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Ulysses

The Gift of Tears

Review by Gary Hill
I could see people considering this band metal instead of progressive rock, but I would disagree. As someone who enjoys both genres a lot and is passionate about both of them, I see clear distinctions between them and I would say that these guys fall into the progressive rock side of the equation. There are some definite links to Dream Theater – another band that evokes similar debate, but I’d say these guys have their own sound and musical identity. The music here all shares dynamic song structures, complex arrangements and incredible vocal and instrumental performances, yet each track has its own identity. This is a great album, although it seems likely to have too much metal in its midst for prog purists. For the rest of it, it’s a “must have.” Yes, it’s that good.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2009  Volume 1 at lulu.com/strangesound.
Track by Track Review
Family Portrait
A cool, but brief, neo-prog motif leads off here. They launch out from there into a metallic jam that’s quite Dream Theater-like. From there it moves out to a more dramatic and mellower section for the vocals. This is powerful and very pure prog in nature. Sure there’s some crunch to the guitar, but that’s about the only metal in that section. They bring it back to the Dream Theater sort of stylings for another instrumental break, but take it back out to a more powered up version of the verse. There’s a great anthemic vocal section later. It’s sort of a cross between epic metal and more pure neo-prog stylings. The vocal progression in many ways really steals the show on this track. Yet, we get some inspired instrumental work from all players, too. There is a metallic guitar solo, but we also get a soaring keyboard one. This is a great and quite dynamic piece and a great way to start things in style.
Guardian Angel
The first portion of this is in a dramatic ballad motif. The vocals on that section seem a bit like something from Rob Halford in the early days. They power this up into a powerful neo-prog jam that has a sense of mystery and majesty to it. There are some killer keyboard sounds on this number.
Lost
A dark piano melody emerges and serves as the balladic backdrop for the vocals. They build this up and around and create another powerful and dynamic neo-prog piece out of it. It’s another strong cut on a disc that’s full of them.
How Much More
Perhaps more blatantly crunchy than some of the other music, there’s enough quick changes and cool keyboard sounds to make the intro to this still proggy. At over twelve minutes in length this is the second longest cut on show. It’s a powerhouse neo-prog piece and a killer musical journey. It’s quite dynamic and covers a lot of musical territory while not really veering far from the music of the rest of the disc. There are definite Dream Theater leanings at many places along this epic journey. 
Silence of the Night
This is a pretty (and brief by comparison) piano based ballad. 
The Gift of Tears
Percussion leads off here and holds the track for a time. Some seriously crunchy music takes it from there and keys soar across the top. From here we are out into another great neo-prog journey. This is probably the closest to pure metal of anything on the disc, but I would not qualify it under that genre. The links to Dream Theater are apparent here, too. There are some great musical moments on this journey. There’s a mellower section in this with a percussive sort of keyboard section that reminds me a bit of 90125 era Yes. 
Anat
At almost fifteen minutes in length this is the longest and most impressive cut on show here. A moody atmospheric tone serves as the backdrop for the first set of vocal. Then it shifts to an acoustic guitar driven ballad styling. This is the only piece on the disc that has some sections I would consider metal, but there are also some moments that feel a lot like A Farewell To Kings era Rush. There are also some seriously operatic vocals on this track. There is a false ending and then a Pink Floyd-like section takes it to another piano ballad motif. They work it back out to the harder rocking after a while. The closing segment on this is right up there with the most emotionally powerful music of any prog band. It’s a great way to end this thrill ride and the awesome adventure known as The Gift of Tears.
 
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