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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Expedition: Delta

Expedition: Delta

Review by Gary Hill

You would think that with a label called “Prog Rock Records,” pretty much everything would fall into the progressive rock category and be prime material for Music Street Journal. Well, I would think so, anyway. The truth is, as much as I like the Prog Rock Records folks, they don’t seem to be putting out much stuff that fits these days. I don’t know if it’s a trend in neo-prog or just the bands they pick up, but little is really progressive rock. I do my best to get their stuff in and am willing to fudge the boundaries a bit to qualify stuff as prog, but it’s tough.

One trend that I’ve been noticing is hard rock bands and metal bands that put a few progressive rock elements into their sound and call it “prog rock.” I’ve got news for you, putting a uniform on a pig doesn’t make it a general, it’s just a pig with a uniform on. Such is the case with a lot of the music on this CD. I’ve included them in the progressive rock category because of my respect for the prog rock people and because there are a few songs here that qualify, but if this is the best the genre has to offer these days progressive rock is dying fast. Don’t get me wrong, this is a listenable CD from a hard rock/metal standpoint. It’s not very prog, though.

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
Asunder Hearts
In a lot of ways this is a pretty accessible hard rock anthem that feels like it could have come out of the late 1970’s or early 1980’s. You might think of Heart at times. They intersperse enough progressive rock sounds and segments here and there (including a killer instrumental break) to keep this barely in the realm of prog rock.
Fading Images
This is a big change from the last track. The metal meets hard rock elements are still here, but the progressive rock tendency rule the day on this one. We get an intro that combines hard edged progressive rock sounds with some fusion and Joe Satriani. They drop it back to a cool mellower approach at times and then launch out into a series of changes and alterations. The central song structure is still 1980’s pop metal / hard rock, but we get enough progressive rock sections here to land it more firmly into that category.
Self Abstract
A killer keyboard sound leads this off. They run through a couple variations before a crunchy prog rock texture takes it into near metal territory. This launches them out into a series of instrumental movements. The timing on this is weird and it feels a lot like Dream Theater. They drop it way back down for a short reprieve, but then pound out into metallic fury for the vocal section. We get a cool fusion meets King Crimson section later on in this run. At around the three and a half minute mark this drops back to something akin to Nektar and then they move it into a moody sort of sound that feels a bit like modern Marillion or Porcupine Tree. This gives way to a killer prog rock instrumental section.
Into the Halls of Eternity
This seems to come right out of the last number. At first it’s a prog ballad with a lot of beauty and emotion. They fire out into more crunchy, power house progressive rock from there with echoes of Satriani and hints of metal in the mix.  They move back later to the ballad section and then power out into another bit of progressive rock power.
Flight With the Mind
Again, this track feels like it emerges straight out of the piece that preceded it. This one, though, has very little progressive rock in the midst and is really a technical metal number with some cool shifts and changes. Hard as heck, this will send the prog purists running for the bomb shelters in a hurry. We get a cool keyboard solo section on this instrumental piece. It’s intriguing, but feels like a quick add on in a “oh, yeah, we’re a prog band, we’re not metal,” way.  A keyboard outro feels the same way.

The Awakening
This dramatic and theatrical cut is probably the most pure progressive rock music on the CD. It moves through a number of variations in terms of volume and intensity as well as working through several thematic changes. It’s a powerful piece and a good change of pace.
Move On
And the progressive rock is out the window again. This is a 1950’s rock and roll tinged hair metal song – plain and simple. It’s a throw away number in terms of prog rock. I suppose if I was listening to a disc by some hair metal band I’d probably have my fist in the air and sing along – but I’m not. Just save yourself the aggravation and hit “skip.”
Planets
Another instrumental, this one has more of a prog rock approach and would probably qualify and neo-prog. It’s a cool tune.
Not Too Late
Here we have another pop rock song glitzed up with some progressive rock embellishments. It’s OK, but nothing special.

Reach For the Light
This one could fit into the progressive rock category quite easily. It’s a powerhouse jam that’s got some Rush and plenty of Dream Theater in the mix, but also hints of Joe Satriani and metal. They put in some balladic pop rock later, but that really qualifies as prog a lot of the times anyway. We get some thrash metal here, too, though – and it’s pretty pure metal. We do get some killer instrumental work at varying points here as this is a thrill ride.
It Needs A Happy End
If Whitesnake or Foreigner (4 era) did a song that had some progressive rock laced over the top it would probably sound a lot like this. It’s a good tune, but I wouldn’t call it progressive rock.
 
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