Another Realm is an excellent double album, full of everything that makes Iona such an exciting band. To call it progressive rock doesn’t do justice to the wide range of instruments played to a high standard throughout or to the hypnotic rhythms that underpin much of the music. The potent mix of rock and folk, with elements of gospel thrown in, provides variety and excitement in equal measures.

Much of the lyrical content is based around Christian mythology with references from St Patrick right through to Revelations, many of which are explained in the detailed linear notes that form part of a well packaged product. But you don’t need to be a believer to feel the inspiring and uplifting emotions that are evoked.

The first disc features The Ancient Wells, an epic, seven minute track that tells of places where the veil between heaven and earth is thin. Singer Jo Hogg is on top form here, her voice serene and clear over a heavy beat. The song also features some fine guitar work from Dave Bainbridge while Martin Nolan plays the uilleann pipes, the Irish version of bagpipes.

An Atmosphere of Miracles is a fifteen minute piece in three parts with a complexity that sees it rise and fall, from acoustic guitar to an atmospheric keyboard driven section with Hogg singing in what sounds like Gaelic in the background. Perhaps it is a little long but there is space for it on a double album.

The highlights from the second cd include the instrumental Ruach. The dark and atmospheric track has a Middle Eastern feel, with drummer Frank van Essen playing violin over the keyboards.

The Angels Dance is a much lighter song than most on the album. It has a pop like rhythm and the vocals are ethereal and joyous, while a tin whistle weaves its way between the lyrics. This perhaps typifies Iona’s musical approach of traditional meets modern, and it develops into a full blown jig at the end.

White Horse, the penultimate track, is my favourite from the fifteen provided. It feels like a rock song, vibrant and full of heavily sustained guitar and pounding drums. It also features a strong bass line from Phil Barker. The imagery comes from Revelations, telling of the final battle and the last victory. This one worked tremendously well as a live track when I saw Iona play recently.

Another Realm is a big album with great scope and features many fine songs. Iona have been around for over twenty years and used all of the craft and skill they have built up to produce such a fine musical experience. It may not be one for the mainstream charts but those who fancy something just a bit different won’t be disappointed.

Released: Sat 3rd Sep 2011