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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Hauteville

Relief Data Incomplete

Review by Gary Hill

This French band have released an intriguing album. The female vocals here are strong, and that is always a nice touch. Although, I have to say that as more and more bands turn to female vocals it might wind up becoming the rule rather than the exception. If that happens we’ll probably be thinking of male vocals as a refreshing change. This outfit is a progressive rock act, but they tend toward neo-prog. That said, there is also plenty of reason to consider them more of an AOR act. They even occasionally move into nu-metal territory. Frankly, the disc shows a lot of potential. It’s not a perfect album, but every song is entertaining in its own way. I’d like to see them take more chances and perhaps leave a few things a little less polished. This won’t be winning prizes for album of the year, but it is definitely one you should enjoy.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2006 Volume 5 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Monster (The Race)
This starts tentatively, but eventually rises up with a triumphant guitar based progressive rock sound that calls to mind Dream Theater and other less metallic neo-prog bands. As the vocals kick in this turns to something that feels a bit like Lana Lane. They move through a number of hard rocking progressive changes and segments within this musical theme. The vocals are quite intriguing here. They are very melodic yet kick it out pretty solidly. Later in the track it explodes out into a killer keyboard based instrumental journey. The closing section of the piece includes a tasty guitar solo.
From Adam To Atom
A complete change of pace, this one stomps in feeling like nu-metal in its approach. It drops down to a sparse arrangement for the verse. When the pre-chorus takes it, they pull it down even further to just an electronic sounding percussion segment and the voice. They do kick it back up after that to the nu-metal type sounds. This one would fit more into the AOR range than it does prog, but still it’s a solid song. One interesting segment occurs later when it drops down to what could best be described as “music box” sounds to accompany the vocals. They eventually pull this into a spacey, mysterious, keyboard dominated segue before pulling it back out into the crunchy song proper. They also work in an exceptionally tasty extended guitar solo that prog purists will probably think is “too metal.” I personally think it’s “just right.” 
Perfectablism
This one starts off with just keys and vocals and remains in this mode for a time. Eventually it bursts out into a killer prog jam that has a lot of drama and some interesting rhythmic pacing. The pattern of keyboard dominated music interspersed with these progressive rock journeys take it, but they move out into an expansive jam later as an instrumental break. These musical themes are the main flux of the rest of the track. It’s definitely one of the better pieces of music on the CD and includes another tasteful guitar solo segment.
Immaculate Eyes
“Immaculate Eyes” starts with even mellower modes as a keyboard-based ballad. This one grows ever so slowly and gradually. It powers out with an epic ballad style about a minute and a half or so in. They move through like that for a time, then drop it back. I’m not crazy about this track. It seems a bit lightweight and even the vocal performance isn’t up to the rest of the album. This is pretty, but just not that great.
Like Anybody Hellse
This one comes in bouncy almost with a Quarterflash sort of approach. As it moves into the song proper I hear something that is like a Duran Duran approach at jazz with female vocals. While this one is not one of the strongest cuts on the disc, it’s also easier to latch onto than the one that preceded it. The chorus is quite strong, which does add to this composition’s charm.
The Perfect Lens
Here they burst out with a prog meets hair metal texture that is surprisingly effective. They drop it way back for the verse, but then it gradually grows upward from there. This is another of the disc’s winners. It moves through several changes and is captivating. It contains some of the best instrumental and vocal interplay of the whole disc. At just under seven minutes it’s also the longest piece of music on show here.
Relief Data Incomplete
A metallic pattern starts this one off rather tentatively. The first vocals come across this odd progression. It runs through like this for a time before moving into something more melodic. This is still a bit odd in its stripped down arrangement. They move this into a stripped down techno at times and also out into hard rocking progressive rock with metal influences. There are also some symphonic segments – a nice touch.
Jaywalker
What a change this is. It comes in with a texture that feels a lot like Madonna’s Ray of Light era. They pound it out into a harder edged segment later, but drop it back down to this mode to continue. While that might not sound like it would work, I really enjoy this track. This is a case of the whole being more than the sum of the parts. They also pull out some interesting stops on the harder edged jam later, turning it into very expansive progressive rock. There is some tasty guitar work on show here, too. There is also some funky bass work. The soaring segment late in the song calls to mind Yes a bit. I’d have to say that this is actually one of my favorites.
Reflection
Madonna is back to lead this one off in a tentative and pretty manner. They build it up ever slowly until they eventually launch out into a more full arrangement for a while. They do drop it back down. Alternating between these segments, this one is rather weak, but a soaring instrumental section saves it from total mediocrity. This crescendos to seemingly pull it into the closing piece.
There Be Dragons
Feeling like an extension of the tune that preceded it, this prog rock instrumental is tasty. It makes for a very satisfying conclusion to a strong album.
 
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