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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Abigail's Ghost

Selling Insincerity

Review by Gary Hill

Conventional wisdom (and the hype surrounding this group) put Abigail’s Ghost into the category of progressive rock. That, combined with some of the music is the reason I’ve put them here. The thing is, it’s an iffy statement. It’s kind of a case of the Emperor’s new clothes. Do these guys have progressive rock leanings – no question. But probably they are more alternative rock and metal than they are prog. I just felt like I would be trying to swim upstream to lump them under metal and non-prog. That said, if you are a prog purists, stay away. You won’t like this.

For the rest of us – here’s the breakdown. There are healthy dosages of Porcupine Tree here. There are probably equal (or perhaps greater) quantities of Tool in this mix. We get a lot of alternative rock here along with showings of Godsmack and bands of their ilk. You will probably hear some fairly solid quantities of Pink Floyd in the midst here. Dream Theater can also be found. You might spot hints of King Crimson and maybe even a little Yes and Genesis. You’ll also surely find at least one spot where you hear Black Sabbath. The truth is, this is a great album – for those who are musically adventurous. Is it progressive rock? I think maybe barely, but I’m actually going with the crowd here and putting them in that category despite my misgivings about it.

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
Mazurka
This is essentially an ethnic piece of klezmer-like music. At just over a minute in length, it’s a brief instrumental that also includes some sound effects.
Close
They pound in heavy and crunchy, a stark contrast to the gentle nature of the disc’s introduction. They drop back after an extended introduction to a mellow prog motif with the bass dancing in the background. The vocals are placed in this motif. They scream back out with metallic fury after the singing ends. The next set of vocals are accompanied by these more metal motifs. They drop back to the mellow mode for the verse, as we detect and verse / chorus pattern emerging. Around the three and a half minute mark a false ending gives us a great guitar based ballad sound. It’s melancholy and powerful. This gives way to a fiery alternative rock tinged jam that’s very heavy. Based on the song’s main themes this takes it in new directions before dropping back into the song proper. Ambience eventually ends this.
Waiting Room
Balladic guitar modes bring this one in. They power it up to a harder rocking, but far from metallic, neo-prog journey that has a lot more melodic tendency than was found on the previous piece. This cut has elements of Porcupine Tree, but also perhaps some bits of Pink Floyd – at least in the musical arrangement. We get an extremely tasty (albeit short) retro tinged guitar solo, followed by an equally brief keyboard solo. The guitar (fortunately) shows up here and there as the song continues in a similar fashion to the solo. We also get a more extensive revisitation to those solo themes as they continue. This cut has some hints of ‘70’s prog in the vocal arrangements, but this is all neo-prog as it comes to the music.
Love Sounds
Slightly creepy, warbly keyboard sounds start things here. It feels about ready to power up, but then shifts towards an almost techno sound to carry on in an understated way. The vocals come over this backdrop and this is a far gentler, albeit quite dark, piece of music. The Porcupine Tree influences are all over this, but you might also hear echoes of very early Pink Floyd here.  This is quite a pretty track and a nice change of pace, but it might drag on a bit too long consider the lack of dynamics. It’s four and a half minutes in before the piece gets any kind of energy. This comes in terms of a bass driven, rhythmic element that comes to guide it along. At about five and a half minutes in this shifts to a Black Sabbath inspired riff driven jam that will have prog purists running for cover. We get some distinctly King Crimson-like jamming over the top of this backdrop. As a huge Sabbath fan, I find this to be especially tasty, but I know that the progressive rock fans who don’t like metal in their music will be looking for either the “stop” or “skip” buttons on their remote. Of course, they probably already hit that a couple songs back. The metallic themes take it out in instrumental way.
Sell Out
This comes in hard edged and alternative rock oriented but drops back to mellower, moody motifs as they carry on. They begin alternating these two musical themes to develop the verse / chorus pattern of the track. This turns later into a heavy, nu-metal meets alternative rock jam. If you remember the old “spam” skit from Monty Python, I have to say there, really is very little spam (uh – progressive rock) in this one. Other than a few moods and elements and one short balladic jam this is pretty much all nu-metal and alternative rock. Those who would say that Abigail’s Ghost are not a prog band would find a lot of ammunition here.
