Shadow Gallery - Tyranny
Shadow Gallery's third album, called Tyranny is without doubt their best effort so far. Very good musicianship and a very good production makes this release a highlight of 1998 for progressive metal bands !
The album starts with a very powerful instrumental intro
called Stiletto In The Sand (1'58). Followed by War
For Sale (5'35) which is one of the best tracks on this CD.
Lots of guitar/ keyboard intermezzos and a very good vocalist
(Mike Baker). I think it's a little cliché to talk about bands
like Dream Theater and Queensryche but I think Shadow Gallery
sound a lot like these bands although they do have their own
style of musicianship, sometimes you might even think of Yes
Out Of Nowhere (4'20), the third track, is a very keyboard orientated track with some wonderful keyboard skills by Chris Ingles (known for his work on the Magna Carta release "Steinway To Heaven"). Mystery (5'42) starts with a very good, bombastic intro but turns into a very powerful melodic song with very good vocal performances, of course there are also a few instrumental breaks in this song (but these breaks are to be found on most tracks of Tyranny !).
Hope For Us ? (6'00) starts very nice with a piano / acoustic guitar intro and sound very "ballad-ish", with lots of orchestral passages. Very good lyrics by Carl Cadden-James and Mike Baker. One of the highlights of the album !
Victims (5'13) is a very average song in Shadow Gallery vein; good music, good vocals ! Broken (1'54) is a piano / vocals piece of music and with this song ends Act 1 of Tyranny but the best is yet to come ...
I Believe (8'41) is the absolute highlight of this
album. Very bombastic but also sublime musicianship and a guest
appearance by James Labrie, Dream
Theater's vocalist ! Relaxed piano, powerful guitars,
superb vocals .. this song makes me think of Suite Sister Mary
from Queensyche's Operation: Mindcrime. This song has the
potential to become a classic track !
Next track Roads Of Thunder (6'06") is a song with a very Yes/Wakeman intro but also a nice track, Spoken Words (4'38) another piano/ vocals track with very nice female vocals by Laura Jaeger and a very melodic violin solo by Paul Chou, this is one of the songs on this album to take a little rest .. because New World Order (8'11) is another long masterpiece, with a lot of orchestral breaks (even that violin again !!) and superb guest vocals by D.C. Cooper, one of the most-talented vocalists around !
Chased (4'36) is a very powerful instrumental keyboard / guitar piece with very good performances by Chris Ingles and Gary Wehrkamp. Ghost Of A Chance (5'19) (haven't I heard this title before ??-DvdH) starts and ends like a ballad but is a very good piece of music in between. Last but not least is the ballad Christmas Day (5'40), without doubt one of the best ballads I have heard in a very long time. Very good piano pieces, great guitars, sublime vocals, lyrics that makes you shiver ... does a ballad need more ??!!
Tyranny is a very good album by a very good band ! The only problem with it is that there are certain moments that Shadow Gallery seems to replay themselves. It is good that bands use the total play of a CD but there are some moments that Tyranny sounds a little "overdone". But there are also some great pieces on this album: "I Believe", "War For Sale" and "Christmas Day" are tracks that I should buy this album for without listening first !
Distributed by Roadrunner Records
8.5 out of 10
review by Dirk van den Hout
Magellan - Impending Ascension
The second album by Magellan from 1993, after "Hour Of Restoration" (1991) and followed by "Test Of Wills" (1997). During Impending Ascension the band had only three members: Trend Gardner - lead vocals/keyboards, Wayne Gardner - Guitars/vocals and Hall Stringfellow Imbrie - Bass/vocals.
Estadium Nacional (11.12) is a very bombastic song with lots of sound effects. Although you can hear that Magellan has great musicians it is too "overdone" and too bombastic. This song tells about the Pinochet regime in Peru where the people were gathered in Estadium Nacional before they disappeared.
Waterfront Weirdos (11.05) is less accessible than the previous track and has rather weird vocals. Very Yes-like (multi-)vocals and still the bombastic sound ! It is a shame Magellan didn't use a drummer of flesh and blood during Impending Ascension, the music already sounds very bombastic but with the drum machine they used it even sound more bombastic ! In my opinion not the best track on the album.
Songsmith (5'32) is a very average rock song. No bombastic sound, just plane rock sound. Therefore maybe the best track of the album !
Virtual Reality (5'25) starts very quiet with computer sounds. It turns into a great intro with guitar / keyboards but after two minutes the drum computer starts and that kills this song. There are a few nice moments in this song (great keyboard solo !) but the drum computer and the below-average multi-vocals kill this song. What a shame ...
