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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Amaran's Plight

Voice in the Light

Review by Gary Hill

Here we have a band that shows a lot of promise. It’s a foregone conclusion that prog purists who don’t like any hints of heavy metal in their music will want to steer clear of this. For the rest of us, though, this is really a great disc that barely misses falling into the masterpiece category. The main stumble on the disc is the overly pop oriented track “I Promise You.” This feels like a more prog-like take on some boy band song. The rest of the disc, though, alternates between pure neo-prog and very proggy, prog metal. It’s all delivered with a sense of purpose and conviction that works really well. I look forward to seeing what this band does next, but I’m quite content to continue listening to this great disc in the meantime.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2007 Volume 4 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Room 316
If you were to judge this CD based on the opening cut you’d probably call it a “heavy metal” album. This track comes across as a more metallic Rush in the beginning, but they shift it out more towards prog with keyboard dominance later. Still, the overall effect of this instrumental introduction is metallic. It ends with a short bit of dialog.
Friends Forever
This is a very pretty and evocative piano based ballad. Packed with emotion, this is mellow yet powerful. The piano and vocal arrangements are both wonderful and they bring in layers of guitar to augment it later on, feeling a bit like something from Transiberian Orchestra. This works out into a more full band approach as they carry on. This is a catchy, yet powerful piece of music.
Coming of Age
A pretty, but rather dark, acoustic guitar ballad approach leads this one off. This section reminds me a bit of something from Queensryche’s Operation Mindcrime album. They shift this out into fast paced, metallic music as they move forward. This is a powerful cut that’s one of my favorites on show here. It has a great vocal arrangement and some cool little twists in the rhythm structure. The triumphant vocal segment that takes it later is simply wonderful. When it resolves out from there this resembles epic prog metal a bit. They move it back out to a piano ballad structure that is very pretty. This fires out later into an epic metal, neo-classical jam that’s purely on fire They show off more Rush-leanings as this excursion carries out. Then they resolve back out to the triumphant chorus segment. A crescendo gives a short return to the ballad styles and then a noisy burst fades off to end it. This is a dynamic and very powerful piece of music and my favorite to this point.
Incident at Haldeman's Lake
This three part epic is over eleven and a half minutes. Ambient sounds and voices start it off – like a scene from the past is being relived. Pretty, but dark, balladic stylings gradually rise upward. They power it out in more metallic directions for a time. They move back down to balladish motifs as this builds in a very powerful way. They put in some of the most purely prog-like sounds here. When they power it up with a staccato element it has more metallic fibers, but the progression is completely prog. This works out into a more fast paced, quick jam that combines fusion, classic prog and heavy metal into a mass that is tasty and quite satisfying. This works through various alterations and reworkings to move the number forward. At about the four and a half-minute mark they drop it way back down to more melancholy ballad structures. After running through like this for a time the metallic fury comes back in to add its flavor to the mixture. They morph this out into more jams, again feeling a bit like Rush at times. The bass purely flies with lines of melodic bottom end spinning around and around. This turns very noisy later and then a crescendo gives way to ambient sound effects and a weird spoken voice, sound bite. This resolves out into a potent, Joe Satriani-like jam. The guitar sings a fabulous melody. A Yesish section (albeit with a bit more of a metal tone) takes it from there. This turns back towards the earlier segments in an extremely powerful arrangement that eventually ends the cut.
Reflections Pt. 1
While intricate and powerful, this doesn’t move far from where it begins. It is a potent progressive rock ballad based on acoustic guitar. Sound bites come and go over the top of this.
I Promise You
This has a bouncing sort of Electric Light Orchestra pop sound to the song structure. That isn’t to say that the arrangement and production here is like ELO, only the song construction. This has elements of an anthemic metal ballad, but it is delivered with an almost boy band sense of pop music. To me, this is too pop-oriented and suffers a bit from that. It’s good, but a bit too cliched and trite. If there is a song to skip, it’s this one. Still, the later stages, where they really ramp up the overlayers, goes a long way towards redeeming this.
Consummation Opus