Dead Peoples Review
This is heavy as hell and frantically pounding when it comes in. They drop it back to some melodic modern progressive rock for the first vocals. This one is far more melodic and less metal than most of the other material on show here (despite that heavy introduction). It’s got some elements of Steve Vai/Joe Satriani type music and a definite 1970’s prog rock texture to a lot of it. It’s a good tune and a nice change of pace.
Monochrome
This one rises up gradually with some fairly ambient elements giving way to a burst of sound. Rather than power into the metallic motif you might find yourself expecting, though we get melodic modern prog. This one is pretty and quite catchy, but still has a bit of a dark edge to it. This runs through in this format, but they power it out here and there, but not to the point of metallic. We get an extremely tasty and tasteful guitar solo on this piece. It’s quite a catchy and pleasing piece of music. It drops to moody atmosphere to end.
Windows
Acoustic guitar motifs bring this in with a decidedly 1970’s prog/classic rock feel. When they rise up with additional instrumentation it’s even more progressive rock oriented. This track, along with a few others, will give plenty of authority to including these guys as progressive rock. It draws a lot from a powerful vocal and musical arrangement. This never rises up as far as hard rock, let alone metal. It’s a nice cut, but I think it might have served the disc better had it been placed between a couple of the more metallic numbers.
Cerulean Blue
An oddly timed, fairly stripped down fusion mode leads things off here. When the vocals enter it brings more of an alternative rock sound, but the musical arrangement doesn’t change. After the first verse a crunchy guitar line brings a twisted and slightly evil feeling to this. I’m reminded quite a bit of Tool here. A processed, distorted voice comes over later and brings with it more dark metal elements. They shift this out around the two minute mark into a fast paced jam that’s definitely got a lot of Dream Theater-like prog in the mix but also healthy dosages of that Tool sound. A weird keyboard/effects intrusion gives us a drop back to techno-like sounds for a short time. Then they power back up into a hard-edged Tool-like jam that has a careening bass line. We get a reprise of the “weird voice” section and they revisit other musical themes as they carry on here. I like parts of this track, but it’s a bit “weird” for my tastes and seems to lack a real consistent texture. It has too much of a feeling of a bunch of mostly unrelated pieces of music thrown together. One of those pieces (or perhaps two) consists of an alternating pattern of hard edged Godsmack meets Tool riffing and weird mellower modes. This one is pretty much all over the place, and not necessarily in a good way. We do get a great fast paced jam that could best be described as Rush meets ELP and Tool. If you can wrap your head around that, you can imagine what this keyboard dominated instrumental section sounds like.
Seeping
Odd, almost playful keyboards start things here. They come in with the rhythmic section to provide the backdrop for the vocals. After a verse they power it up to a melodic progressive rock oriented, rather soaring chorus segment. The Porcupine Tree leanings are in fine form on this piece that also feels a bit (in a little bit of a stretch) like early Genesis – at least in terms of the sound construction and quirky nature. At a little past the two minute mark they drop it back to an acoustic guitar motif that calls to mind both Rush and Yes quite a bit. This is powered up for the next jam of the tune. It stays far, far away from metal and has a lot of retro prog in the mix. They shift this back to the earlier stylings to keep things going. At around the three and a half minute mark this takes a drastic turn towards more metal sounds and we’re off on a rather Dream Theater-like jam with sound bites coming over the top at times.  This only lasts about a minute, though, and serves as a bridge, giving way to a reprise of the song’s main themes as they come out of it. A playful and tasty keyboard solo ends this in gentle ways.
Mother May I?
Keys and ambient sound effects bring this in and hold it for over half a minute, feeling at times a bit like Pink Floyd. They burst up into a verse section that still has some of that Floyd sound, but mixed with Tool and Porcupine Tree. They scream out with metallic fury later, but continue to alternate it with the less crunchy section.  This song is a bit monolithic and definitely falls more into the category of hard edged alternative rock than prog. I’m not sure it was a great choice for disc closer as it’s a bit average.

 
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