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Sleepwalker Sun

Stranger in the Mirror

Review by Gary Hill

This is such a cool album. It’s one of those discs where the music is really hard to pin down or describe. That’s because it’s constantly changing and evolving. Different bands seem viable reference points at different places. The truth is, some people call this band “metal,” but really they are progressive rock with some metal influence. Whatever you call it, though, it’s exciting and powerful hard prog with female vocals. You just don’t get a lot better than the mix of sounds on this set.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2011  Volume 6 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Stranger In The Mirror

They start the disc with a twenty-plus-minute epic. It starts with an acoustic guitar based balladic movement that builds rather gradually. In some ways this, with the female vocals, feels a bit like something from Blackmore’s Night. From there, though, it fires out into a killer hard edged and fast paced progressive rock jam. About a minute later we’re taken into a keyboard heavy jam that calls to mind Dream Theater. There’s some tasty soloing as this instrumental movement continues. A minute or so later some crunch guitar takes control in the form of a solo. This jam continues by working through the basic musical structure from there. Around the four minute mark, though, it drops to just piano and vocals for the next balladic motif and they build slowly upwards from there. And, then, around the five minute mark it powers out to a killer melodic but really rocking prog jam that’s got some tasty slow guitar soloing on board. A minute or so later we’re taken into a new fast paced section that feels like a more metallic Kansas. The next instrumental section moves towards fusion, but it gives way to a reprise of the Kansas-related movement. Then around the nine-minute mark it resolves downward to a slower moving, mellower section that’s got a lot of The Doors in the mix along with other stylings more in keeping with the rest of the piece. Again, it builds out gradually from there. That works through then gives way to another drop down to mellower music for the next balladic movement. This one seems to grow much more slowly. There are some great multi-layered vocals in this movement. Then around the fifteen-minute mark it powers out again in a smoking hot jam. Eventually we are taken to an oddly timed jam from there. It feels staccato and very Dream Theater-like. A cool keyboard driven segment serves as the resolution later. That section is worked out to the next vocal movement. Then a killer melodic guitar solo weaves its way over the top. That segment ultimately takes it out.

Revealing Web
While the riff that brings this one is decidedly heavy and metallic, it has enough progressive elements laced over the top to keep it from becoming fully metal. Eventually it works towards a keyboard only section with classical leanings. That movement doesn’t stay around long, though. It’s replaced by a cool melodic prog section for the first vocals of the cut. They take it towards more metallic territory from there as the jamming continues with the vocals still driving. It alternates between those two modes as it continues. Of course, this is progressive rock, so it’s not just a switch between two modes song. They take us through a lot of intriguing adventures on this and there’s a killer harder rocking jam later that’s got a lot of Dream Theater and fusion built into it.
Play Of Light
Here’s a more purely progressive rock (as in very little metal within) cut. It’s melodic and powerful and despite being relatively short it features a lot of shifts and changes. A lot of the track feels like fusion, but it’s not stuck to that genre either. It’s an intriguing number that’s very dynamic.
The Waste Land
There are male vocals in the dramatic and theatric early portions of the tune. It works out to female vocals later. This is a very off-kilter and rather dramatized sounding tune. It’s theatrical and artistic. It’s incredibly dynamic and there’s a killer jam that has a real RIO kind of sound although it seems based on a Black Sabbath-riff. There’s a lot of this that makes me think of a harder edged Gentle Giant or Pentwater.
An Obvious Guest
Mellow and melodic sounds bring this one in, and as it builds out from there we get bits of backwards tracked sounds. Around the one minute mark there’s a melodic hard-edged guitar section that drives it, feeling a bit like a heavier Pink Floyd. It gets heavier later, after a vocal section. There’s a keyboard dominated instrumental break later that’s quite intriguing and tasty. Still, the cut definitely has a catchy sort of hook to it in a lot of points along the ride. It’s another tune that’s quite dynamic and there are some exceptionally tasty moments of guitar soloing to be heard in places.
A Lonely Land (Without A Trace)
At over twelve-minutes in length, this is the second longest number on the disc. It manages to combine the usual suspects of this set into jam that’s quite melodic and quite powerful. It does turn heavier at times, but never really moves very far into territory that would be considered metal. Yes, there’s a heavy jam later, but it’s really closer to something from King Crimson than it is to Metallica. Like everything here, if you don’t like where this is, just wait. It will change.
Into The Twilight
The final cut of the disc is the most consistent (at least in terms of the least number of changes). It’s mellow and beautiful and essentially a lushly arranged ballad. It makes for a satisfying conclusion, sort of a gentle landing from a crazy ride.
 
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