After a long series of post-9/11 explorations into the darkness that’s invaded our lives, from within and from without, Billy Sherwood seems to have found the light at the end of the tunnel on the more approachable Divided by One, a newly released seventh solo album that doesn’t shy away from those problems — and yet doesn’t dwell on them either.
“On Impact” features a hopeful string-flecked flourish at its middle, even as Sherwood lays out a doomsday scenario — but the seeds of a new day, though still punctuated by a serpentine intertwining of guitar and bass, have been planted. As the track concludes, Sherwood is nearly subsumed by an enveloping group of strings, before his main theme returns. “The Scene Comes Alive,” a winsome bit of hooky psychedelia, doesn’t offer any easy answers — and yet it compels you forward, deeper into Sherwood’s journey. With the propulsive “No Stone Unturned,” and the quietly direct “Between Us,” he gets closer, ever closer, to the answer — to the peace — we all seek.
Whether that be through the solace of faith, the comfort of home or the warm embrace of love, the details are all that separate this search. Sherwood takes it head on with the title track, a morning dawn’s burst of confectionary joy on its surface that, upon further examination, is as desolate as anything Sherwood’s ever constructed. Alone, despite it all, he settles into the fast-moving cacophony of life for a pair of musically complex, Yes-influenced tracks: “Sequence of Events” and “Sphere of Influence,” in particular, echo his more recent focus on the loss of privacy, the impersonalization that technology has wrought, our difficulties in reconnecting with our basic selves.
With “Here For You,” however, Sherwood finds — in a breathy rumination straight out of classic Alan Parsons — a moment of connection. From there, Divided By One hurtles toward an entirely different destination. When he next studies the skies during “Constellation Codex,” it’s with a newfound sense of place. Finally, with “End of an Era,” Sherwood marries the album’s more overt pop impulses with an algebraic cadence — then imbues this song not with the expected roiled nostalgia that its title might suggest but with a sense of light-filled, long-hoped-for destiny. His trek, it seems, is complete.