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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Dream the Electric Sleep

Heretics

Review by Gary Hill

Already a contender for best album of 2014, this is a series of mini-suites with the first two songs grouped together and then the next and so on, until the last three that make the longest suite of the bunch. It does a great job of combining the sound of modern prog acts like Porcupine Tree with classic prog like Yes, King Crimson, Pink Floyd and even Pentwater. Yet, they don’t stop there as some of this makes me think of groups as wide ranging as Sleep, The Police, U2 and Black Sabbath. Wherever you hear the influences lie, though, do yourself a favor and check this out. It’s an inspiring work.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2014  Volume 1 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Heretics

The powerhouse jam that brings this in makes me think of a lot of classic prog bands, but the most obvious reference is probably Red era King Crimson. Still, at different points hints of things like Yes and Rush can be heard. The soaring, melodic guitar soloing seems rather metallic at times. After trudging through in that style for the first couple minutes it drops way down and some distorted, distant vocals come across the top. This feels more like some of the more modern alternative rock tied prog. They work it out from there in something that seems to combine Sleep and Radiohead. There are some dreamy, almost symphonic elements at play as this continues. It powers out to a killer soaring jam later, too. That section crescendos leaving behind some distortion to link this into the next piece.

Elizabeth
Coming out of the previous number, this is mellower and more purely melodic. The bass playing makes me think of early Pink Floyd. Dream pop, harder edged modern progressive rock and more merge as this piece continues. It’s quite an effective number that includes several varying movements and moods. The drop to mellower sounds is a nice touch that leans it toward something like Porcupine Tree. The resolution outward from there, though, even seems to earn some nods to Yes. The harder rocking section that follows that definitely makes me think of Pink Floyd quite a bit. It eventually works out to something closer to dream pop and then drops to symphonic atmosphere to end.
Utopic
Picked guitar opens this is pretty and dramatic ways. They start to rock out from there, but still remain melodic. At times I’m reminded of Radiohead, but when the vocals come in that seems merged with Yes and the Police, if you can wrap your head around that. The piece continues to evolve, but is very much a modern progressive rock jam with plenty of nods to classic prog. This is really quite a powerful number. The energized jam later is quite a cool one. They turn that into a very hard edged sound as they continue working forward. The guitar solo section really screams and helps to expand the drive forward. Again I’m reminded of Rush just a bit here. That section eventually fades out to end the piece.
To Love is to Leave
Acoustic guitar brings this number into being. The vocals come over the top and the piece has a real alternative rock, modern pop sound to it. They eventually expand this out and intensify it. Pink Floyd is at times a valid reference point. As it drops back down I’m really reminded of Porcupine Tree, though. By around the three and a half minute mark it’s powered back up and a rather Gilmour-like guitar solo steers it in Floydian directions. Eventually, though, this gives way to a really hard rocking, riff driven segment. After that grind it dissolves out to noisy space to continue. That takes it right up to the next number.
The Name You Fear
This powers in with a melodic, hard rocking progressive rock jam that’s quite modern and has some hard edges. Some cool melody emerges as if to herald the vocals. Eventually this works out to a mainstream rocking sound that still has plenty of prog in the mix. I love the vocal arrangement on this. It’s actually one of the most effective pieces on the album. Given the rest of the material, that says a lot. As with pretty much everything here, it keeps evolving and moves through quite a bit of territory. The extended instrumental jam later includes some of the most powerful music of the whole album, too.
It Must Taste Good
Some found sound opens this and then the music builds out from there. The main riff that we here has a classic prog sound. I can make out some U2 in the mix of this along with some classic rock from the 1960s or 1970s. The arrangement is quite rhythmic. Still, the musical elements in the mix along with the vocals and overall shifts and changes keep it rooted in progressive rock. The changes continue and there are moments later that make me think of Yes, but just for moments. Ultimately, this is quite a diverse ride, really.
I Know What You Are
Intricate acoustic guitar starts us off here. A more powered jam emerges, but they drop it back to a very mellow movement that feels a bit like Pentwater to me. It’s quirky, but very cool. It develops gradually before powering out to a harder rocking, but still slow and measured jam after the four minute mark.
Fist to Face
Noisy, but still mellow sounds open this. Then it powers out into a straight ahead rock jam from there. The vocals come in over the top that. This is really one of the most straight line tunes on show here. Still, it’s got prog built into it. It’s also quite effective. It drops to intricate acoustic guitar to end.
Lost Our Faith
This feels very much like a folk rock based tune early. That’s as vocals are layered over acoustic guitar music. It powers out to more rocking territory beyond that point, but mostly in terms of more layers over the top. This is a fairly short number that runs straight into the next piece.
How Long We Wait
As this comes out of the previous tune a hard rocking guitar weaves melody. The other instruments join and we’re taken into a harder edged jam that’s both mainstream rock and rather proggy. It evolves out to mellower territory after a couple minutes. Drums really drive along in the foreground as guitar and bass weave understated melody. This is somewhat jazzy. It works out to a powered up jam for a short time. Then it drops way down to mellow intricate melodic music. Multiple layers of vocals come across. The cut builds gradually from there before exploding out into some serious prog bombast. References to Pink Floyd are somewhat appropriate as this pounds forward. At around the seven and a half minute mark it drops way down to an almost classical motif to continue. As the atmospherics continue to hold it, this eventually gives way to a mellow jam that’s got a lot of world music in it.isc.
Ashes Fall
The riff that opens this is powerful and metallic. In some ways it reminds me of Black Sabbath. It’s tempered by proggy vocals and overlayers. They work the cut out from there into more pure modern prog. Still, that heavy riff keeps coming back. After running through in a more or less straight line, this drops way down to a mellow motif around the four minute mark We get some sampled female spoken dialog over the top for a while, setting the mood. Then the main band vocals join and the piece continues in this dramatic way. Those female samples are heard again, but further back. Before the six minute mark the arrangement gets energized as this rocks out. Still, it’s quite melodic and definitely progressive rock oriented as the guitar solos over the top here. Then after the six and a half minute mark that opening riff returns. They build that out into a raucous crescendo and then feedback with more of those spoken vocals takes it from there. It’s a great way to end a great disc.
 
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