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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Altera Enigma


Review by Gary Hill

It's beginning to seem like a pattern that death metal artists stretch out after a time into more progressive rock oriented territory. One only has to look to Green Carnation, The Gathering and others to see this pattern. In this case Jason De Ron from Paramaecium (a doom death metal outfit) and Jefray Arwadi (from black metal group Kekal) have assembled this outing. What these guys have produced here certainly contains elements of metal and even the extreme forms, but it is essentially a very fusion like prog. Even that statement is a bit limiting because they manage to move in quite a few directions throughout the length of this disc, but it will suffice. This one should appeal to fans of Dream Theater, Joe Satriani, Pink Floyd and others who fall somewhere in between.

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Track by Track Review
Enigmatic Alteration
Keys start this, then a driving guitar texture enters to move it forward. Eventually this is shifted out into a fusion like jam that has Dream Theater like tendencies. When a new variant on this returns later, to me it feels like Rushish take on the main riff from The Police's Message In A Bottle. After this segment they drop it back towards ambient keys, then more hard edged jamming comes over the top of this. Eventually this moves out into more metallic ground to carry forward. The guitar solos that come over this after a time are extremely fusion based and quite inspired. Then some keys take the lead with a texture that reminds me of some of the more "weird noises" stuff that Keith Emerson sometimes does. This resolves out into a staccato sort of jam later yet. Some tasty guitar melodies come over the top of this backdrop later. It has a Rushish bridge later that leads into a mellow keyboard based jazz oriented outro. This outro includes some very Satriani-like guitar soloing. Spacey keys serve as the final salvo. This one is a mostly heavy, dynamic instrumental that is a great album opener.
The Infinite Horizon
A staccato Rushish like texture with keys overlaid starts this one off in heavy, but very tasty fashion. This turns more metallic as it carries forward, but the layers of keys serve to soften the blow. Melodic guitar soloing ala Satriani come over the top of this backdrop and add a fusion-like sound to this (another instrumental). A cool processed, talk box like guitar sound comes over this after time, then it moves out into heavier jamming until a Emerson like keyboard sound begins to dominate for a time. This whole segment drops away, leaving just sedate keyboards to carry it. This works through for a time, building gradually with just more and more waves of keys, then a noisy guitar (yet tasteful) guitar solo comes over the top of this and several lines of that instrument seems to fight for control of the composition. This shifts off towards a mellow guitar based jazz sound later to eventually take the piece out.
Pasivitas Sudut Pandang
A funky wahing guitar that's laced with classic '70's rock sounds leads this one off. The group start to build on this. Vocals come over the top of this and after a verse they shift this out into something that is most akin to 1970's prog. They move through this for a while then move it out towards more Rush-like territory. Then death growls compete with very sedate vocals for the lead on this. It resolves out from here back into the more prog rock stuff. After the next round of the death-like segment a short instrumental break brings back the progressive rock mode, then they move it into another verse like this. Next up is a more fusion oriented hard rocking segment over which the vocals tell their tale. This abruptly ends the song.
Pretty, spacey keys begin this with a very slow building process. A mellow jam enters to move it forward with a spacey, sedate prog style. Eventually more Satriani-like guitar sounds come over this backdrop as the song moves onward. This whole cut is quite sedate and very beautiful. The guitar weaves all kinds of intriguing melody lines throughout in this enchanting instrumental.
NGC 3370
Percussion begins this one, but then the group launch into one of the most metallic jams on show here. The thing is, they use retro keys and more Satriani-like guitar sounds to temper it to a more fusion oriented structure. This one is a cool groove oriented jam. A retro keyboard solo, ala Niacin emerges later on in this intriguing instrumental piece. Eventually the keys and guitar begin trading solos and some of the later keyboard work reminds me of both Keith Emerson and Herbie Hancock.
Skyward (Outer Atmosphere)
Some of the spaciest keys thus far begin this one and carry it for a while. Then more waves of keyboards flirt across the top at points. Eventually hints of percussion and vocals enter, far in the distance but still the main elements remain unchanged. After about a minute and a half there are more rock oriented rhythmic structures sneaking up from the back, but still well hidden. Some waves of fusion guitar also wander around the backdrop. Eventually the rhythm elements and guitar begin to climb ever so slowly upward. When they gain some control of the piece a fusion guitar solos triumphantly. This turns into an extremely powerful and invigorating rocking groove later. Other than the hints of female vocals early in the piece, this is an instrumental.
Relating the Transformation
Keyboards again start this piece in fairly sedate tones. It shifts to a heavy sort of jam with death metal growls running alongside more melodic singing in dark and rather doomy prog-metal type progression. They run through this for 3 minutes, give or take half a minute, then it drops back to ambient tones. A new melody begins to rise up from this and they move out into this sedate texture to carry the song forward. This eventually powers back out into an intense jam that is far more prog rock than metal, although both sounds are still present.
Unlimited Reality
Once again the first instruments to show up here are keys. They run through a short spacey introduction, then the cut drops back to a new progression that is reminiscent of the more jazz/blues side of mid-period Pink Floyd, ala Wish You Were Here. This is vaguely funky and remains quite sedate, yet still inspiring. This sedate instrumental essentially serves as an introduction to the disc's closer as it never really rises up from the backdrop. Just as it seems that it might it segues straight into that other piece.
Through Glass, Darkly
This one pounds in very heavy - in fact with the heaviest tones of the disc. As the vocals enter, though, the arrangement takes on a metallic sound that is still very neo-prog. This one calls to mind DT just a bit, but other modern progressive rock bands can be heard in the mix, too. They definitely saved the best for last because I think their combination of sounds gels best on this number. It is the most effective, and one of the most dynamic on the whole CD. I can't imagine any of the other songs working better as a closer. This cut is essentially the culmination of the whole thing. All of the elements that we have heard in the earlier pieces seem to coalesce here into something that is both familiar and new. This one has lots of killer instrumental progressions, but also some very solid melodic vocals. This track alone is worth the ticket price to the show.
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