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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Wastefall

Self Exile

Review by Gary Hill

Prog purists will certainly steer clear of this one. That’s really a shame because these guys have created a very intriguing blend of sounds that marries the Lacuna Coil style of modern metal with the Dream Theater school of neo-prog. While it’s not the most obvious collaboration you might be inclined to imagine, it works quite well. This disc is powerful. The thing that I think I like best about these guys is that they understand the power of contrasts. They move between heavy and sedate frequently on the album (often in the course of a single song). This makes for a very satisfying listening adventure that will likely draw you in time and time again. While not my favorite disc, this is certainly one with a unique sound and one that I’ll be perusing on a regular basis.

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
Intro
his well named introductory piece combines dramatic vocal segments with atmospheric sounds and textures to create a potent beginning for the disc.
Willow Man
The prog purists will certainly hate this one. It has a dark and very heavy metallic texture. The thing is, the Dream Theater-like changes and some intriguing instrumental work still manage to pull into the progressive rock vein – albeit a very metallic end of that sound.
The Muzzle Affection
This one also pounds in heavy and metallic. The thing is the arrangement on this one is full of odd changes, weird timings and the like, pulling it fairly firmly into the progressive rock vein. The interplay between the keyboard line and the musical themes that create the backdrop (particularly in the mellower, sparser verse) is a bit unusual and quite intriguing. There is also a great melodic segment where female vocals trade lines with male to great effect. This piece of music has a bit of a learning curve, but is simply awesome. Dream Theater again comes to mind here, but so does Lacuna Coil. Even King Crimson is referenced in the dissonant instrumental break.
Dance of Descent
A Celtic sounding segment with acoustic, world instruments makes up the introduction here. It’s all held together with a fairly frantic percussive section. The vocals eventually enter over the top of this unusual backdrop. They move this dynamic and unique track through a number of changes, but it doesn’t climb to the same metallic levels as the ones that preceded it. This is rather jazzy at times. It’s a song that needs to be heard to be appreciated. There is an exceptionally dramatic segment based on fast whirling dervish type sounds later. I’ve never heard anything quite like this, but I like it a lot.
Another Empty Haven
The metallic textures are back here with an introduction that sounds like it could have come from Dream Theater. They launch from there into a smoking hot jam that combines metallic fury with fusion experimentation. This serves to close out the introductory segment. They drop it to a rather funky bass line over which the vocals are half whispered / half sung. As they power it back out for the chorus section the Dream Theater elements are again apparent. This one is another unusual piece of music, walking the fence between metal and neo-prog quite well. The off kilter stacatto jam later is pretty incredible. The same holds true for the mellower jam that follows it.
Strife For Definition
A dramatic and powerful balladic arrangement begins this one. While it feels like it might explode out from there, instead it drops back to a sparse backdrop with vocals and keys serving to create the drama for the verse. They move this out into an even more creative version of itself later, then drop it way back for a dual vocal line between male and female voices. This is another that might take you a while to appreciate, but is simply awesome. It may be my favorite piece on show here. It does turn more metallic eventually, but that’s not until very late in the number.
Sleepwalk
Sedate and mysterious (and a bit melancholy) keyboard textures start this. As the vocals enter over this backdrop (with a few other elements added to the mix) it feels a lot like Hogarth era Marillion. As they move it forward an operatic female vocal soars over the background quite a ways back in the mix, adding drama to the cut. This is definitely another candidate for standout piece on the CD. It is very pretty and powerful. The segment where it drops back to just piano-sounding keys and vocals (with the sounds of a woman crying in the background) is incredibly potent. This one is definitely a winner. It never moves into the realm of metal, instead remaining in the keyboard driven style.
E.Y.E.
Feeling even heavier with the contrast to the track that preceded it, this pounds out with some of the crunchiest sounds of the disc. This is a Dream Theater like jam that moves through quite a few iterations and variants. And that’s just the introduction. They drop it back to a unusual segment (both in terms of the melodic instrumentation and the rhythmic structure) for the verses. As this moves forward there is a dramatic section where piano solos during a vocal movement. They create tons of drama here with layers of keys and vocals weaving a tapestry of sound over the heavy metallic backdrop. This is another powerful one. The instrumental segment is awe-inspiring, too. While this one is among the most metallic pieces on the disc it is also one of the more prog oriented. You have to love contrasts – well, at least I do.
Utopia Fragmented
This one pounds in with Dream Theater like musical frenzy and fury. They prove once again that they are not content to stay in place, though. They drop this into moody progressive rock territory. Balladish hard rock elements compete with jazz stylings and metallic power for control of the piece. While one mode might win out for a time, none is ever absent for long. Truly some of the most memorable moments are those where they manage to coexist.
4 Minutes To Abandon
As if the band realize that we need a break after the fury of the previous cut, they bring this in with an almost Spanish sounding acoustic guitar ballad approach. They stick with this general structure, simply augmenting it as they carry forward. This a very beautiful, if melancholy, number and show just how diverse this outfit really is.
Provoke The Divine
After such a sedate piece I figured that these guys were going to just pound in on this one. Well, they don’t exactly. Instead with get a piece that’s only somewhat crunchy, instead falling closer to the territory of a heavy Kansas for the introduction. Classical instrumentation is interwoven through this segment with the rest of the band’s music. It drops to an incredibly potent ballad section that reminds me of a more modernized take on the ballad-type music from King Crimson’s debut disc. This grows and changes, but is oh so tasty. They bring in more crunch as the song carries onward, but more as a way of emphasizing the sounds that they’ve established to this point than to really bludgeon the listener. While there have been a couple other very strong contenders here, this one wins out in my head as the strongest piece of music on show here. What a way to end the CD. I can’t imagine a more satisfying conclusion. This one is simply awesome! It certainly does a great job of uniting the seemingly diverse elements of Wastefall’s sound, too. There is classical, jazz, metal and just plain killer prog rock all woven into one seamless piece of music.
 
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