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TouchStone

The City Sleeps

Review by Gary Hill

With various sections feeling a bit like different acts, this is music that sits pretty well along the fence between progressive rock and heavy metal. Like a lot of modern epic metal, this includes both male and female singing. It’s got some great music and should please fans of modern progressive rock and prog metal. It might land too far on the metal edge for the old school prog purists, though.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2012  Volume 1 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Corridors

There’s a killer hard edged progressive rock sound with symphonic elements in play here. A procession of changes lead to a more metallic verse section. Still, there are enough bits of progressive rock in the mix to keep it from landing into heavy metal territory. There are more changes and alterations and a cool melodic section laden with keyboards stands out for this reviewer. A tasty keyboard section closes the song.

When Shadows Fall
A keyboard buildup opens this tune. It works through with basically just keyboards for the first two minutes. Then a short stop gives way to a section that alternates an intricate keyboard bit with metallic guitar riff. From there it turns out to a hard rocking metallic prog jam that’s quite interesting. The first vocal section is almost heavy metal, but there are enough overlayers to land it into progressive rock. They take it to some more melodic and keyboard dominated sections from there. The first of those have the same female vocals we’ve heard to this point, but then a verse has male vocals. A melodic guitar solo soars over the top after that section. The female vocals return after that, but there’s an alternation between the two formats. There are a lot of interesting musical elements at play, too – mostly the keyboards that soar over the top.
These Walls
A metallic jam brings this into play. From there it launches into another jam that’s part prog and part metal. The song structure is more straightforward than the previous numbers, but it’s still got plenty of progressive rock in place. There’s actually a section that sounds to me like a more metallic version of Starcastle.
Throw Them To The Sky
The sound that opens this is thoroughly rooted in old school progressive rock. It has more metallic elements later and alternates nicely between those two elements, landing in the vicinity of AOR progressive rock. They drop it to a mellower movement later that has male vocals as a contrast to the female ones that dominate most of the disc. This is another modern progressive rock powerhouse that nods to both metal and classic prog.
Sleeping Giants
A sedate and intricate movement with male vocals opens this. In some ways it feels a bit like Asia. It builds, but remains balladic and female vocals serve as the counter-point as this continues. After the minute and a half mark, it powers out, threatening at first to become metallic. As the keyboards soar overhead the comparisons to Asia are again valid.
Good Boy Psycho
A fiery and frantic metallic progression opens this, but it quickly drops to mellower modern progressive rock for the first verse. It’s definitely another piece that does a great job of balancing metallic textures with progressive rock. There is a section with male vocals later. Then it drops to an acoustic guitar based segment that’s pretty and potent. That builds out to more powerful progressive before a scorching hot guitar solo threatens to take it into symphonic metal territory. They still manage to hold it to the progressive rock fire amidst that intense soloing.
Horizons
A melodic progressive rock sound opens this, but it shifts towards the more metallic element. There are both male and female vocals here, and this is another that calls to mind Asia a bit. It does turn in the direction of metal later in an instrumental section, but it’s actually more like Dream Theater there. Some sections of the cut also sound just a little like Yes.
Half Moon Meadow
Pretty and intricate acoustic guitar opens this and they build out from there. This doesn’t really rise to the level of metal, but rather feels a bit like old school Genesis. Both male and female vocals are featured and this is a powerful and beautiful piece of music. The prog sounds that take it towards harder rocking elements again echo Yes a bit. Even when it turns out towards metallic territory those Yes links still show up. The smoking hot guitar solo is perhaps more straight hard rock than it is either metal or progressive rock.
The City Sleeps
The title track comes in with a definite progressive rock sound, albeit a crunchy one. The instrumental section that opens this is fairly long. They take it out to a creative and powerful progressive rock jam from there. This has one of the most dynamic and powerful arrangements of the whole set. Of course, at over eleven and a half minutes in length, it’s also the longest piece on show. The first half of the song moves from section to section, but sticks pretty close to the metal meets prog sound that dominates the disc. It has a dramatic drop down to spoken female vocals in the midst of it, too. That section somehow reminds me both of Nektar and Captain Beyond. As it grows out from there it’s in a beautiful and powerfully melodic progressive rock sound that feels a little like Renaissance. More crunch enters later on as it works back to some earlier musical themes. There’s a soaring metallic guitar solo that serves to close this.
Corridors Epiphany
Delicate keyboards open this and carry it unaccompanied for a time. Other instrumentation joins after a bit and this is a section that calls to mind Nektar quite a bit. After the one minute mark it powers towards more metallic territory as the general musical themes continue. The track is less than two minutes in length.
 
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