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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

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Second Sound

Review by Gary Hill

I’ve reviewed the first album from these guys. I reviewed their DVD, too. I have even done an interview that’s running in this current issue. It sure seems like this group came out of nowhere, though. A big part of that is because they are so incredibly talented. If you like modern progressive rock that’s based on classic prog, you really have to check this band out. They are amazing. I am pretty sure this disc will be in my list of best releases of 2014. Yes, it really is that good.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2014  Volume 3 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
An Answer Dreaming

I love the opening movement here. It’s got a fast paced extended riffing to it. It’s definitely set in classic prog, feeling a bit like some weird cross between Yes, Genesis, King Crimson and Kansas. They pull it out into a more Kansas-like jam from there. The piece just keeps getting reinvented from there. For my money, though, once the vocals enter it’s probably more like Yes than it is like any other band. Still, they take it through quite a few changes. At times it’s faster paced. At other points it’s slower and mellower. This is modern progressive rock at its best. It’s a great way to start things.

In Disbelief
There is a bit of percussion to open this. Then the piece works forward in another killer riff driven progressive rock jam. I would say that there might be a bit of Rush in this. There is even some straightahead rock and roll. The whole thing just rocks like crazy, though. It’s also very much pure progressive rock and it’s great, too. It’s a purely instrumental track and shorter than a lot of the other stuff.
Dandelion
There is a lot of fusion built into the beginning of this thing. The overall mode, though is killer progressive rock. I’m reminded of Flower Kings, Yes and more. The vocal line is pretty rocking. The whole song is quite dramatic and powerful. There are some inspiring changes. It includes some of the best guitar soloing of the whole album, too.
Liberated Dream
A bit odd, this is very much modern progressive rock at first. It’s still informed by classic prog, though. They take this thing through so many changes. Of course, change is really the one constant here. Well, that and quality. This is another fast paced progressive rock piece. It’s also another awesome piece of music. For my money, this has some of the best bass playing of the whole disc. It’s also got some of the most unusual stuff here.
Long Walk Down
Keyboards start this in gentle ways. The first vocals come over the top of that backdrop. As the piece grows out, though, the whole thing is a melodic, nicely flowing number. It’s quite a powerful and pretty composition. While this, in some ways, feels more staid than some of the other stuff here, it’s still quite dynamic. It’s just that the changes feel more organic somehow. There are really some of the most beautiful passages of the whole disc included here.
Surrounds Me
The keyboards lead the opening section. That motif feels very much like modern progressive rock. The piece works out quickly to a more full arrangement for the vocals. It’s definitely classic progressive rock with modern touches. The extensive instrumental section later has some of the most amazing musical passages of the whole set. This thing really has a lot of variety and change built into its structure. As good as everything is here, it’s hard to pick a highlight, but this would be a contender for sure. It drops way down to a mellow section later in the piece and then fires back out into the song proper from there.
Another Day
An intricate acoustic guitar section opens this. The first vocals come in over the top of that with a real folk prog feeling. As this grows out, though, it probably reminds me more of Spock’s Beard than it does anything else. It works through all kinds of shifts and changes and has some incredibly music built into it. The thing is, the multi-part vocal harmony manages to avoid getting overshadowed throughout. That says a lot, really.
Second Sound
They saved the best for last. The title track is a nearly 19 minute epic that’s a real thrill ride. The opening section makes me think of Genesis. As the violin enters, though, it shifts in a different direction. From there the piece just keeps growing. It reminds me a lot of Spock’s Beard as it works forward. There is a big shift to a mellow section after the ten minute mark and then a new melodic movement takes over for a while. It works to more rocking music from there, though, feeling a bit like Yes. Around the thirteen minute mark it drops to a keyboard based section and begins rising up from there. When it powers back out later into a fast paced progressive jam I’m at first taken by the violin work. The keyboards, though, take the spotlight from there. At times this feels quite a bit like Emerson, Lake and Palmer. At the eighteen minute mark or so, they drop it an acoustic guitar based movement to take the piece out with a real folk prog sound. I have intentionally not described every section of this in great detail. There really is a reason for that. This is such a thrilling ride that it is just the kind of thing that’s best experienced rather than talked about. Do yourself a favor. If you’ve never heard anything from this group – at least try this song. If you don’t like it, then these guys aren’t for you. I’m willing to bet, though, that if you are a progressive rock fan, you’ll be blown away. This is amazing stuff.
 
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