V2 – 2001 – 49 minutes

With symphonic strings and a dramatic drum roll Mercury Rev unveil 'All Is Dream', the long awaited follow-up to their mainstream breakthrough, 'Deserter's Songs'. Released in 1998, 'Deserters Songs' was a beautiful bolt from the blue from a band that many had written off. Coming close to total disintegration prior to its recording, the Rev knew they were all-but running on empty. They buried themselves in the Catskills mountains in upper New York state with band member turned producer Dave Fridmann and threw everything they had into the mix only to emerge, blinking, into the daylight of unit-shifting critical acclaim. Touring the album took quite a while – two gigs in the space of three months in Ireland alone – but they still found time to occasionally visit the studio to start laying down tracks for their new album 'All Is Dream'.

Working again with Dave Fridmann, now an acclaimed and very much in demand producer (Sparklehorse, The Flaming Lips, Gemma Hayes), Mercury Rev have put together a magnificently romantic opus. It opens with the glorious widescreen Technicolor of 'The Dark is Rising' which interleaves lush orchestration and an unearthly soprano with a simple piano line and Jonathon Donaghue's soaring falsetto. The album would be worth buying for this song alone – but its just the beginning of an unearthly and heart stirring ride through a spider, serpent and vampire-populated netherworld. The capricious and demanding 'you' of 'Nite and Fog', the vivid nightmares of 'Spiders and Flies' and the female form ("Her words profane/her mouth divine") in 'A Drop in Time' are odd fragments from Donaghue's dreamscapes. As he sings on 'Little Rhymes', "when I'm alone an' scared/I think up little rhymes/They would make no sense to you"

Donaghue's twisted web of myth and desire is set delicately against a soundscape which is both innovative and classical, combining instruments such as bowed saw, Mellotron, french horn and flute. Guitar and drums from core Rev members Grasshopper and Jeff Mercel are layered with swirling strings, dramatic piano flourishes and even the eerie sound of a child's voice, looped and fading away at the end of 'A Drop In Time'. A powerful and passionate masterpiece, 'All Is Dream' is all – and more – that we could have hoped for from Mercury Rev.

Caroline Hennessy

Tracklisting: The Dark Is Rising - Tides Of The Moon - Chains - Lincoln's Eyes - Nite and Fog - Little Rhymes - A Drop in Time - You're My Queen - Spiders and Flies - Hercules

Watch the video for 'The Dark Is Rising' here.