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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

David Galas

The Cataclysm

Review by Gary Hill

Prog purists – don't send the hate mail. I know this isn't what you'd call prog rock. Still, it's not far from some of the more modern Marillion or Blackfield. In fact, it has a lot in common with that music. You'll probably also hear Fields of the Nephilim and The Cure in a good deal of this music, but it's all assembled with a spirit of experimentation and creativity that helps to solidify its spot in the prog rock genre – albeit on the outer fringe. This is probably a disc that's best left on somewhat in the background as its moody tones could be overwhelming with too much attention. It has a dark beauty to it and is an intriguing release. When you consider that it's a one man show it's all the more impressive. For more info, check out Galas' website.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2007 Volume 3 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Asleep in the Field
Asleep in the Field
This short piece is a keyboard dominated piece of dark and mysterious atmosphere that serves as an intro.
The Harvest
Pounding in dark and heavy, this combines Goth sounds with progressive rock musical elements to create something akin to Blackfield or modern Marillion, but with a crunchier approach. Essentially an instrumental, the only vocals are non-lyrical ones.
American Melancholy
More dark modes lead this one off, feeling a bit like The Cure if they had been a progressive rock band. The vocals are in a deep and distant mode, leading me to think of Fields of the Nephilim. This is a pretty incredible soundscape.
Alone We Will Always Be
While still dark, this has less of an oppressive tone than the music that preceded it. I hear Blackfield and modern Marillion alongside The Cure and Fields of the Nephilim on this number. The mellower interlude is a nice touch, lending drama and variety to the track. The segment that follows, a more energized rendering of the earlier themes of the tune, is simply awesome. When it drops back from there to balladic sounds the effect is again extremely strong. Galas powers it out from there in another stellar excursion. This is one of my favorite cuts on the disc.
The End is Always Closer
Here we get another dark and moody jam that has elements of both Goth rock and prog. The vocals at times move towards death metal adding another dimension to the piece. This turns quite heavy later. This is another strong piece of music on a disc with no shortage of good stuff.
Sect. I
A dark keyboard based instrumental piece of atmosphere, this serves as a nice interlude.
Capsized
Based on a strummed guitar mode, this is covered in layers of dark and dissonant sounds in a disquieting array of sound. The pretty balladic mode that makes up the core is contrasted nicely by the other things happening in the arrangement. The effect is unsettling, but quite strong and lines of violin melody later serve to bring another dimension to the show.
September
This cut has more of a keyboard based texture and reminds me a lot of a modernization of something by David Bowie from Hunky Dory. It comes across as quite different than a lot of the other material, and as such serves as a good change of pace. It's also one of my favorites on the disc. It includes some definite metallic screaming vocals later that are filled with desperation and agony. This also has some of the most dramatic instrumental interplay of the disc.
The Fragment
One of the most traditional prog rock songs here, this is still dark. Based around another balladic guitar melody, with different overlayers and vocals one could hear this done by any number of classic prog bands. While not one of my favorites, it is definitely one of the more unique pieces on show. The sounds of nature serve as the closing segment.
Far Away From Nothing
An intriguing building progression creates this track and elevates it among the more traditional prog like of the disc. This instrumental turns into jazz-like modes and reminds me at times of vintage Led Zeppelin, but still retains its foreboding texture.
Sect. II
This interlude is anything but restful. It does start in a peaceful way, with the sounds of nature. But then something that can best be described as “noise” - layers of distorted backwards tracked music and voices – takes over for a time. Then sci-fi like atmospheric keyboard textures take over in stark contrast. These keyboard sounds grow gradually and organically to maintain the peace on the rest of the composition.
The Cataclysm Part 1
A dark, but still fairly mellow and melodic, element serves to begin this. It gradually grows as the track moves forward. The vocals are distant and echoey. This has a definite space rock texture. It doesn't wander far, instead just working and reworking its moods.
The Cataclysm Part 2
Coming straight out of the last cut, this one pounds in with one of the most “rock and roll” approaches of the disc. It's kind of a cross between Hawkwind and The Cure and one of the best tracks on the disc. In fact, this might be my favorite on show here. It reminds me quite a bit of Hawkwind's “The War I Survived.” It turns more techno at times, but also wanders further into space at others.
The Burial
A quiet piece of atmosphere, this feels like something that might have come from the minds of Pink Floyd.
Shimla
Combining Eastern world sounds with chanting and progressive rock, this still has a lot of goth in the mix, along with space rock. Some of the chanting resembles Native American sounds and at times the percussive texture lends this effect. This is an unusual track, but also an exceptionally interesting one.
Reclamation
Rising gradually, this crunchy rocker is another that feels a bit like The Cure. Backwards tracked segments fight for control with the scorching guitar sounds. This is another odd track, but still works quite well.
Sect. III
This piece of texture is quite pretty and a good breather.
The Great Ruins of Man
Here we get more dark progressive rock. This has some definite crunch and again calls to mind Blackfield quite a bit. It's another highlight of the CD.
Something Fell From The Sky
This is a creepy instrumental that combines pretty keys with odd sound effects and barely heard incidental voices to create an unusual soundscape. While I like this a lot I don't think I would have closed the CD with it.
 
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