(from left to right:Steve Royce, Rich Poston, Roey Ben-Yoseph, Andy Tillotson, Luis Nasser, Tim McCaskey)
The past is but prologue…
SONUS UMBRA was originally formed in Mexico City in 1989 by Luis Nasser (Bass), Ricardo Gómez (Guitar) and Andrés Aullet (Lead Vocals). This uncertain, three-headed zygote grew, and matured, and made bigger and louder noises until it became a real band: a band that played relentlessly and developed a considerable cult following. It played lots of good shows, some truly great shows, and some real stinkers too. But it grew and grew until eventually it broke up. To this day, nobody really knows why and that is the story we are sticking to.
Chicago’s Sonus Umbra instantly take command of the stage with a performance brimming with good humour and vitality. The almost Gentle Giant-like complexity to their arrangements makes them compelling to watch from beginning to end. (“Live: RoSfest 2015”, Simon Godfrey, Prog Magazine, June 2015)
Of course, like any self-respecting zombie, it came back: reformed by Nasser, Gómez and Aullet in Baltimore around 1997 and incorporating Kurgan’s Bane drummer Jeff Laramee, the band went on to record and release 4 critically acclaimed (and currently out of print) albums:
Laughter in the Dark (1997)
Snapshots from Limbo (1998)
Spiritual Vertigo (2003)
Digging For Zeros (2005)
Prior to my trip to Chicago, crossover prog-band Sonus Umbra is one that had caught my attention. They delivered a powerful live performance that far surpassed my expectations. Their music is a marvelous harmonious journey, mixing cinematic elements with acoustic and progressive folk rock; alongside passages that arguably have more of a symphonic oriented expression and even hard rock nuances. The remarkable 2016 release “Beyond the Panopticon” suggests they have a huge potential and a great musical identity and vision. A very reassuring discovery. (“Progtoberfest II: Chicago’s mammoth progressive-rock festival “, Joel Barrios, Rock at Night, November 2016)
Conceived primarily as a studio vehicle, the band did manage to tour briefly in 2004, including high profile gigs at Orion Studios in Baltimore and at the inaugural RoSfest, before once again going into hiatus in 2005 when Nasser decided to move to Chicago and spend most of his time performing, recording and touring with Might Could.
But as H.P. Lovecraft might have said (on a bad day): That is not dead which doth for 8 years lie. And with strange aeons, SONUS UMBRA never dies. Indeed, 2013 saw the resurgence of the band featuring Chicago musical stalwarts Steve Royce (flute and keys), Rich Poston (guitar and keys) and Roey Ben-Yoseph (lead vocals and percussion), plus Might Could compadres Tim McCaskey (guitar) and Andy Tillotson (drums and guitar). With the addition of Brittany Lee Moffitt on vocals, the new band released “Winter Soulstice” in 2013, and began a serious itinerary of live performance all over North America, including a return to RoSfest, appearances at Progtoberfest in Chicago, Terra Incognita in Quebec City, and various shows at hallowed venues such as Orion, the NJ Proghouse and the Boston NewEARS showcase.
Sonus Umbra’s infectious grooves soon win them hearty approval (“Progtoberfest Live”, Simon Godfrey, Prog Magazine, January 2015)
2016 saw the release of “Beyond the Panopticon”, a highly collaborative effort that saw the whole band involved in the writing and arranging of the songs. This was followed by more touring on the East Coast and the Midwest, appearances at Progtoberfest II in Chicago and ProgDay in Chapel Hill, and a trip to Mexico for the Breaking Borders Festival in San Cristóbal, Chiapas and a return to old haunts in Mexico City. In October of 2017, SONUS UMBRA will undertake its first Canadian tour, with stops in Toronto, Montreal and a return to Quebec City. More Midwest shows are also in the offing.
When Andy relocated to Abu Dhabi in 2016, the band overcame the geographic challenge with the help of drummer extraordinaire Bill Harrison who joined as the band’s live drummer. Andy remains a key member of the band as a songwriter, studio drummer, and record producer. Sadly, Brittany said goodbye to SONUS UMBRA in 2017 to focus her energies on her solo career. We remain huge fans of her astounding talent and wish her much success on the road ahead.
I dug Sonus Umbra’s dopplety dopplety dopplety rhythms and, as a college flutist, found a lot to enjoy with this band. (“ProgDay 2017”, zombywoof, Progressive Ears, September 2017)
Work on the band’s seventh record titled “A Sky Full of Ghosts” is well underway with release planned for the middle of 2018. New songs from the record are already being played live to great acclaim. We are contemplating all sorts of visual and aural treats to incorporate into the next tour. 25+ years of history, and the journey continues…
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