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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Lana Lane

Red Planet Boulevard

Review by Gary Hill

There have always been those who have felt that Lana Lane belonged more under the heavy metal banner than progressive rock. This album will certainly lend fire to that argument. It’s not purely metal, but it might be the first time that Lane, husband Erik Norlander and company have taken this as far to the metal side as they do here. Honestly, if this were the only album I had to go on I’d probably place her under metal. The truth is, though, this is their “fire” album in terms of the elements. That sort of heading lends itself well to crunch and metallic fury.

Enough about the musical style – what about the album? Well, this CD is probably not the best from Lana Lane. That said, it’s darned good, though. It’s sure to please fans of epic metal, but those who like their progressive rock with some crunch – or their metal with some prog – should also enjoy this. It’s a foregone conclusion that Lane’s longtime fans will love the disc, but that’s like preaching to choir. I wouldn’t recommend this as a first introduction to Lana Lane (unless your tastes go more to the metal end of the spectrum, then this is the perfect gateway drug), but I would heartily recommend the disc nonetheless.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2008  Volume 1 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Into The Fire
Those who think that Lana Lane should be considered metal and not prog would fine plenty of justification on this rocker. It comes across as pretty much a pure melodic/epic metal sort of piece. That said, Lane’s vocal delivery brings an immediacy and hook to this that makes it stand above a lot of the music in that genre. It’s a strong opener, but might send some prog purists running for the hills. They do include a melodic, mellower segment, though, but it leads to some decidedly metallic guitar soloing. The keyboard solo brings in one snippet of progressive rock.

The Frozen Sea
Starting in a more balladic motif, this shifts out to harder rock for a time. They drop it back down for the first verse and begin a growing process from there. This cut definitely has elements of metal, but it’s also got enough progressive rock to please all but the most stringent purists. This one has a great mood and tone to it and is packed with emotion. Some of the mellower sections have tones that are amongst the most evocative I’ve heard in a while. They drop it back to a full on symphonic segment for a time and gradually come back up from there in a classically inspired prog rock motif. This is a killer track and one of the best on show here. The hard edged jam later in the piece takes the song’s central themes and spins them out in a fiery exploration that is simply incredible.
Capture the Sun
This one is definitely more in line with the epic metal approach that made up the first track. It’s another strong piece of music, but also another one that might send prog purists heading in another direction.
Jessica
The chordings that bring this one in would lead you to believe we’re in for another prog stomper. This gives way, though, to a progression that feels a bit like ‘80’s metal turned more progish. They run through a few variations on this musical approach until dropping it way back for the verse segment. This is delivered in a powered up ballad approach and the song is built upon this basis. The guitar solo on this one, while tasty, reinforces the ‘80’s metal feel to the piece.

Stepford, USA
Bass starts this off and as the other instrumentation begins to enter it threatens to turn funky. Instead, though, this shifts towards more pure progressive rock, but turns a bit crunchier later. I hear hints of Led Zeppelin’s “Kashmir” on this track. It’s a cool number and one of the more dynamic rides on show. It’s also one of my favorite pieces. The instrumental segment later seems poised to go into some pure blues, but instead it shifts out towards Floydian textures for a time before a more metallic guitar solo section takes over to pull it back to the song proper.
Shine
Here we get another track that has more pure progressive rock in the mix. It’s also got a little of that Floydian texture at times. This is another strong rocker that still manage to crunch out pretty hard. I love the talk box guitar sound (ala Floyd’s Animals album). This is another spot on the CD where they throw in some pure symphonic classical music. They throw it out from there, though, in a short crunch motif. This gives way, though, to more melodic prog as they move forward. More talk box ensues later in a killer journey, this one the final section of the track. This is another highlight of the disc.
Lazy Summer Day
Rather light hearted, this has almost a 1950’s styling on the early motifs. They shift it out later into a powerfully evocative, soaring, melodic prog arrangement. Then they alternate between these motifs. It screams out in a metallic interlude later that has some nearly noodly guitar ala Eddie Van Halen. They return to the song proper afterwards and carry on from there, but eventually another hard rocking guitar solo section makes an appearance.
No Tears Left
This cut is another trademark Lane number. It alternates between harder rocking sections and those balladic ones. The arrangement carries through a number of changes and creates a powerful piece of music that tends to ride the rail between progressive rock and metal.
Save The World
Pounding in like more pure metal, this one modulates out into the more typical Lana Lane approach of metal and prog mixed together. I particularly like the vocal arrangement and guitar sound on this number. The instrumental segment here is meaty and metallic.
Angels and Magicians
This one pounds in with more metallic abandon but shifts out toward the more proggy – with just the vocals at first and then joined by the rest of the music. This is more of the pretty standard fare Lane – prog and metal in varying sections and motifs. We get a killer mellow jam later and then (as a perfect example of this pairing) it screams back out with metallic fury to take the number back to the song proper.
The Sheltering Sorrow
We get the same basic musical premise here, but somehow this track takes it in new directions in some ways. For one thing the instrumental arrangement is purely awesome. For another Lane’s vocals are amongst the best on the disc. This is one of my favorite songs on show here, a musical powerhouse with a killer dramatic, nearly dark tone.
Red Planet Boulevard
This one comes up quite gradually with a fast paced keyboard dominated sound. Eventually it climbs up within this motif. They build on this basis as they move forward. After running through like this for a time it turns more metallic. They pound out from there in a new variation on the early themes. Then it shifts out to more dramatic, metallic prog modes to carry on. We get a few hints at that Pink Floyd like sound. They beef it up a bit from there as they turn it almost funky – at least in the background. As the keyboards take more prominence it leans more towards symphonic epic metal for a time. More talk box shows up after this. Then they modulate it out into a killer progressive rock backdrop from there. This song keeps reinventing and recreating itself. Musical themes enter, play out and are replaced, only to return later in a new and improved fashion. This instrumental truly wanders the common ground between metal and progressive rock in fine style.
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