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Mars Hollow

Mars Hollow

Review by Gary Hill

The debut disc from Mars Holllow, this album is a great modern progressive rock set. These guys are arguably one of the best modern prog bands. There are leanings here from all over there musical spectrum, yet the whole thing is woven into a sound that is cohesive, and all Mars Hollow. I really love this band, plain and simple.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2013  Volume 1 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Wait for Me

There’s a motif that’s a lot like King Crimson as this opens, but it’s punctuated by something perhaps a bit more like Spock’s Beard. Still, I’m definitely reminded of the Starless and Bible Black album in a lot of ways. It moves towards more purely melodic sounds from there and really manages to groove at the same time. Then we’re treated to a burst of sound that’s a bit like ELP before they launch out into a crunchier, yet melodic, jam. They continue changing things as this works out from there. Then a new, more purely melodic movement rises up with a real Genesis meets Yes kind of vibe to it. It’s quite symphonic in a lot of ways. From there it works out to a more AOR mode for the vocals. It’s still quite dramatic and powerful and all progressive rock, though. Beyond that movement there’s a smoking hot retro keyboard driven section. Then it drops down to a more balladic movement for the next vocal section. From there it builds out in a pretty straightforward, but still quite proggy, way until it eventually explodes out into a different jam that’s part ELP and part Pentwater. A version of the opening movement returns to take the piece to its end.

Midnight
There’s more of a straightforward, but incredibly dramatic, progressive rock progression that makes up this tune. Later, though, there’s a decidedly Rick Wakeman like keyboard dominated movement. That segment takes the piece to the end.
Eureka

The keyboard sound that opens this feels like Keith Emerson, but it’s quickly modulated with something more like early Genesis. Then it gets some Wakeman incorporated into it. The keyboards continue driving the beast through this extended introduction. It drops back after a time to bouncy arrangement that’s rather like Spock’s Beard for the vocals to enter the fray. There is also a more mainstream rock section in the cut. The keyboards also drive the opening part of the mid-track instrumental movement, but in a less bombastic way. Guitar rises up in some killer lines beyond that. This piece really progresses in some great ways with a lot of classic progressive rock merging throughout. It drops way down to atmospheric directions, with the rhythm section still driving, for the next vocal movement. From there we get some tasty guitar soloing. There’s a great energetic jam from there to eventually end the piece.

If I Were You

Mellower and more melodic, this is rather ballad-like (at least early on) but still quite distinctly progressive rock. After a minute or so the bass guitar drives the cut into an intriguing and quite effective instrumental movement. There’s a return to the earlier section for the next vocals, then it powers out beyond that into another strong instrumental movement. At times that segment feels a bit like Yes, at other points like ELP. Yet the guitar soloing brings it more into a fusion sound. It even gets pretty crunchy before it ends.

In Your Hands

Soaring melodic progressive rock opens this and they move things through a number of changes and alterations as they continue. There are sections of this that make me think of Starcastle, but other movements feel like different things. The vocal hooks on this are amongst the most mainstream and accessible of the whole disc. There are some really strong instrumental movements here, too, with a lot of shifts and changes. It’s a deceptively complex piece in a lot of ways.

Wild Animal

This really makes me think of It Bites. It’s got that sort of off-kilter, but very catchy element to it. There is a quirky, keyboard based instrumental section mid-track that feels a bit like early Genesis. Yet, there’s a crunchy guitar driven section later in the piece, lending a different side to the puzzle.

Dawn of Creation

Atmospheric, textural sounds open this. Then a bouncy, piano based movement that’s a bit like a cross between Genesis’ “Harold the Barrel” and the band Jellyfish takes it for a time. From there it evolves to a more standard progressive rock movement. But, the changes aren’t over as this shifts and turns with different tempos, time signatures and directions rising up and playing through. The vocals join and the track moves along a pretty straight path until around the four minute mark where it shifts out into an instrumental section that feels quite a bit like Emerson, Lake and Palmer. The guitar that rises up to solo over this has shadows of Steve Howe at times. That gives way to a return to the vocal movement. Then it drops to a mellower section for the next instrumental movement. Eventually we’re taken back to more ELP-like sounds as this instrumental segment continues to evolve and grow. The guitar comes back up beyond that, driving it into a different direction and it eventually works back out to the vocal segment. From there it works to a satisfying conclusion.

 
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