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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Three

The End is Begun

Review by Gary Hill

Probably there are two things about this band’s music that impress me more than anything else. The first one is how they can take truly unusual and steadily altering compositions, complete with parts that go seamlessly together despite extreme contrast, and make the songs seem catchy and almost “pop oriented.” The second is how they can pack so many changes and alterations into reasonably short (only the disc’s closer tops the five minute mark) pieces.  I have no idea how these guys pull it off, but they do. And they are all over the place in terms of the bands that they remind me of when I hear them. I suppose the two most obvious are It Bites and Kings X, but I also catch myself thinking of Klaatu a lot and Rush and Dream Theater come up from time to time. Whatever the permutations involved, I like this CD a lot. It’s actually one of my favorite releases of 2007.

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
The Word Is Born Of Flame
Acoustic guitar begins this and when the vocals enter I’m actually reminded of The Beatles. It doesn’t really rise up for over half of its 3 and half minutes, instead content to sit in a moody ballad-like structure. As this motif intensifies, I think I can hear Klaatu. It shifts out later into a hard edged jam that’s dramatic and powerful. Hints of Kansas and other harder rocking prog acts show up here. We even get a few nods to heavy metal on this journey. A staccato section later calls to mind vintage Rush. This essentially leads straight into the next cut.

The End Is Begun
With a quirky world music inspired introduction, this fires out into a rather metallic segment for the introduction. When they drop it back for the verse I hear those Klaatu-like sounds again. They wind up merging this sound with the epic metal tones from place to place here and at times you might also hear It Bites. We get some vocals like Yes worked with on their Big Generator album. Whatever the particular modes and techniques you pick up on, this is an incredibly cool musical excursion. It’s not only one of the highlights of the disc, but also one of the cooler prog tunes I’ve ever heard. We get a quick Rush-like ending on this.
Battle Cry
More metallic tones, with hints of modern Rush, bring this one in. I suppose a simple comparison would be Dream Theater, but it really only applies on this introductory section. They drop it back to a cool stripped down arrangement that is pure neo-prog and then pull it up with a melodic modern prog metal approach. Odd little lighter, playful sections come and go here bringing pure prog and even jazz to the table. This is an interesting piece of music that’s effective, but not really a standout. While it’s more metal than a lot of the other music here, they put a full-on prog instrumental segment into the mix as the extended outro.
All That Remains
The beginning modes of this call to mind both Klaatu and heavy metal along with a bit of alternative rock. When they shift it out into the song proper I hear healthy dosages of Dream Theater, Kings X and others.
My Divided Falling
In some ways this track is simpler than some of the other material. The thing is, these guys just don’t do straightforward. The song moves between heavy metal stomping, prog like excursions and a lot of Kings X sort of textures. It’s another strong piece of music. We even get a jam that starts as retro rock (ala Mountain) and then shifts out into shredding fusion. It winds out from there into a Rush-like riff and then turns to extreme metal before resolving back out to the song proper. Then we get a short variant to end it.
Serpents In Disguise
This has a pop rock meets retro hard rock and prog metal approach put to great use. These guys really defy categorization a lot of the time and this is certainly no exception. I would say that you might hear Kings X on this, but its only one piece of the armament in use here. Some of the retro rock later in this track is simply awesome as is the vocal performance that accompanies it.
Been To The Future
Here we have another piece that reminds me a lot of Klaatu. This is one of the more constant tracks, foregoing a lot of the odd changes for an emotive and exceptionally powerful arrangement. This is another of my favorites on the disc. They intensify the performance, but never really take it into new territory.

Bleeding Me Home
This has a killer pop rock sensibility, but it’s still delivered in a challenging arrangement. This is perhaps the most accessible piece on the CD, but they still manage to create tension and interest with their unique composition. It gets quite powerful at times, too. This is a track that will definitely have you coming back over and over again for another helping. The outro reminds me of Pink Floyd a bit.
Live Entertainment
They lead this one off with a unique arrangement and then pound into a Kings X like riff. They drop it back to the more ballad-like for the verse and the harder rocking riff creates the backdrop for the choruses. This is another that’s instantly likable, but yet holds charm for each repeated listening. It’s another highlight.
Diamond in the Crush
Here we are treated to a fast paced rock riff (feeling a little like Cheap Trick) from the get go. They drop it way down, but still keep that riff, for the verse. This is so close to frantic metal, but not quite there. The soaring vocal arrangement on this is impeccable. It’s another of my favorites on show here. It’s also another that goes a long way towards being impossible to define or categorize.
Shadow Play
This is a catchy and very pretty acoustic guitar based ballad. They power it up a bit later, but stay in the same general ballad territory. It has elements of the Beatles, ELO and Klaatu in the mix. I also hear a little Cheap Trick when they do turn it electric.
These Iron Bars
We’re back into the hard-edged frenzy on the intro here. This feels a bit like epic metal meets Rush and pop rock. I know that might be a difficult image to conjure, but if you once hear the track, you’ll know what I mean. It drops way down at times to an almost child-like segment. The instrumental section – and the guitar solo in particular – is quite tasty.
The Last Day
At almost eight minutes in length, you could probably look on this as the epic of the disc. It’s definitely the longest track, running almost twice as long as the closest competition. It comes up very gradually with a playful sort of mellow motif starting off. Then it builds slowly into a ballad-like structure. After the first set of vocals some Eastern tones are hinted at and it feels like it might power out into a hard rocking jam. Instead it drops back to the mode that preceded it. A short (mostly) instrumental segment threatens at taking it into harder territory, but instead it drops to intricate and gentle acoustic guitar and a reprise of the balladic motif. The more full prog arrangement that preceded this returns and it stays around a lot longer this time. When it does drop once more away we get an intricate prog rock motif that feels a bit like vintage Genesis. The balladic mode merges with this to carry onward. It builds and builds into a pretty intense version of itself. They drop it way down at around the five minute mark and do one more line of lyrics. Then it shifts out to just world music styled percussion. Animal sounds are added to this after a while and then the mellow modes of the music return. This evolves into an extended instrumental journey that hints at both space and Eastern textures. After a while it drops back almost all the way to just the percussion. The acoustic backdrop remains, though and we get a few other elements placed over the top. These all finally drop away, though and just the percussion remains for a short time to end it.
 
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