Sun Domingo is an American band hailing from Atlanta, Georgia, founded in 2004 by guitarist/vocalist/songwriter Edgel Groves. Over the last couple of years they have made a name for themselves in prog-rock circles while serving frequently as an opening act for Marillion and The Pineapple Thief. In particular, Sun Domingo's performance at the 2009 Marillion Weekend (a yearly fan convention with International attendance) received great reviews, eventually leading to a live CD of that gig being released through Marillion's private label, Racket Records.
Sun Domingo's newest release on Glassville Records, "Songs For End Times", also has some familiar prog names attached to it. Making special guest appearances are Adrian Belew (King Crimson, David Bowie), Steve Hogarth (Marillion), John Wesley (Porcupine Tree) and Bruce Soord (The Pineapple Thief), who also produced the new album.
However, despite what would seem to be an impressive 'prog' pedigree, I have to admit that I found most of this album to be 'progressive' only in the most liberal use of the term. In an old promotional bio Sun Domingo stated that their biggest influences came from "80s and 90s radio". I must say that this is a much better indicator of the type of music that's heard here. There are some displays of better-than-average musicianship, and a few experimental soundscapes the likes of which you might hear from Muse or Radiohead – but otherwise the sound is more akin to the stripped down-pop and alternative rock that you might hear on indie radio or MTV (on those rare occasions when MTV actually plays music videos!) That's not to say that there is anything wrong with Sun Domingo playing music outside of the prog realm. I love a lot of pop and AOR type music myself. But considering the way in which this band is being promoted, I think it's only fair to let prog die-hards know that they shouldn't dive-in expecting complex conceptual epics or superhuman feats of percussion. Sun Domingo definitely isn't that kind of band.
The album kicks off with one of the aforementioned instrumental soundscapes, "The Last Sunrise", before launching straight into some very different territory with "Bound By These Rings",a sunny, melodic tune somewhat reminiscent of U2 or The Police at their poppiest. “Find a Way Out” and “'Til Then We Wait” are also more pop-oriented and would probably find a happy home on Indie College radio if the band were marketed more towards that genre. “Anymore” adds a harder edge to the band's pop sensibilities, blazing by briskly in just 3 minutes. “It's Happening Now” is heard in two different versions, an electric version featuring the whole band, and a stripped down take featuring just voice, acoustic guitar and some simple Mellotron orchestrations. The electric version is definitely the more interesting of the two and rates as one of the better tracks on the album. The acoustic version, to my ears, is just a bit 'too' sparse for what was already a simple melody & chord structure.
“For Only You” is easily the track that grabbed my attention the most on my first listen, combining a folky chorus with subtle orchestrations and electronic music elements, not unlike Muse or more recent Marillion offerings. “Mad Maze” is probably the closest that the band gets to an outright prog-rock track, featuring some 'lead bass', tight rhythms and a guest appearance by John Wesley. I also liked “Meditation”, a pretty instrumental guitar workout with some minimal orchestrations. On the other end of the spectrum, “Call” is really no more than an extended sound effect that seems to serve no purpose other than to take up a minute of CD space. The album closes on a stark, somber note with “Love Is All Around You”, but despite a few interesting sounds floating around in the mix, the song never quite lured me into it's strange atmosphere.
All in all, despite the positive buzz that proceeds them, I must say that I was only mildly impressed my first taste of Sun Domingo. There are certainly some good moments on the album, but with all of the great music that is currently out there for prog fans to choose from, I honestly don't think that this an album that I'd be inspired to revisit very often. However, if you are someone who likes alt-rock as much as prog-rock, this album might offer more for you than it did for me. My recommendation would be to sample a few tracks before buying.
Reviewed by Jeff Matheus on August 16th, 2011