Going through a series of prog rock changes, this moves a bit towards metal as it carries on. This is a fairly brief, but still quite effective, instrumental number that’s a nice addition to the CD. A metallic crescendo gives way to ambient keys and then an almost purely classical outro.
Truth and Tragedy
The chording that starts this feels like generic metal, but don’t fret. They change this right away to something more substantial. Don’t get me wrong, this is still quite metallic, but dropping to a dark ballad approach this feels like Euro power metal. I wouldn’t consider this one of the standout tracks on the CD, but it’s got its moments – particularly the vocal performance and the cool bass meanderings. I also really like the keyboard solo at the end.
Shattered Dreams
At almost thirteen and a half minutes this epic is the longest track on the CD. Ambient tones begin this in a dark manner. They build up ever so gradually from this basis. A fading up guitar texture makes you think it’s about to explode. Instead it drops back to a ballad style (reminding me a bit of old Rainbow) for the first vocals. After the verse they fly up into more metallic motifs to carry forward. Some great Eastern tones come in along this arrangement. After a while it drops back to the ballad structures and they begin and alternating mellow and harder pattern. They change things up in the iterations and throw in a frantic, fast paced jam that’s very Dream Theater like later. Still further along the keyboards and guitars take us on a duel of solos. This is an extremely dynamic cut with the group launching through a series of changes in an extended instrumental excursion. We get more Satriani-like moments trading off with Dream Theater and Queensryche. Keyboards solo, and then guitar in a never-ending series of variations and alterations. We even get a neo-classical piano solo mid song. Then it fires out into some classically tinged European metal. We get more Rush thrown into the mix, this time mixed with Satriani after this. That takes it back to the main elements of the song, this time powered up even more. This is definitely one of the better pieces on show here. It might actually be my favorite.
Viper
With a name like “Viper” I guessed you’d expect heavy metal. Well, the fast paced crunch fest that makes up this cut certainly qualifies. Still, they weave enough instrumental fury over the top to keep in interesting. This is probably the most purely metal track on the whole disc. It’s also quite strong. It does drop back to space later and they build back up in noisy, rather strange ways until exploding back out.
Betrayed By Love
In stark contrast to the fury of the last track, this one rises up with pretty balladic motifs. It is moody, but oh so expressive as melody gradually begins to take the piece. I’m kind of reminded, on this intro, of the more sedate material from early Marillion. This shifts out into a more hard rocking jam later, bringing the Satriani echoes along with it. The vocal performance on this is one of the more effective and evocative ones. The vocal arrangement on the choruses is stellar. The cut works very gradually into a more epic and metallic arrangement. Enough prog elements still remain, though, to keep from labeling it as pure heavy metal. They drop it way back to the sedate sounds later to carry on. It moves outward into a weird blend of ambience and hard progressive rock with lines of spoken sound bites running around. Then the guitar takes us on a two-pronged journey, acoustic based at first, then electric. It eventually drops way back to ambience to end. I like this track a lot.
Turning Point
Here we get some pretty pure metal, again reminding me a lot of Queensryche’s Operation Mindcrime. They drop it back after the harder rocking introduction to a balladic approach to deliver the verses. As this powers back up to the more metal motif I hear some healthy dosages of Royal Hunt here. While this is more metallic than some of the other stuff here, it’s also one of my favorite tracks on the disc.
Revelation
The final cut on the album is also the last epic, weighing in at over thirteen minutes in length. Pretty acoustic modes lead off the festivities here. They build gradually and gracefully upon this backdrop. It’s a couple minutes in before they really power this out, instead focusing on reinvigorating the ballad motif before that, turning it more and more powerful. When they do move outward the metal elements take over before giving way to a Satriani-like solo to keep us on track. Around the three and a half-minute mark they move it back down to more balladic stylings. This is worked back up again. It turns even more metallic later, but they still return to the mellower sounds after this. The track just sets up and continues and ever slowly and steadily building pattern of harder and softer sounds. They turn it into weird dissonance at times and launch into neo-classical power metal at other points. This is probably the most cohesive of the epics here and a great way to end the disc on a high note. It changes and shifts around a lot, but never loses sight of its core musical values.
 
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