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Progressive Rock CD Reviews



Review by Gary Hill

Many prog rock bands seem to be heavily influenced by Dream Theater. Altura is certainly one of those. They have some strong DT leanings, but manage to pull in plenty of their own flavors. They also seem to create some of the most dynamic music in the genre. Indeed, at times they can almost lose the listener in all the fast paced changes. This is quite a strong album.

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Track by Track Review
Keys start this one, at first feeling a bit like the Who's "Rain On Me", then more in the form of intricate piano. A burst of more fusionish keys interrupts this and foreshadows the next segment. After the piano runs through a bit more a full fusion progression takes over for a time. Then a verse segment, hard edged balladic in form, takes the piece. Eventually this gives way to a hard edged more DTish section before turning more melodic. At times this feels a bit like UK. It also turns quite metallic at points, but then wanders back to the fusion oriented zone. In fact, this one is quite dynamic, covering a lot of musical territory. This is a great example of what neo-prog can be like. It drops to DTish elements to end.
The Calling
The intro here feels a bit like Tubular Bells before a more metallic yet fusion-oriented tone overtakes. The number quickly slides into fast-paced hard-edged DTish territory. This is a strong and powerful prog rocker that leans toward prog metal at points. The chorus is especially enchanting and potent. This one is definitely a stand out.
One By One
Starting with keys that feel like a string section, a powerful crescendo pulls the whole band in and the hard edged jam is on its way. It runs through a dramatic progression, then cuts down to an oddly metered hesitant feeling verse. The song works through that segment, then the potent pre chorus, feeling a little bit like Zep's Kashmir enters. Then the chorus carries the cut on. As the composition resolves out of there the changes intensify for a time, becoming more dynamic. Another verse, then a quick prog jam, then another chorus ensues after which we hear some strong and quirky exploration. It just keeps evolving from there. This one is very dynamic, to the point of being a bit hard to follow at times. The chorus is very strong, though. It eventually drops to a more mellow keyboard dominated instrumental section to end.
The Continuum
This brief cut starts with washes of keys. As percussion joins the texture feels a bit like Misplaced Childhood era Marillion for a time. Then a new energetic segment heralds a change and a DTish fusion oriented jam is well under way. This instrumental packs a lot in considering that it is less than three minutes in length.
Horizon's Fade
More melodic, fusion-oriented textures begin this in soaring fashion. This intro works through and ends, then piano takes the cut, and the early vocals are delivered with just that accompaniment. Eventually a new prog segment, at first quite retro, appears. It works its way to more modern progressive rock territory for the next verse, then cuts back to the more melodic slower and mellower before working out into the accessible chorus. Then a DTish jam takes over and heralds in the next verse. This resolves out into a guitar dominated instrumental break. The cut moves through these various elements as it carries on.
One Dimension
This fast paced number is firmly rooted in modern hard edge prog. It has an intriguing percussive texture, though and an almost alternative rock arrangement at times. This features some frantic instrumental work, but pulls together for a coherent and rather catchy chorus. This is another that shows a lot of variety as it moves through a good number of different modes.
Alternate Lines
Hard-edged guitar pulls this one out of the gate, then a fairly high-energy metallic prog jam ensues. It shifts to the considerably metallic after a time, then drops to a somewhat odd, more stripped down arrangement for the chorus. The cut carries on, shifting and changing. This is another that at times feels a bit like Dream Theater. Some frantic and fusionish jamming hits later. This resolves into a more melodic, but still energetic segment that gets quite evocative. This grows into a metallic sort of movement, then changes gear again to return to the DT leanings.
At almost 11 minutes, the album closer is definitely the longest composition on show here. A keyboard solo starts it. Vocals eventually join, and a dramatic, emotional duet between the two takes the cut. This carries on for a time, then an ensemble based jam on this melody takes over and holds the tune for a while until a new hard edged prog progression erupts out of that. This eventually runs through, then drops to a new, more dramatic and almost neo-classical break, then a short melodic prog jam takes over leading to more DT-oriented musical exploration. A verse segment continues the musical progression of the track. Eventually it bursts out in progish fury based on this melody. This runs through for a time, then a fast riff takes the number down to an acoustic guitar driven balladic mode. This holds the cut temporarily, but eventually it bursts back out into familiar territory. At about 7 minutes in a fusionish Crimsonesque jam takes the piece for a while, then more melodic jamming takes the song. It works through a lot of prog jams.
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