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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

RPWL

Beyond Man and Time

Review by Gary Hill

The obvious comparison when it comes to RPWL is Pink Floyd. Certainly that band has been the biggest influence on RPWL over the years. However, the new disc really finds them stretching their sound and rocking out a bit more. This is a great CD that shows the band growing musically and creatively. It’s arguably their strongest album to date. It should please their longtime fans, but might earn them some new ones, too.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2012  Volume 2 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Transformed

Coming in mellow and growing slowly, this feels psychedelic and spacey. It is mostly keyboard driven at first. Around a minute and a half there’s a musical element that sounds almost like guitar that starts to rise up, threatening to take this into more rocking territory. It drops away and leaves a rhythmic element that feels like Alan Parsons. This moves into the next piece.

We Are What We Are
A more rocking element starts this, but drops away as the cut modulates into a mellow modern progressive rock type of sound. This has a lot of Pink Floyd built into it and grows gradually. It resolves out to a more melodic section later, but that Pink Floyd reference is still quite valid. It turns to a fast paced, harder rock movement later and that increased energy remains when it works back to the main verse section. In true progressive rock style, this cut builds in a somewhat straight-line way, but different excursions pull it off that course for short jaunts. At times it works towards fusion-like territory and at other places it comes into keyboard dominated prog sounds.
Beyond Man and Time
A melodic guitar driven section opens the title track. It works out to more Pink Floyd-like territory as it continues. The cut almost feels like a cross between the Flower Kings and Pink Floyd, if one can wrap his or her head around that. While there are some twists, this is more of a straight-line than the previous piece.
Unchain the Earth
Atmospheric keyboards open this one before that melodic guitar sound rises up to bring it into play. It builds slowly in a real Pink Floyd like arrangement. While there are some other sounds and it shifts here and there, the Floyd reference is the most obvious, but it covers a couple different periods. The mellower sections feel a bit like Meddle, but the more rocking portions feel like post Roger Waters era. Yes also comes to play here and there, and the Flower Kings would be a valid comparison at times, too. There’s a tasty guitar solo late in the tune.
The Ugliest Man in the World
The riff that leads this tune off feels more like modern Rush. It’s a great change of pace and as keyboards come over the top this seems like a less crunchy Dream Theater. It drops to an acoustic guitar driven section that seems musically more like Genesis or the Flower Kings, but the vocals make one think of Pink Floyd again. There’s a more rocking movement later that really intensifies that combination of sounds. Then an instrumental segment turns it towards fusion. A retro sounding keyboard solo that comes over the top might make one think of Emerson Lake and Palmer, but there’s almost a Hawkwind sort of sound on the resolution. The Rush riff returns later and then it shifts towards mellower textures from there.
The Road of Creation
A driving rhythm section makes up the backdrop and the cut works out from there into something that’s decidedly modern progressive rock. It’s less like any other bands and more unique than a lot of the other stuff here. It’s got some definite energy and is an effective piece of music. The harder rocking section later has some Rush in the mix. This works through a number of changes and alterations and is one of the most different pieces here. It’s also got some of the most straightforward rock and roll I’ve heard from this band. There is a little mellow section that calls to mind Genesis’ Duke album. From there it works out to more atmospheric sounds to segue into the next piece.
Somewhere in Between
Pretty and haunting, this has some elements of Pink Floyd, but also elements of the mellower side of King Crimson. It’s moody and dramatic and has a couple changes in its short duration.
The Shadow
Here’s another that’s rather unusual for RPWL. It’s a hard rocking jam that’s got some real old school hard rock built into it. At times it seems rather like Hawkwind. There is a mellow movement that again calls to mind Pink Floyd, too, but this is really an interesting and cool piece of music.
The Wise in the Desert
Coming in mellow, there’s almost a psychedelic air to the early sections of this. After the first vocals, some theremin brings a real sense of weirdness that’s quite cool. The comparison to Pink Floyd is, of course, present here, with this calling to mind Meddle a bit. It actually shifts and changes quite a bit, while still retaining the same basic musical element. It rocks out more at points and then drops back to mellower. It’s a cool tune.
The Fisherman
At over sixteen minutes in length, this is the epic of the disc. It starts with a definite psychedelic texture and works upwards from there. Sitar and other sounds keep it sounding “groovy” and spacey. It gets more power after a time, but this basic musical motif remains pretty much untouched. Then around the two and a half minute it powers out to harder rocking territory. There is a definite Eastern element and the general mode calls to mind Led Zeppelin’s “Kashmir” but with more progressive rock onboard. It keeps shifting from there as the ride is extended. Around the four minute mark it turns into something that vaguely resembles Genesis, but it gets merged with a sound more like Yes. Then it shifts to a new movement that really has a lot of that Yes element. It continues to expand and change and a lot of different sounds and styles are touched upon. Certainly a guitar solo later brings more of that Pink Floyd sound to bear. It works out to space around the eight and a half minute mark. As it gets more song oriented again it has a mysterious tone and is more like a ballad. The transition from there is gradually until it powers up around the eleven minute mark. There’s some great slide guitar that plays over the top as it continues outwards from there, feeling a bit like old Genesis, a bit like Yes and still rather Floydian. Then it fires out with a renewed energy into some killer classic sounding progressive rock. There’s a great retro textured keyboard section at the end of this section. Then it drops way down again to near silence and the mellower movement returns with psychedelic elements on board. We move back into the Eastern tinged sounds from there. It modulates outward into a harder edged section and then turns to a cool jam after that. This thing is certainly a real thrill ride.
The Noon
This is a pretty balladic number that works quite well to ground this after the epic that preceded it. There are a few changes and alterations and this is dramatic and evocative. It makes for a satisfying conclusion to the set.
 
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