The Afterlife
by Noctorum


Full Review

4 out of 5

Though not a concept album, The Afterlife functions as a cohesive whole and should be consumed in one sitting. The album might be difficult to absorb because of all the territory it covers: musical styles range from hard rock ("A Girl with No Love") to songs with a more melodic, psychedelic approach. There is not a single moment, however, that could be described as boring; Noctorum captures and maintains the listener's attention.

Full Review

Marty Willson-Piper is best known as this era's greatest twelve-string guitarist, but he's also a brilliant songwriter, an aspect that was often weirdly overlooked during his long tenure alongside another great tunesmith, Steve Kilbey, in iconic Australian psychedelic band the Church. Willson-Piper has also put out several great albums under his own name and with Noctorum, his project with Dare Mason. Noctorum's richly orchestral, mesmerizingly jangly latest album, Afterlife, is streaming at Bandcamp.

Full Review

His career may not be as stellar as that of many of his contemporaries, but Willson-Piper has carved an equally memorable, respectable, and influential niche in the Alternative music scene via his slew of solo and collaborative works. The Afterlife is just the latest proof of this—an apt title to characterize the resurgence of his sonic and creative vitality; a worthy addition to his prolific discography. For these reasons, Cryptic Rock gives The Afterlife 4 out of 5 stars.


As the brainchild of producer/keyboardist Dare Mason and guitarist/singer Marty Willson-Piper, Noctorum has always exceeded its classification as anybody's side project. Now that Willson-Piper has severed longstanding ties with Australian psych-pop masters The Church, Noctorum's fourth album The Afterlife can secure greater prominence as a worthy primary project. Willson-Piper is a globetrotter, and these songs are peppered with global references from Tokyo to London even as others celebrate the comforts of hearth and home. The sparkling "Piccadilly Circus in the Rain" finds beauty and fascination among the mundane in its urban setting. Willson-Piper writes himself, Mason and other loved ones into an endearing series of offhand vignettes during "In a Field Full of Sheep." Willson-Piper's tumbling guitar arpeggios and Mason's thrumming piano are heightened by Richard Evans' stately trumpet, echoing the British-ness of the Beatle's "Penny Lane." Mason's arrangement for the languid "The Moon Drips" nods to Spanish roots and arid Sergio Leone soundtracks. "Head On" carries the gumshoe cadence and mysterious mood of a spy thriller, with a furtively daring flute. Twelve-string guitar shimmers and chimes through the beguiling "Show," while its melancholy Smiths-like coda asks, "What's the use in us just pretending there could ever be a happy ending?" A sinewy lead snakes through "High Tide/Low Tide" like a distant cousin to Starfish favorite "Reptile." Willson-Piper lets his frenetic fingers fly during "A Girl with No Love," finding the middle ground between Television's slash-and-burn rock-jazz and the Cult's elemental thunder. The album is available in multiple formats, crowned by a gorgeous gatefold presentation on heavyweight vinyl.

[Edited to fix album title and remove excessive use of single quotes]


"The Afterlife" is the latest offering from the very experienced band-hopping talent that is Marty Willson-Piper and his writing partner and longtime friend Dare [Mason].

"The Moon Drips" is a gentle caress of Hammer Horror without the vampires. This track is a baroscopic tune with trumpet breaks that conjures up an atmosphere of unspecified fear and is the best track on the album.

"Piccadilly Circus in the Rain" is my second personal favourite track from this collection as it is a song about the dream-crushing nature of surviving and working in London, and is a stunningly accurate account of most people's true experience of London living, which eventually becomes more about survival than enjoyment both financially and mentally. This particular track portrays a great depiction of the tug of war inside the human spirit and tells the unspoken truth that "London brings you to your knees" and is a far cry from the individual's original hazy dream of creativity or as Marty Willson-Piper puts it:

"You are so focused on the job of survival that your aspirations, your dreams, are swept aside, pushed out of reach as all your waking hours are spent treading water, your imagination drowning, your ideas lost in the rush hour."

"High Tide/Low Tide" is a track about Bipolar disorder inspired by Dare's work in therapy which depicts a disorder which now has a great deal of coverage in the media. However, this track doesn't jump on the mental health "trend" bandwagon but instead is a thoughtful and sensitive take on a much-covered subject.

The band is named after the village Noctorum which was located near to the childhood homes on The Wirral (near Liverpool) which the creators of this album Dare and Marty grew up in.

There are some daring themes in this album... subjects range from terrorism to mental health and "The Afterlife" has a fresh sound that defies the extensive experience of Marty Willson-Piper. At my last count, he had been involved with ten different bands including Australian psychedelic rock band The Church, Swedish progressive rock band Anekdoten, and most famously [in the UK perhaps -fip] the guitarist for All About Eve.

This album has a natural and direct style that pulls the listener into a down to earth narrative on complex issues.