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Existence

Origins

Review by Gary Hill

Although I've reviewed these guys in the past, I'm not well versed in the band history. Apparently the concept and parts of the music here date back to the origins of the act. This double CD set is sort of the fruition of the earliest ambitions of the band. There is a great mix of sounds here, but I suppose the overall best description would be folk prog. There are both male and female vocals on this set. The male ones are the more prominent ones, but I prefer the female voice. All in all, this is quite an effective set that should please fans of classic prog.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2017  Volume 6 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Act I
             
Fragile Whisperings of Innocence
            
Existence (The Theme, Pt. II)

There is pretty acoustic guitar at the start of this. Then the sound of a phone ringing interrupts it. That's followed by an answering machine message (well, both the outgoing and incoming messages). The music returns after that, guiding this as a pretty musical journey. This gets quite involved in terms of other instrumentation and general potency.

Prisoner of Time
This comes in as a psychedelia meets prog rocker. In a lot of ways this is a progressive rock power ballad. It has some definite folk and world music elements built into it. Then around the half way mark this shifts to a hard rocking jam with some seriously crunchy guitar sounds. It pounds forward in style from there. I really love some of the guitar soloing later on this piece.
Rebirth
A dramatic and powerful build up opens this and moves it forward. It's a bit like rock music turned into classical. There is metallic, hard rocking edge alongside symphonic elements. It drops to a piano dominated arrangement from there. A folk prog styled progression builds it upward from there. Around the six minute mark it explodes out into  a powerhouse jam that takes this instrumental to a close.
Living for You
An evocative progressive rock number, this has a lot of folk prog built into it. Around the minute and a half mark it gets more hard rocking. This works through a number of moods and modes as it continues. It's quite a powerful and dynamic piece of music.
Autumn Brain
Over nine minutes in length, this lands in near epic range. It starts with a mellower piano driven motif. It builds outward to more of a folk prog styled sound for the first vocals. The gradual evolution continues from there. Around the four minute mark it peaks and essentially ends. Then a new dramatic musical concept enters with a lot harder rocking territory. The next vocal segment comes in over that backdrop. By around the seven minute mark it has dropped way down to a powerful balladic structure. Female vocals that are quite effective and evocative join. From there it powers out to a killer instrumental jam that eventually takes the piece to its close.
Falling Rain
Coming in dramatic and powerful, this is more or less folk prog. It's a particularly strong instrumental track that really works well.
Last Dance with Happiness
This folk prog piece features the vocal presence of Valery Kim Gosselin. She really adds a lot to the sound of this band. This is one of the stronger cuts here. It's so powerful. It works through several different movements throughout the course of the track. It's a great to end the first CD.
ACT II

                    

Silent Screams in Violence
                
The Pawn

The sounds of war start this. As the music enters it is with a driving kind of prog rock insistence. It develops into more of an AOR melodic prog piece. There are some parts of this that make me think quite a bit of early King Crimson. It's a real dynamic powerhouse.

Aftermath

This instrumental is a dynamic and quite potent folk rock styled pieces. There are parts of this that make me think of Jethro Tull just a bit, but this is far more symphonic prog than that band usually was. This is just another smoking hot cut on a set that has a lot of them.

Welcome to This World
Almost ten and a half minutes of music, this is an epic both in scope and size. It has a bit of a melancholy texture to a lot of it. It's more or less a powered up folk prog, but there are hints of jazzy things in the mix, too. I love that jam that comes out of a reinvention around the four minute mark. It has some particularly evocative guitar work. This instrumental section really manages to intensify and climb upward into stellar territory. As it approaches they eight minute mark it shifts a bit toward fusion. Then arrangement loses some layers leading into a short violin solo. We're taken back out into the earlier vocal based section from there, bringing the piece back around full-circle.
The Last Battle
At close to eighteen minutes in length, this is the real epic of the disc. Piano opens in it in gentle, almost playful, ways. It grows gradually upward from there. While nothing changes very fast in the first part of this extended introduction, it has clearly evolved by the time it hits a guitar solo section. From there they shift into a faster paced jam that's incredibly cool. It has some jazz, some classical and a lot of the folk prog that these guys seem to be so adept at creating. Around the four minute and twenty second mark that section hits its peak and they drop it way down. Piano leads it forward. They build that back up for a couple minutes and then stop again, giving way to another piano driven section. Again they work that outward into more of a full arrangement and powerful sound from there. We get some killer guitar work over the top. After the nine minute mark there is some great violin soloing. A section where the guitar and violin do a call and response kind of pattern follows that. There are some things here that make me think of Pink Floyd a bit. After a cool jam building jam, this shifts around the 13 minute mark to more of a song-based structure for the first vocals. This cut earns a parental advisory in that section. This continues to build with an evocative folk music meets prog styled sound. It resolves to a mellower motif for the closing section. That part features some great non-lyrical female vocals with piano as the dominating instrument. Those vocals alone end the piece.
Seasons (The Theme, Pt. III)
The sounds of the beach (waves and children playing) serve as the backdrop for acoustic guitar intricacies. This cut doesn't go far, instead serving as an introduction to the next one.
This One's for You
A folky acoustic guitar melody opens this cut, and it grows outward from there. Folk prog and jazz are mixed on this cut. The cool violin work really adds a lot to it. They power it out into more of a full prog rock arrangement near the end to take the disc to its close.
 
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