No Time For Words (2'08) is a little instrumental in which Magellan prove that they can make decent music. Very nice melodic keyboards, pumping bass guitar ! Nice song, unfortunately the shortest of the album ! this sing leads us directly into the next song:
Storms And Mutinity (11'50) starts with a very pumping bass and a very loud keyboard sound. Very good vocals by Trent Gardner. In this song Magellan play some very good music and they don't sound bombastic at all. Especially the keyboards are very good, as well as some guitar solos by Wayne Gardner. Less bombastic music in this song makes it a very nice song, the best track of the album !
Under The Wire (1'41) is a very guitar orientated song. It doesn't do anything for me.
You have to like the bombastic sound and the Yes-like vocals Magellan used during these days. I have to admit that I didn't hear "Hour Of Restoration" or "Test Of Wills" although I read that they are using a real drummer nowadays. Although Impending Ascension does have its moments I didn't like it. Maybe if you are into this sort bombastic keyboard sort of music this will be an album for you.
Distributed by Roadrunner Records
Conclusion: 5.5 out of 10.
Dirk van den Hout
Fig Leaf - Fearless
Tracklist: Paddling (4.42), This Song (5.25), Cycle of Events (4.23), Dinner at Uncle Uncool (8.01), Kings & Courtjesters (6.03), Fearless (Part 1-8) (31.09), Santa Cruz (5.20).
Fig Leaf is a Norwegian band and Fearless is their fourth album. Their style lies somewhere between alternative rock, progressive rock and progressive metal.
The tracks on this album vary from absolutely horrible (for instance Paddling with it's awful vocals) to interesting (end of the quiet Uncle Uncool, parts of the title song, some instrumental bits of Kings & Courtjesters) to downright silly (Santa Cruz which starts as an acoustic 'close harmony' and ends with intentional out of tune singing).
Vocals vary from unlistenable to reasonable, probably because the band uses two vocalists. The lyrics are normally short and Dinner at Uncle Uncool only features a list of ingredients for a recipe read/sung out loud. Hmm ... reminds me of a track from Selling England by the Pound.
On some tracks it seems like the band is trying to change playing out of tune into an art form and the music becomes an incoherent cacaphony. Especially the use of sqeaky saxophone solo's which miss any melody or arrangement with the rest of the music makes my hair stand up straight.
The most interesting track on the album is the long title track, which consists of 8 parts and is probably the most proggy track on the CD. This is the only track which includes some serious keyboard and synth work. The track certainly isn't a masterpiece and don't think that you'll get 30+ minutes of quality music. It does however contain some of the best bits of what Fig Leaf has to offer.
The Fig Leaf Web Site features some samples of the album, so go ahead, judge for yourself.
Conclusion: 5.5 out of 10.
Hauteville - Hauteville
Tracklist: Willy (5.25), Winter (3.50). Tonight (5.13), Lucy in the Dark (4.32), Soon (3.49), Doctor News (4.15), Paradise (5.04), The Street Lamp (5.01), Some People (5.38), No Time For Time (5.54), Vu du Place d'Eddystone (2.24).
Hauteville is a French band with both a male and a female vocalist, although the latter only features on a couple of songs. The songs on the (debut ?) album can be described as melodic prog rock and remind me of some of the more commercial tending material by Yes (Rhythm of Love and other tracks from the 90125/Big Generator period), IQ (some of the stuff from the Paul Menel era, as well as tracks like NTOC Resistance), For Absent Friends, PTS and just a pinch of Van Halen keyboards.
The arrangements and production of the recording are very impressive, creating a full sound. All of the instruments are played very well. The songs are short and most of them are very catchy. The vocalist (Cyril) is okay, with a slight accent and now and then slightly overdone, but when the female vocalist (Lydie) joins in it's a true delight to listen to. A good example is the track Tonight which even has hit potential and the beautiful ballad Some People.
Some of the tracks are very good, while others are just fine tunes. The only song which left me completely cold was Doctor News.
No Time for Time features interesting vocal and drum effects and merges seamlessly into the next track, Vu du Place d'Eddystone, which is actually a very nice Marillionesque instrumental reprise of No Time for Time. This last track also features some interesting percussion with a slight Nomzamo-like feel.
The 12-page fold out CD booklet has a nice design, pictures of all the band members and all lyrics. Strange enough the lyrcics of the songs are printed in a completely different order than the tracks on the CD.
Next time more female vocals, more daring compositions and the band might have a masterpiece. Fans of the more lighthearted prog should definitely give this current album a try since it's a fine one indeed.
Conclusion: 8 out of 10.
