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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Empty Palace

The Serpent Between the Stars

Review by Gary Hill

I reviewed this from a format I haven’t dealt with in a long time – cassette tape. It’s also available digitally, and when you get the cassette, it comes with a free digital copy. For that reason, I’m not going to include the side notations here. We’ll just assume it runs like the digital version. This is great stuff. It’s actually quite rooted in older sounds, but has a modern edge. It’s AOR prog, but definitely prog. A lot of this makes me think of acts like Queen and Sweet – especially in the vocal arrangement. It’s quite a strong album, really.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2015  Volume 3 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Intro

Weird processed sounds with some melodic vocals serve as the idea here. Those vocals are non-lyrical and this is cool stuff.

God-Shaped Hole
This comes in with the sounds from the previous cut. Then a hard edged guitar brings a new direction. This thing is almost heavy metal, but more like AOR progressive rock.
Human Trampoline
A real powerhouse, this feels so much like Uriah Heep that it’s scary. It’s another that’s more AOR prog. The organ sound is classic and the soaring vocal moments are, too. There are definitely parts of this that could pass for some old lost Uriah Heep song.
Unknown Unknown
More of a pure prog cut, this has some glam rock and psychedelia built into it, too. It’s melodic and does still lean toward the AOR side of the equation. I love the balance between mellower and more rocking stuff. This is one of my favorites of the set. There are parts of this that make me think of Sweet and others that remind me of Queen. I love the piano and vocal section later, too. The keyboards further down the road are exceptional, too.
Separation Sequence
Keyboards with synthetically processed vocals create more than the first minute here. It is definitely space rock. It powers out into more AOR prog from there. This is a cool song that shifts and turns. This is really quite a ride. It has mellower moments and more rocking ones.
Games
Psychedelic rock, pop and progressive rock all merge on this killer track. It’s complex and yet very catchy.
Between the Stars
I love the keyboard sound that starts this. The chugging guitar brings an almost doom metal vibe. The keys temper that toward progressive rock, though. It drops to an intricate prog sound for the vocals. This is one of the most purely proggy pieces here. It’s complex, but also feels accessible at times. The harder rocking jam later in the song is great. This track is trippy, spacey and very cool. In fact, it’s one of my favorites here.
I Liked the Old You Better
Space rock and psychedelia merge in the odd intro to this cut. It’s tasty, if a bit strange. It works out to some powered up sections that are more mainstream. When it drops way down for the mellower interlude section, it’s such a perfect example of mellow prog.
What Do We Tell The Family?
Although this is more of a straightahead hard rocker, there is enough prog here to keep it in the AOR progressive rock heading.
(The Pleasure...)
This does a great job of combining progressive rock, psychedelia and space rock. It’s keyboard heavy and very cool.
Compass
A mellower piece at first, this is mainstream, but definitely progressive rock. It has an accessible sound to it, but is impressive in its powerful song structure and arrangement.
(...To End All Pleasures)
This is a short piece of weirdness that is processed to sound like it’s speeding up and slowing down.
 
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