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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Time Requiem

Optical Illusion

Review by Gary Hill

Richard Andersson always produces music that straddles the line between epic metal and progressive rock. Here I'd say he crosses more into the latter category than the former, but it's a close call. While there are a few cuts that are fairly standard fare, this CD is in many ways better than a lot of the rest of the material for which he's been responsible. It should definitely appeal to fans of Dream Theater and also fans of epic metal. I'd say it's quite a strong one.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2006 Volume 4 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Sin To Sin
The sounds of a harp start this and atmospheric tones begin to grow outward from there. After this atmospheric introduction the song launches into fast paced neo-prog. It's crunchy, tasty and very dynamic as it runs through several quick variations on the central theme. Then it drops to a more standard verse segment for the vocals. This is hard rocking neo-prog with a good dosage of metal. The chorus is quite powerful and accessible and the keyboards running all over this one are a nice touch. It drops to a staccato segment later with some atmospheric elements over the top, then a new instrumental break, keyboard dominated takes it into new territory before moving back into the song proper. There are definitely moments here that call to mind Dream Theater, but I even hear a bit of Yes in the arrangement. It drops to the sedate later in the piece as a reiteration of the introductory segment. Then the cut moves out into another fast paced staccato jam. They turn it towards neo-classical areas as they carry onward. Still later they pull it out to the main song structures and some DT-like territory. It drops down to a dramatic mellow approach after this to eventually end the piece.
The Talisman
Leaping straight into frantic neo-classical jamming, this one is a power-ride from the beginning. As they move it out into the verse it's almost pure metal, but a stripped down and theatric metal. They move this one up in very dramatic ways. I particularly like the staccato machine gun sort of segment later. The instrumental segment that eventually shows up has some very tasty keyboard soloing. This turns in another smoking neo-classical instrumental break after the next verse. Then they move it out to a more anthemic ballad type style to move it beyond. This eventually fades down to end
Optical Illusion
I particularly like the slightly creepy keyboard sound that starts this, but as they move in other layers it just gets better. They move this into a very dramatic keyboard dominated jam. This shifts through several changes and the Dream Theater type references are still quite prevalent. A staccato riff segment leads to the first vocals and again it would be pretty easy to hear DT do this track. Interestingly enough on the bridge segment I also hear a heavier, crunchier old Styx. This one is accessible while still challenging in texture, that's hard to pull off. They drop back to the sedate with the sounds of a ticking clock joining the keyboards. A thunder strike triggers the smoking fast paced neo-prog jam that takes it next. The staccato textures once more lead it back to the song proper. Then it moves out into a highly dramatic epic sort of movement that gives way to a screaming guitar solo movement. Keyboards take over from there in a solo and the two are soon trading them off. It turns highly neo-classical, but then a very traditional progressive rock movement (a bit like both ELP and Yes) takes it to serve as a false ending. The tones that opened the cut take over for a short time and one quick burst of sound ends it. This one just works so well, and is one of the best songs ever from any of Andersson's projects.
The Ashen Soul
The neo-classical textures scream this one and the band are off on an excursion that straddles the fence between prog and epic metal. This is one of the most metal pieces of music on the disc and the vocal performance is awe-inspiring. The thing is, even amidst an arrangement that's this metallic they manage to pull some definite progressive rock segments and a lot of Dream Theater like textures into the mix. They even include an extended epic prog ballad type portion in here. While I would have to say that this is far from my favorite piece on show it's a long ways from weak, too.
Ocean Wings
This one is based on a pretty acoustic guitar based ballad approach. As such it makes for a nice change of pace. This one is strong and does turn more to powerhouse arrangement of its ballad-like musical themes later by ramping it up. Then they shift it out into a fast paced, epic neo-classical prog oriented crunch-fest. This one reminds me in this harder edged section rather like the more epic of Rainbow's catalog. They drop it back to the balladic approach for another verse later, but then power it back out into the furious metallic neo-prog zone for some soloing afterwards.

Creator In Time
A phantom of the opera-like organ sound leads this one off and runs along for a time, then it shifts out into a killer metallic grind from there. This has an epic and theatrical texture, but again is one of the more metal pieces on the album. This one doesn't change much and it is one of the least interesting, but still fairly strong, pieces on show here.

Miracle Man
This one kicks in with an '80's metal texture. Overall this is a fairly straightforward hard rocking number, but it also includes some complex prog rock changes and an interesting vocal arrangement. In some ways this one doesn't feel as well thought out. It's essentially just a metal stomper with some prog rock elements sit in the midst of it. While not bad, I'd have to say it's the one throwaway of the disc.

Sphere Of Fantasy
This is more like it, the cut kicks off with a frantic neo-classical jam that's dominated by keyboards. They stomp this out pretty well from there. This is not earth-shattering, but a proggy, stomping metallic romp built on epic and neo-classical modes. It has enough power and drama to serve nicely as a disc closer.

 
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