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The Aurora Project

Shadow Border

Review by Gary Hill

People toss around the modern progressive rock banner a lot. For my money this band, more than any other deserves that title. Shadow Border combines a modern hard rocking sensibility with classic elements similar to bands like Yes, Marillion and Pink Floyd. And they do it all with a style that is uniquely their own. This album will almost certainly be making my “best of 2009” list. Sure, it’s probably too crunchy for a lot of prog purists, but this is the 21st century – music tends to be more crunchy in general. This is a masterpiece and well worth inclusion in every prog fan’s collection.

Track by Track Review
Human Gateway
A killer hard rocking motif starts us off, but tentatively (rather understated at first). As it rises up I’m reminded of Nektar, but with a more crunchy approach. In fact, this really reminds me of the Remember the Future album in a lot of ways.  It fires out into something like modern epic metal for a time. As a crescendo ends the intro it feels like we’re about to launch into full metal. Instead they drop it way down to a balladic motif that combines the earlier sounds of the band with Pink Floyd. As they build this gradually it moves closer to metal at times, but frankly, I’d really have a hard time putting it anywhere besides prog rock. This is an emotionally powerful piece of music and an incredible way to lead off the disc in fine fashion.  The closing section here reminds me of a metallic Genesis.
Trial
They bring this in with a pretty much purely metal motif. As they move it out to the verse it takes more Dream Theater styled prog rock leanings on. When they shift this towards more purely progressive rock motifs I really hear it as early Marillion turned quite crunchy.  This is particularly evident in the mellower segment that comes in later, but they power it out to some nearly pure metal after a while. We are brought back into the Marillion like territory but taken to a more metal outro that’s a nicely off-kilter.
Photonic Reunion
Starting with keyboards, this remains fairly mellow for about a minute. Then they crunch it out for a short instrumental segment and drop it back down to a more powered up version of the earlier segment.  As they take it out to more hard rocking movements later the guitar lines (but not necessarily the sound) are so much like early Marillion it’s scary. Then they scream out from there in more pure metal. It resolves out from there into more of that Marillion element and this time it’s given a more extensive treatment. Then they take us out to more prog metal territory to close things out.
Confession
This comes in with a dark prog metal texture. The overlayers lend a lot of mysterious and dangerous elements. Eventually it drops back to mellower motifs as they carry forward. This is really not much like any other act, but rather a unique and original arrangement. They take us to more metallic sounds later – a variant on the introduction. They power this out into a killer jam for a time, but then drop it back down for the next verse. 
Another Dream
Mellower modes make this cut up and it’s definitely got musical links to both Marillion and Pink Floyd. They power it to more metallic territory later in the track, though. It’s another powerhouse that seems to combine metal and modern prog with classic progressive rock in fine style.  
Within the Realms
They start things off here with some of the most purely metal music on show. From there, though, it drops back to more Floydian mellow sounds and as they power it back out from there, we stay pretty clear of metal territory until the instrumental section that ends that portion. It drops back down to the Floydian sounds from there, but with a more active rhythm section. I love the atmospheric section with spoken monologue/lecture later. This really moves into space rock territory. 
Shadow Border
At over sixteen minutes in length, this is a true epic cut to close things off in style. The instrumental motif that starts this feels a lot like Momentary Lapse of Reason era Pink Floyd to me. They eventually build on this and shift it out to more modern neo-prog, bringing in bits of Dream Theater and Fates Warning. We are taken into more pure metal sounds for a while but then they drop it way down for the moody verse. Eventually we get a cool open jam that’s part space rock and part fusion. Then they take it out into a more powerful hard rocking direction from there. As this carries on we get some killer keyboard soloing and then it drops back down for the return of the vocals. The cut continues to expand and grow from there. They alternate between mellower and harder rocking movements. There are sections here that call to mind a metallic Yes. They really keep this thing fresh as it builds and rises and falls. It’s reinvented over and over and yet still feels very cohesive. It’s an incredible piece of music and a great way to end the disc on as high a plane as they started it.
 
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