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Album Review: Quest For the Runestone
David Arkenstone
Cover image of the album Quest For the Runestone by David Arkenstone
Quest For the Runestone
David Arkenstone
2024 / QDV Music
60 minutes
Review by Kathy Parsons
In a long and very colorful career that includes five Grammy® nominations, David Arkenstone is probably best-known for his epic musical storytelling and fantasy concept albums. Quest For the Runestone is a powerful musical adventure that is based on a story written by Dashiell Han Arkenstone, David's son. The music was inspired by David's love of Celtic, Nordic and cinematic music traditions as well as the story itself and features an impressive group of musicians. David performs on guitar, cittern, saz, flute, whistle, melodica, drums and percussion, handpan, bass, vocals and keyboards.

Although the album is available digitally, let me tell you about the limited-edition CD! It is packaged in an illustrated box that includes a 48-page booklet with the full original story plus a custom CD sleeve, a beautiful black bird pendant, a mini runestone, a vellum sheet with rune symbols, a runestone sticker and an illustrated magnet. Quoting David: "I wanted to create something that would be a rich and engaging experience from start to finish." Mission accomplished: it's a very impressive package! (Once the special packages are gone, the CD will come with the booklet that tells the story.) The album will also be available in Dolby Atmos for an even more immersive listening experience.

The twelve tracks on the album were composed, performed and produced by David Arkenstone. Eric Rigler, who played Uilleann pipes on the Braveheart and Titanic soundtracks, brings his distinctive sound to the music, as does Luanne Homzy, a veteran of many of David's recordings, playing violin and Hardanger fiddle. Other instrumentation includes flutes, cello, hurdy gurdy, violin and viola, and vocals (no lyrics).

The album opens with "Prophecy," a very dark and mysterious piece that begins our journey. Mournful, wordless vocals by Réann, the young heroine of the story, gradually fade into the bold theme that reflects her determination as she sets out on her quest. "The Soothsayer Speaks" has a very Celtic feeling with Uilleann pipes, fiddle, powerful wordless vocals and drums - very intense! "Ancient Magic Awakens" has several distinct themes that move the story forward. From quiet and peaceful to bright and lively, gradually intensifying and then quieting before building back up, it's an adventure unto itself! Réann's theme ("Réann") reflects sadness, strength and resolve. "Oceans of Ice" delivers both a shimmering sparkle and a chill, and is much more ambient. "Stars Without Light" is also on the ambient side, but is more intense and mysterious. "Secrets of the Runestone," impassioned and triumphant with Uilleann pipes, wordless vocals, strings and powerful percussion, signals that the quest is coming to an exciting end! "The Keeper of the Flame" reflects the peace that has come to the mountains as well as the people in the nearby villages now that Réann has succeeded in her mission by solving the mysteries that flow throughout the story.

Longtime fans of David Arkenstone and his music will love this new addition to his vast discography, and I'm sure many new listeners will be drawn to this excellent album, too. Quest For the Runestone is available as a limited-edition boxed set from Bandcamp and Amazon. It is available as a digital download from Bandcamp, Amazon, Apple Music/iTunes, and all of the streaming sites. Don't miss it!
June 28, 2024
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