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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Demians

Building An Empire

Review by Gary Hill

This the debut disc from French band Demians. It is a killer CD. I wouldn’t change anything about it, and I’d say that it will probably top many a “best of 2008” list. It’s definitely neo-prog and quite a bit of the disc moves too far towards metal for prog purists. That’s a shame because the group’s style that calls to mind such acts as Porcupine Tree, Marillion and Dream Theater at various points, is awesome. This is a great disc and if you are a fan of neo-prog you must pick it up. It’s not optional.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2008  Volume 3 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
The Perfect Symmetry
Sound effects start us off. We then get a burst of sound feeling like they are about to explode out. Instead this is cut off and we get a dark balladic structure. Sound bites come over the top of this. Then the first verse is laid on the doorstep with this backdrop. This works through this format for a while, getting more involved and potent as they carry forward. Then it bursts out into a powerhouse jam that’s both proggy and crunchy. This doesn’t hold it for long, though. Instead they drop it back down to the ballad-like styles to continue. The layered vocals here are nice. It dissolves back and then we get another sound bite over ambient sounds. Crimson-like fusion oriented jamming begins to rise up from there while the sound bite continues. More layers of sound are added and eventually this bursts out into a metallic musical journey. Over layers are included here to give it more of a prog jam. When they pull it out to the next vocal segment I’m reminded of Dream Theater quite a bit. They bring in the motifs from the more metallic segment and we get an even more prog like arrangement on it. Eventually this drops back to ambient music with some powerful melodies to take it out.
Shine
This stripped down ballad is powerful. It reminds me at times of Genesis just a bit, but as they power it up through more percussion and more powerful vocal delivery it has a metal ballad feel to it. They crunch it out later in a very metallic jam. The layers of echoing sound that are placed over the top of this riff driven jam are a nice touch. These lush layers remain when they drop it back to balladic for the next set of vocals. As they move away so does the ballad structure, leaving behind an ambient element that moves and grows. This carries us into the next track.
Sapphire
Building from the territory that ended “Shine,” other sounds are tentatively added until they move it back into acoustic guitar territory to take it forward. They work their way back out the harder rocking territory as they continue this instrumental segment. Then it drops back to mellower tones, first for more instrumental work and then for the next vocals. This eventually bursts up into a crunchy, yet powerfully prog-like segment for a killer vocal delivery. They drop it back down to more ambient textures and a return to the balladic that serves as the backdrop for the next vocals. They build up this time in melodic, faster paced prog ways for a while. Then it explodes out into the crunchier territory. This jam becomes extremely powerful and energized. It becomes extremely metallic later in the piece. Then it crescendos and we are treated to pretty ambient tones and sound effects to end.

Naive
Steve Howe-like acoustic guitar work creates the melody here. Other elements are added over the top and this holds it until they scream out into metallic fury. After this works through they drop it back to the mellower motif for the first vocals. This is powered out in short order and once again I’m reminded a bit of Dream Theater. After working through a number of variants they drop it back to the balladic section and we’re back on the road again, working through similar patterns once more. Eventually this gives way to a reprise of the instrumental acoustic guitar motifs that started this off. They take it to some sound effects that end things.
Unspoken
With ambient tones serving as the backdrop, when the vocals come across I’m reminded of Fish era Marillion quite a bit. This is built upon in a very gradual process, remaining quite subtle for a long time. As they bring is slowly upward the Marillion tones become even more complete at times. Even when they power it out to the melodic prog that is the next section there are still hints of Marillion there, although I hear other sounds as well. They drop it back again and begin the pattern again. A segment near the three and a half minute mark sounds to me to have a bit of Pink Floyd in the mix. When they eventually make their way back down to the mellower motifs it feels even more delicate and evocative. After a nearly whispered, “we’ll meet again,” a drum beat ends things, save for some street sounds that serve as the actual outro. Prog purists note, there is no metal in this track.
Temple
Ambient tones and a pretty, but seemingly dark, acoustic guitar motif start things off here. Sound bites are placed over the top. As the intro winds down the vocals enter in a balladic motif over the top of a more powered up version of this. We get another sound bite and then the group bring things up in a more inspired serving of the same modes. They shift things out into a different melodic prog excursion. This one has some slight bits of dissonance amidst the soundscape. Eventually it drops away and we get a weird sound effects meet percussion segment. This segues us into the next track.
Empire
The first vocals come in over the top of the rhythmic structure that ended the last number and they gradually bring it up from there with this rhythmic structure leading things and a ballad structure built in the midst of it. It builds into a wonderful emotional delivery as they carry on. They don’t completely reconstruct anything from here, but rather keep building on what they’ve got turning it into a powerhouse. Eventually this ends leaving just the sound effects rhythm to close the piece out. It’s another that never makes its way into crunch land.
Sand
The start this one off in a powerful ballad-like format. It works through in that manner for a time, but then screams out in metallic fury for the chorus. They work it back down to the moody neo-prog ballad stylings as they carry on. They carry this general pattern for much of the rest of the track with the newer iterations having much more structure and power. This works out into a powerhouse prog jam with some definite Porcupine Tree leanings as they carry it onward. They also turn in a more metallic section later. This track has a lot of changes and alterations in form and is one of the highlights of the disc.
 
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