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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Mars Hollow

Live

Review by Gary Hill

I can see why these guys are getting so much attention these days, they are without question one of the most compelling modern progressive rock bands. They deserve all the accolades they are getting and more. This live album is awesome and might well make my “best of 2012” list.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2012  Volume 6 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Wait For Me

As this first powers in, it reminds me a bit of King Crimson. It shifts decidedly towards fusion as it continues. Parts of it makes me think of UK. This is full of shifts and changes and some of the drumming reminds me of both Neal Peart and Mike Portnoy. What an amazing piece of music this really is. It drops down after the three minute mark for the first vocals. Musically it again makes me think of UK there. The vocals are clearly not like John Wetton, though. Comparisons to Flower Kings wouldn’t be completely out of the realm of reality, either. There are some really amazing musical bits as this carries on from there. It’s like they channel different bands at different times, but are always true to their own sound. These guys are just plain amazing and waste no time showing it.

Midnight
There’s a lot of drama and emotion in this piece. It tends towards mellower progressive rock and is clearly less crazed and dynamic than the opener. Still, there are plenty of awesome changes and alterations and in some ways I like the bass work on this better. It’s another killer tune and another example of why this band is making so many waves in the progressive rock community. These guys are great!
World In Front of Me
Here’s another amazing prog rock jam. These guys manage to take a definite classic progressive rock sound and make it feel modern and new. In addition, at times they seem to echo the sounds of certain bands, but overall weave it all into a sound that’s all their own. I will say that there’s one section of this dynamic and complex piece of music that feels a bit like Emerson Lake and Palmer. Otherwise, though, they keep evolving and shifting as the song builds.
Eureka
The keyboard dominated opening movement of this has a lot of Rick Wakeman built into it, but also some ELP. However one sees the musical links lining up, though, this is pretty amazing stuff. It shifts and turns and is dramatic and just plain rocks. There is almost a surf music vibe to some of it. Ever transforming and growing, this is another awesome number. Some of the vocal sections are among the most accessible music here, yet they also weave plenty of killer prog into the tapestry of sound.
Weapon
There’s still plenty of vintage prog sound here, but in some ways this is the most modern thing we’ve heard. It’s got an accessible vocal line and plenty of shifts and changes with some real drama in the mix. There’s a cool retro keyboard solo later in the piece. There’s an instrumental section later in the tune that brings it back into fusion-like territory.
Voices
While in some ways this is mellower, and almost ballad-like, the vocals rock out more than those on a lot of the other songs here. It’s another smoking hot piece of progressive rock and it’s packed with plenty of shifts and changes and more of that awesome bass work.
Dawn of Creation
This starts off mellow, feeling a bit like Hawkwind in some ways in the early moments. It grows out from there into a more modern (but still well rooted in retro textures) progressive rock sound. Just before the five minute mark it shifts out to something that has definite Emerson, Lake and Palmer tones to it. They keep shifting and changing from there, though as this mini-epic (it clocks in at over thirteen and a half minutes) continues. What an awesome piece of progressive rock this is. It feels like it could have come out of the 1970s yet there is still a modern air to it. I really love the melodic guitar solo that comes in around the nine minute mark. The music as it works out from there has so much emotion and power built into it.
So Far Away
Keyboards open this. Then after, this introduction we get some acoustic guitar bringing in a balladic motif. The cut works out from there in some modern prog sounds. It does build out quite a bit, but it’s dramatic and powerful and pretty short and consistent.
 
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