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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Echolyn

Mei

Review by Gary Hill

To this writer, Echolyn's greatest strength has always been their uncanny ability to craft music that, although quite progressive in nature, still manages to maintain a mainstream, almost pop sensibility. They have always shown the full progressive rock complexity and virtuosity, but still created hook laden, catchy music. They have certainly outdone themselves this time. They have created a single epic piece that takes up the whole CD. Many bands have attempted this type of thing before, but usually it is accomplished by stringing together shorter songs into one work. This piece truly feels more like many pieces of the same composition. It moves through a variety of moods and texture, creating an awesome soundscape. This is definitely their best work, and destined to go down in the history of progressive rock as a true classic. The disc has also achieved two other feats. First, it has made for a very difficult disc for me to describe in the track by track mode, but I will give it a good shot. Secondly, it is sure to be a hard act for Echolyn to follow next time out. Here's hoping they find some way to top it.

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Track by Track Review
Mei
Coming in with a bit of a neo-classical approach, it switches to a balladic style that feels a bit jazzy, a bit Pink Floydish and a bit like Spock's Beard, all at the same time. Next the cut drops to a dramatic interlude. Then more Floydish elements show up, building on the earlier themes. An organ section heralds a new movement of the composition, this one a bit more traditional prog, ala early Genesis. Next it switches gear to a new ballad type melody, which takes over for a time. It suddenly shifts to the first hard-edged section, a jam that feels a bit like Genesis and Yes combined. Then a more bluesy hard rocking mode takes over. The track is truly cooking by this point and the changes begin coming quite rapid fire. After a time it drops to an ambient sort of section for a while. As it comes out of that mode, it rises up with a renewed energy. The changes are back by this point, along with the more traditional progressive rock modes before it breaks down to balladic again. This balladic section, a new one, takes over for an extended period, slowly building up. It gets quite dramatic and lush from there. An all new instrumental segment with mainstream prog leanings takes the song next, triggering a great jam with killer keyboard sounds. As this makes its way trhough it gives way to a harder edged Kansasish jam. The keyboard solo that takes the piece for a time is quite strong and a bit ELPish. The next movement is a slightly off-kilter, all hard rocking and innovative one. This really works quite well. It gives way to another strong instrumental break. The next vocal section continues the themes laid down in that segment. Then a retro keyboard sound takes the track. The next change is into a new, somewhat bluesy balladic segment. It works its way back up to hard edged, then drops back down, getting a little ELPish. Next another fast paced hard rocking riff takes over, this section becomign a bit jazzy. It drops to just bass and drums for a while, then builds back up from there. Then another bluesy riff takes the cut for a while. It gets quite hard edged again. The next instrumental break has some great keyboard textures. The piece then drops back down to a jazzy segment. This eventually gives way to a rather more sedate movement, this one feeling a bit distant. It suddenly bursts into power with a progression based on the same melody. Emerson Lake and Palmer leanings come forward again on the instrumental break. Next the song drops back down to more sedate stylings before beginning another gradual process. Then a balladic mode takes the cut again. The vocal arrangement in this segment is particularly intriguing. A new, more fun melody eventually ensues, building slowly. One of the coolest instrumental breaks of the album shows up next. It is at first rather ELPish, but shifts into a more Kansas oriented vein, while still maintaining its musical themes. From there it drops down to a rather odd section, then builds back up before exploding forth again. It crescendos, then piano in balladic modes takes over. This balladic segment builds, feeling a bit country at times. It continues on with these themes and then gets more hard edged and becomes faster and more complex. After a time it becomes quite furious. Then it drops back to more sedate again. It starts working its way back up to the powerful and bombastic. When it drops back down a martial sort of drum beat takes it for a time, then it burst back up again. This prog line works very effectively, continuing to progress and evolve. An almost funky texture takes the piece for a time, then a more sedate element bursts in before the funky returns, this time a bit Floydish in texture. That is eventually interrupted again by a hard-edged segment with keys that call to mind ELP. More changes based on this segment come through, then eventually it crescendos again. A very sedate segment enters out of the silence left behind, building very slowly. It gradually becomes a fairly complex, slow moving melody that serves to end the composition and album. All in all, it makes for a wonderful ride.
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