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Chain Reaction

Out of the Dark

Review by Gary Hill

This is an interesting band. My guess is they are a lot better live than on album. That’s partly a function of the recording we are presented with here. It’s also a function of the fact that it feels like they might “dumb down” their music for the CD. With all of that in mind, let’s look a bit closer at what we’ve got here.

First, we’ll address the music. The band seem to consider their sound to be heavily influenced by progressive rock and leaning in that direction. I’m not 100 percent convinced to be honest, but there’s enough evidence here to put them that category. Truly they seem very well rooted in classic rock and have definite forays into the progressive vein. The music is well written and performed and works pretty well.

The biggest problem with this CD is the production. The vocals need a bit more presence to them. The drums are too high in the mix and feel really stiff. Don’t get me wrong, the sound here is clean – almost too clean. It feels downright sterile at times. There could be three explanations for this – lousy equipment, an inexperienced producer or a combination of both. As clean as this sounds, my guess is that it’s all in the hands of the producer. It’s hard to get a “good” sound without becoming lackluster. I’d guess that the producer – who happens to also be the engineer and lead guitarist, hasn’t had a lot of experience with production and that shows. This isn’t a bad recording, but the music really deserves better.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2008  Volume 4 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
The Black Hole
A classic rock sound leads this off and they launch out into a bluesy, jazzy sort of jam that’s quite cool. They shift out more towards a psychedelia meets prog approach on the chorus. The instrumental segment that comes in afterwards has a very tasty guitar solo.  A rather stripped down progressive rock segment is used as the bridge and I love how the guitar continues to solo through many of the vocal sections as they continue from there. It becomes quite powerful and involved before they fade it down.
In Our Own Image
This is a lot more straightforward rock and roll in texture. It’s still got some progressive rock elements, but they are rather understated. The lyrics seem to be Christian in nature.

Daily Grind
The motif that starts this makes you think you might be headed towards a reggae mode. Instead this works out into a proggy song structure is rather balladic.

Tale of Two Cities
They bring this in with a more keyboard based sound. Somehow this feels a little awkward, but on the other hands it’s one of the more blatantly progressive rock oriented songs on show here. There are a few different sections here and this has some of the more interesting lyrics on the album. The extended instrumental segment on this is quite cool, even if the drums seem a little high in the mix and a little sterile.
Just Don't Get It
A folky sort of texture brings this one up. It feels like a singer songwriter cut as they bring in the vocals. I almost hear some Arlo Guthrie in the delivery here.
Sex Education
Here we have a jazzy sort of jam that’s a lot of fun. It reminds me quite a bit of something from OnOffOn. I like the guitar solo on this a lot.
New World Frontier
A faster paced hard rock sound makes up the central theme to this. This is another track that has some killer guitar soloing.
Is Anybody Out There
This is one of the most progressive songs on show here. It’s an energetic jam with some intriguing changes. This is also one of the most effective tracks here. There are some more Christian images on the lyrics here. As strong as this is in comparison to the rest of the material, it’s a great choice to close things.
 
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