TDW – The Day the Clocks Stopped Review

Hey, remember the infamous manbun album, where Pain of Salvation‘s Daniel Gildenlöw sang about his experience lying in the hospital and almost dying for over 70 minutes? Well, The Day the Clocks Stopped has TDW’s frontman Tom de Wit singing about his experience lying in the hospital and almost dying for over 70 minutes. But TDW’s album is 5 minutes longer and instead of almost dying just once, Tom spent a long time on his sick bed, fighting bowel disease, sensory processing sensitivity and medical mistakes, and he almost died twice! Take that, Daniel! But In the Passing Light of Day was, believe it or not, album of the year 2017. Does a more intense disease and death experience translate to a more intense disease and death album?

Well, not exactly, though it is by no means a bad album. The Day the Clocks Stopped is a thoroughly polished slab of bombastic prog metal, with bells and whistles to spare, including some classical instrumentation, choral arrangements and a 17-minute track that’s not even the closer. De Wit has a very clean timbre in a pleasant baritone range with which he tells the story of his illness and delirium through a maze of complex, multi-layered compositions. These cover a wide range of styles, from quiet interludes that lean on vocals and acoustics alone, to symphonic grandeur with theatrical flair, and even adopting the pummeling quality of melodic death metal.

Where the album falters is the ever present principle of less is more. When concocting an album about the meaning of life, the universe and everything, such as, for example, Devin Townsend is wont to do, more can definitely be more. When laying out the deeply personal and intimate story of a harrowing disease, this is not the case. As such, De Wit’s tale largely does not land, as the emotional connection dial barely nudges off 0 through the elaborate stage production. On the occasion that it does, which includes “The Pulse” for its frightened, panic-stricken energy, the track is that much stronger for it, but it happens far too rarely for a record that’s supposed to be grounded in real life. When it finally does fully commit to a lunge for the heartstrings, it does so with all the subtlety and complexity of a Hallmark movie’s grand finale, celebrating De Wit’s restored health and return to society with layered choirs and major chords that illustrate clouds parting and rays of sunshine pouring down in such a deluge of danablu, it could put the lactose intolerant in the same hospital bed our protagonist just clambered out of.

With the emotional connection lackluster at best, it falls to the technical aspects to dazzle and hook, but while there is certainly a wealth of ideas among De Wit’s compositions, it just doesn’t impress enough to stretch into double overtime. Again it’s “The Pulse” which impresses the most with its call-and-response between De Wit and the choir, and the many solos strewn across the album (most of which performed by a spreadsheet worth of guest musicians) are lovely. The individual tracks have plenty of dynamic writing, moving through peaks and valleys effortlessly and transitioning beautifully from one mood to another. When comparing each track to the next, though, they frequently lack a face of their own. Even the lengthy “No Can Do” mainly stands out because of its size rather than its content. While it’s always at least somewhat enjoyable to listen to, rather is it ever more than vaguely pleasant, and for a 75 minute record, that just doesn’t cut it.

If this all sounds like I’m frustrated with The Day the Clocks Stopped, well, that’s because I am a little. It’s because I hear so much that could have made it a very good record. All the technical skill, experience and songwriting chops are there. It just doesn’t coalesce into something worth the time it requires to listen to it. It should have been smaller in every way, in terms of running time and theatricality and production size, to tell a story this intimate. It should have divided its peaks and valleys better to give each track a more distinct identity. It should even, perhaps, have gone a little darker and a little less Disney given its subject matter, particularly towards the finale. Any of these could have made this an album more interesting and more worthy than what TDW has produced. Sadly, the result just does not move any past the most damning of faint praises that is ‘vaguely pleasant.’


Rating: 2.5/5.0
DR: 8 | Format Reviewed: 256 kbps mp3
Label: Layered Reality Productions
Websites: tdwprog.bandcamp.com | tdwmusic.com | facebook.com/tdwmusic
Releases Worldwide: January 15th, 2021

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