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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

RPWL

The RPWL Experience

Review by Gary Hill

The latest CD from RPWL is entitled, “The RPWL Experience.” The music on the disc seems to go a long way towards living up to that title. We get sort of musical snapshots that showcase all the moods and modes of the band. They also seem to throw name checks, in the form of musical excursions, to their favorite bands of the past. You’ll probably hear all kinds of prog greats here and there within this musical mix. You’ll also (definitely) hear some great music.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2008  Volume 2 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Silenced
A unique, but quite tasty motif starts this. It shifts up a to a more powered arrangement on that musical element, feeling almost like metal. It moves out into more melodic and rather traditional progressive rock for a while. They alternate between this side and the faster paced music that feels a bit like a cross between King Crimson and Snakes… era Rush. You might hear some Pink Floyd in the mix on the more melodic music. More metallic motifs with Rush and King Crimson (along with a bit of funk) takes it later for an extended musical journey. As the vocals return this is quite heavy. It shifts out into a keyboard dominated segment that’s dark and quite goth/techno in nature. A crunchy guitar solo section rises from there and gives way to some very Floydian keyboard solo moments. They work through several varying themes and sounds in an extended instrumental motif before making their way back to the song proper.

Breath In, Breath Out
A balladic guitar motif with a definite 1970’s sound opens this up. They build it up with more of the same piled on top. As other instrumentation fills the arrangement the progressive rock sounds join (still set in the same era). The vocals bring the Pink Floydish textures with them and the group move onward through their musical dream.  This is a much less dynamic composition than the last one. It shifts and changes slightly, but never leaves the central song structure.
Where Can I Go
With some vaguely psychedelic elements, this is more of a pure rocker. It still has prog rock tendencies, but is a lot more straightforward than some of the other stuff here. You can hear some more of those Pink Floyd leanings here from time to time. There is cool section here where they drop it back to keyboards for a balladic verse that borders on space rock. As this rises up we get an expansive musical journey with a televangelist thrown over the top of the surface. This turns decidedly more Floydlike as the guitar solos over the musical backdrop later. We have one of the highlights of the disc in this track, to a large degree due to this extended instrumental motif.
Masters of War
Here we get a cover of a Bob Dylan song. This has been getting a lot of mileage with the Iraq war raging.  This seems to feel a lot like what it would sound like if Pink Floyd covered the song – and I’m talking Animals era Floyd. There might be a differing musical reference here or there, but this feels so much like Roger Waters, David Gilmour, Nick Mason and Rick Wright that it’s downright scary.
This Is Not A Prog Song
I’m in pain right now. No, not because this song sucks – not by any means. I’m hurting because this is lyrically a slam at all the critics who have offered a negative or mediocre review of the band. I sincerely hope none of the MSJ folks are included in this trashing. Musically this is more or less a Beatles-esque pop rocker, but, despite the title, there is some definite prog rock in the mix. For the record, I don’t think “I’m the smartest guy,” but I won’t hazard to speak for any of the rest of the writers.
Watch Myself
Well, comparisons to Pink Floyd were specifically mentioned in the last song – so I feel a bit hesitant to include them here, but frankly, this song feels like early Pink Floyd (for the psychedelia) merged with The Beatles and later era Floyd. It’s all spun up in a way that, while still having elements of those references, is a unique sound. There is a cool “chirping” section later that reminds me a lot of Floyd’s echoes and the soaring guitar part that comes out as this builds has hints of “One of These Days…” When they drop it back again further down the road, I feel Genesis leanings (of the early variety) on the keyboard sounds. Backwards tracking and sound effects segue this into the next number.
Stranger
Here we get a continuation of the sounds that ended “Watch Myself” to start us off. Odd keyboard textures and other elements swirl about in an ever increasing noisy sound. Then the group stomps in with some serious metal textures and the sound of an airplane on a dive bomb is heard. The cut alternates between these metallic motifs and a mellower, more pure prog atmosphere. The vocal segment is the only thing that has any Floyd-tendencies and frankly, it’s almost entirely due to the vocals themselves. This is a cool tune that has a lot of intriguing musical textures and wanderings within. This is one of the more unique pieces here. It’s pretty thoroughly in the neo-prog genre. We get a lot of variants and alterations within that overall banner, though. They still manage to put some classic prog in the mix, especially the awesome keyboard solo section.
River
This is probably my favorite track on show here. It’s a beautiful and rather sad progressive rock ballad. Still, even though there is a sadness to this, there is also a sense of hope. This feels perhaps a bit like early Genesis, but the lyrics remind me a bit of something Peter Sinfield would have done for early King Crimson. It’s a wonderful piece of music. About half way through its seven minute plus length they shift this out into an ambient, dissonant sort of space music journey. This is quite akin to some of the early King Crimson experimentation. When they come out of this it’s into a more powerful reincarnation of the song that preceded it. This doesn’t get truly crunchy or heavy, but it does gain a lot of volume and energy. This track by itself is worth the price of admission here.

Choose What You Want To Look At
This is a very modern prog tune that’s quite percussive in nature. It leans toward alternative rock or techno but is still proggy enough to keep the progressive rock snobs happy (although the prog purists will probably be running for cover). There is some theremin on this piece – always a plus in my book.
Turn Back the Clock
This is a pretty balladic prog piece. We get musical references here from Genesis, Pink Floyd, Yes, ELP and others, but its all woven into a mix that’s fully RPWL. I particularly enjoy the Wakeman like keyboard sounds here. It gets quite lush and powerful in it’s arrangement at times. The keyboards really do steal the show, though with their dominant role in several varying portions of this piece. We do get some soaring guitar, too, though. As this resolves out into the powerhouse, triumphant rising section it’s obvious they made the right choice in closing with this.  I can’t imagine a more satisfying end to the proceedings. The ending lyrics, “If we could only turn back the clock / Would we live in a world we share in peace?” leave the listener contemplating things far bigger than him or her self.

 
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