Full Album Stream: The Night Watch – “An Embarrassment of Riches”

Artwork by Alice Duke

The Night Watch deliver instrumental metal with a flair for the dramatic. This comes as no surprise, given violinist Evan Runge and guitarist Nathaniel Larochette moonlight in chamber folk project Musk Ox. The latter has also collaborated with Agalloch. The Night Watch named their third LP An Embarrassment of Riches, and it’s exactly that: a wealth of musical treasure.

The pirate nod is no mistake, but Alestorm this ain’t. There are no lyrics referencing misadventures at sea, though the music aims to tell the saga of a shipwrecked sailor. Still, through this the Ottawa, Ontario quartet deliver their sound with cheek. The folk-laden metal of “Land Ho!” takes a hint from the mannerisms of Captain Jack Sparrow, daring to step out for fun little pirate-esque chants of “HEY!” Fourth track “Dance of the Mountain People” even features a little a capella bit. However, in general the music is built more like the waves on which a ship sails than what occurs on board.

A melodic death metal riff in “Mendoza” and an alt-metal opening for “Shamaniac” are exceptions, rather than the rule. Though metal pervades throughout, it’s always more in feeling than overt nods to genre tropes. Take, for example, the staccato violin build in just over two minutes into “The Summit (Part II).” The group use the violin to crush rather than accentuate. It’s a far cry from the pretty accompaniments of many folk metal bands.

Larochette explained the genesis of the album in a statement.

“This album represents our attempt at making a (hopefully) classic prog/metal concept album with all of its peaks, valleys, hidden pathways, perilous corridors and tongue-in-cheek epicness firmly intact. Although it may seem odd for an unknown independent band to release a 72-minute concept record (instrumental no less) in this musical climate, the original essence of prog was always one of exploration and imagination. This approach has been at the heart The Night Watch since day one. We still believe that an album has the power to transport and transcend listeners who fully engage. We hope to offer such an adventure to those willing to visit An Embarrassment Of Riches. This album would not exist without the legions of prog and metal concept classics that paved the way before us (Dream Theater’s Scenes From A Memory, Ayreon’s The Human Equation, Opeth’s Still Life, Camel’s The Snow Goose, etc.). We are humbled to share our modest musical offerings as we forever roam upon the endless ocean of sound. Happy sailing.”

You can hear the whole epic adventure a day ahead of its November 15 release in the player below. Now someone just needs to make the movie to complement this score!

Pre-order An Embarrassment of Riches here.