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The Prog Collective

Dark Encounters

Review by Gary Hill

This new set from the ever-changing group of musicians recording under the name "The Prog Collective" does feel a little darker than some of the rest of their music. There are a few songs here with vocals, but the majority is instrumental. The cast of guests includes Joe Bouchard, David Cross, Frank Dimino, Steve Hillage, Pat Mastelotto, Marco Minnemann, Patrick Moraz, Steve Morse, Steve Stevens, Kasim Sulton and  Ron "Bumblefoot" Thal. As always the main mastermind here is Billy Sherwood.

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Track by Track Review
Darkest Hour
Steve Stevens provides the guitars here, while Billy Sherwood tackles everything else. There is definitely a dark and heavy vibe to this tune. It has a lot of prog built into it, though. I'm reminded in some ways of Pink Floyd. This instrumental piece takes us through some intriguing territory and has some cool guitar work.
Ominous Signs
Coming in less dark, this has a cool rocking groove at play. This instrumental has hints of Dregs. Given that Steve Morse is on it, that makes sense. It features more exceptional guitar work. Much like the last song, other than Morse on guitar, Sherwood is the only musician here.
At The Gates
There is almost a space rock vibe as this comes in with dramatic prog textures. There are some parts of this that twist toward fusion territory. This is another dramatic piece of music. It has some real science fiction-like vibes at times. David Cross' violin brings a feeling of good and triumph amidst a sea of dark menacing sound. Sherwood does everything on this track other than the violin.
Dark Days
The first song on the dist to include vocals, this is a moodier cut. It is still dark, but in a more restrained way. They drive it out into some killer soaring prog zones that have some Pink Floyd reference points along with other things later. There is more of a band lineup on this one. Ron "Bumblefoot" Thal provides guitars and vocals. Patrick Moraz plays the keyboards. Omar Hakim is the drummer, and Sherwood just plays bass on this song.
The Lonely Landscape
Heavier and more intense, this instrumental has some space and fusion vibes at play. This is dramatic, intriguing and so cool. This song features two bass players, Kasim Sulton along with Sherwood. Sherwood also plays keyboards and guitars on this.
The Long Night
This feels less intense, but it still has a lot of power. This is another with vocals (Frank Dimino). This has a really cool moody vibe to it. It has some great instrumental work, as well. Marco Minnemann handles the drums, while Sherwood provides all the other instrumentation.
The Quasi Effect
You just need to hear this to know Billy Sherwood is behind it. In fact, he does everything on this instrumental. It feels like it has his fingerprints all over it. There is a Yes-like angle here, but it also gets pretty heavy at times. There are moody elements and a lot of layers of sound.
The 11th Hour
I really dig the keyboard vibes on this. The track has a lot of fusion and space rock merged into its core. This gets pretty trippy before it's over. It also has some particularly crazed jamming. John Etheridge is the guitarist here, and Sherwood does everything else on the tune.
Between Two Worlds
Sherwood does everything other than guitar (Steve Hillage) and drums (Gregg Bissonette) here. I dig the somewhat funky prog groove on this. This is another track that has vocals. It also has some space rock elements at times.
Distant Thunder
I really dig the bass sound on this thing. The track has a bit of a moody, spacey vibe to it. Todd Sucherman plays the drums here while Sherwood does the rest.
Dark Money
Joe Bouchard plays the bass on this, while Sherwood does everything else. I dig the rocking grooves on this thing a lot. It still has some definite space rock elements at play. This has a cool prog meets space meets rock vibe.
For All To See
I really dig the bass work on this thing so much. The track is another cool instrumental. It's not a huge change, but it does perhaps lean on the fusion side a little harder.  Pat Mastelotto handles the drums and Sherwood does everything else on this piece.
Beyond Reason
Chad Wackerman is the only guest on this track, providing the drumming. Sherwood does the rest.  Perhaps a bit more intense and harder rocking, this has some psychedelia and space rock in it, but it's probably even more fusion-based.
Bonus Tracks:
I Saw The Light feat. Todd Rundgren & Rick Wakeman (Bonus Track)

Piano gets this going. It's a great arrangement of this classic song. It's a bouncy tune with Wakeman's piano dominating the instrumental part of the mix.

I'm Not In Love (Instrumental Version) feat. Rick Wakeman & Nektar (Bonus Track)
This take on the track comes in with flute. This rendition works pretty well, but it's definitely different. I prefer the original, but this is a bonus track, and competent. Despite saying that's it an instrumental version, it is a full vocal version. I do love Wakeman's keyboard flourishes on the later portions of the track.
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