goodbye Tomorrow” begins with an ominous tone but then unexpectedly opens up to a mid-paced rocker. Similarly, “Don’t Forget My Name” features rumbling drums that culminate in gorgeous, lush harmonies reminiscent of a choir.

If you had a 25-minute epic on your wishlist – and let’s be honest, it was always a possibility – the title track has you covered. With more twists and turns than a miniseries, it serves as the perfect ending to this record. Everything they’ve promised here, including the flutes from Nightwish’s Troy Donockley, is somehow tied together in a stunning, jaw-dropping piece.

Those words “stunning” and “jaw-dropping” are about the only ones you can use here. If the aim was to evolve Sagan’s theory, then you can only feel dwarfed by the sheer scale of what’s gone on. This is the type of record that doesn’t see commercial success as its be-all and end-all, but it might not be fully appreciated for months to come. “Requiem For A Dream” is a wonderful, bewildering journey to somewhere you might not fully comprehend.

Rating: 9/10

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