Forever Times - Forever Times
Tracklist: In The Eye Of Compassion (8:10), System Of The Heart (5:28), Silence Of The Mind (2:52), Instrumentally Ill...Or Perhaps Distorted? (5:14 ), Flashover (4:45), Skyang Khang-Ri (19:03).
Forever Times is a prog metal group. Let me begin by saying that prog metal is not a genre I'm particularly 'into'. Come to think of it, it's a bit strange because I like both progressive rock and certain hard rock/heavy metal bands, but the combination has never really turned me on. This doesn't mean that I don't respect the genre and that I'm not able to judge if a band has some quality or not.
Forever Times has a female vocalist, which in combination with the Dutch aspect immediately conjures up thought about bands like The Gathering and Within Temptation. The band was founded in 1994 and recorded their first demo tape Skyang Khang-Ri in May 1996. Shortly after the release of the tape the female vocalist performing on it was exchanged for Laura van Driel, who's also singing on this debut album.
Laura, an impressionistic theater student, also added choreography to the live performances. In May 1998 the debut album of the band was recorded and in March 1999 it will finally be released on the Zizania label.
In the music of the band, the more powerful parts alternate very well with the quiet, more emotional parts. Every now and then the vocal melodies seem a bit odd and even contradictive to the music. Besides this, Laura has the tendency to sing everything in the same way. A bit more variation would probably keep the music more exiting.
The band is very tight and the musicians play their instruments very well. Especially considering the young average age of the band members (22) and the low budget which was available to make the record, the result sounds very impressive. The use of good saxophone playing and occasional dueting with the guitarist Martijn give the music that extra push in the right direction.
Instrumentally Ill.., you guessed it, is an instrumental track. Skyang Khang-Ri is a re-recording of their original demo track and contains four parts ranging from quiet piano solos to heavy metal.
The artwork of the CD fails to impress me. The cover is the most dull thing I've seen in years and the 'cut and pasted' heads of the band members which are spread around the booklet give it a very amateuristic look. The back-inlay behind the transparent tray is even worse. The booklet contains the full lyrics and credits.
Funny bit of trivia: 'everyone at DPRP' is thanked in the credits section. I wander how we earned that honour. ;-)
I'm not sure if Forever Times is 'making the music that's still missing in our record collection' as their biography states, but this is definitely recommended to check out for prog metal fans. Especially when you're into prog metal with female vocals.
Conclusion: 7 out of 10.
Mascarada - Urban Names
Tracklist: Xtra (1:05), The Quick And The Death (12:05), The Harvest (6:44), Hope (3:44), Urban Names (15:05), November (4:09), Rupture (16:54), Tres Hermanos (5:23), Wherever... (8:10).
What's Good About This Album: Most of the keyboards, some melodies and the amazing artwork and design of the booklet.
What's Bad About This Album: Everything else.
Seriously, I found this a truely unlistenable album. Mascarada is actually just two persons; brothers Daniel (Vocals, Electric and Bass Guitar) and Juan Mares (Keyboards and Flute). Both gentlemen also take care of programming the drum computer - yes you read that correctly - sequencing and tape effects. This should give you a pretty good impression about the sound of the music. A lot of cheesy drum computer pounding (which the two consider to be a 'very personal sound'), over which bass and guitar (which both fail to impress me) and keyboards are laid out.
And then maybe the worst of all: the vocals. I've heard some pretty bad singing when reviewing CDs for DPRP, but I don't think it gets any worse than this.
This dubious duo wrote, arranged, performed and produced the whole thing by themselves. Oh, and they also took care of the artwork. Pretty impressive job you might say, well I would agree if it had resulted in quality music. Mascarada's CD actually ended up as a completely forgetable album by a couple of prog wanna-be's of which there are loads around already. The fact that the band has been working on some of the music on the album since 1984 makes it even worse, as far as I'm concerned. The hilarious history of the band, which can be read on their Web Page, is one big series of members joining and shortly afterwards leaving, while the brothers continue changing the name of the band and desperately search for places to play and a permanent drummer. Read it, it's probably the best enjoyment Mascarada will ever give you.
Strange that such a band can produce such a beautiful CD booklet. There are lots of professional bands who would envy such a fine piece of work.
The lyrics in the CD booklet contain some grammatical errors and the order of the lyrics is not logical.
It's a shame really because there certainly is potential. Some of Juan's keyboard playing, like the solo Hope is very good. It's just that the singing of his brother, the mediocre compositions and the use of drum computers detract from his qualities. My advise to this 'band': find a real drummer and vocalist, improve the skills on bass and guitar, find a good producer and try again. Either that or get a career in artwork.
Conclusion: 4 out of 10.