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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

The Amber Light

goodbye to dawn farewell to dusk

Review by Josh Turner

This finds itself on the elegant edge of the progressive ledge. It walks the fine line between the dark underground caverns of the dwarves and the light and airy woodlands of the elves. At times it's patient and unhurried while others it's impetuously bombastic and rash. Wherever you wander, this forest has charm as it's watched over and protected by Ents. For those who don't know what I mean, these are references to a Tolkien-based fantasyland called Middle Earth. If you find this to be unfamiliar territory, you're a rarity in the realm of the progressive rock fan. While this album is not a testimonial to Tolkien, the tapestry it sews definitely uses the kind of material that constitutes progressive rock fare. If you're new to the craft, you've found the perfect providence to begin your trek. It's an accumulation of Eyestrings, Satellite, and Discipline. It certainly has the influence of the Macleod's, the Baggins, and the Parmenter clan. If this is Greek to you, then maybe you'll understand it when I say there is a trace of Genesis in their game plan. It's passionate, emotional, and patiently enacted, but like I said, its pulse beats with an irregular rhythm.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2006 Volume 1 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
a new atlantis
This begins with an account from a traveling storyteller. His fable is fluently recited through a number of articulate idioms. It's serene and sympathetic in the soft and subtle ways as Matthew Parmenter's "Astray."
tartaros
Genesis was never thunderous, but every now and then they were slightly torrential. Think of one of their more driving downpours and you'll be close in thought to what this instance entails. It's as if they took a Genesis composition and then inserted RPWL's bassist, Chris Postl, into the concoction. There is also the kind of intensity that rings close to the home of U2's David Howell Evans (also known as Edge). The keys and bass are haunting in a Violet District sort of way. The drums, however, are in step with Gazpacho's drummer, Robert Johanssen. While it's neither brash nor flamboyant, it's always enduring. I would say it settles somewhere in Marillion's vicinity. While it's a hard one to call, this might be the album's finest showpiece.
devil song
The notes from the acoustic are like droplets from a faucet. It's unnerving how slowly and incessantly it drips. As the plumber torques the wrench ever so gently, the waters gush and then stop completely. The tempo and timbre of the singer coincides with the movements of a winding current. He conforms to the pitter-patters of the beads as they smack upon the basin. The keys, on the other hand, take on more of a managerial role when it comes to carrying out the chore. They proffer unsolicited advice and lend a tool every now and then to the worker. To fasten the fixture, there is no need for electric gear as the acoustic instruments are all that's needed to make this one secure.
gangsters
The keys are downright poignant and spooky; it's as if they are straight out of a reverie from Casper the friendly ghost. It's progressive and it's punk, but it also ties in the most sublime form of Slipknot. Just when the windshield becomes blurry, the wipers whack against the soaking wet perspiration. It's at this point they dabble in swing and introduce a smatter of jazz-inspired drizzle. After a few rotations, it gets so drowsy, it eventually conks out. It's time for a Spanish siesta and it takes this opportunity to fall tirelessly into a nap. It's like a ballad from Carlos of El Mariachi, but this self-indulgent crowd doesn't overact. It's partly Fish and somewhat Violent Femmes. There's Jungle Boogie in its mantra and a speck of Snow's "Night Out" in its mission statement. It's carefree and fun, almost bordering on happy-go-lucky. With that said, it's also insane and extraordinarily nutty. This could be a celebration from a dark and sinister occult. A tattoo of skulls and bones are what's used to mark the fraternal bond. In the end, it's dead serious, snapping back into its evil plans. When you try to abandon the club, you're pulled back into its immoral intentions. Soon it leads to an unsavory crime wave leading to a spree of felonies. Try as you might, the cut goes absolutely loco when attempting to clean up. In the kookiest parts, there are sightings of the suspect from Eyestrings and apparent demands for ransom from System of a Down.
the drowning man in my hands
As the coronary artery shows signs of calculus and plaque, it's time for invasive surgery to unplug the bottleneck. The singing offers relief as the nurse readies the scalpel. During the work-up, this cut prepares for a deep incision. After much time under the knife, the prognosis is good for the patient. Finally, a pounding can be heard beating vigorously below the skin. With each pump of the ventricle, the melody is vascular, intervallic, and metrical. Fortunately, the organs donated from the earlier process are fully operational and the subject is revived during the much-needed reprisal. After the repair of the damage is finally carried out, the sutures close up the laceration and the surgery is declared a colossal success.
hide inside
After unusual attempts to cure the queasiness, the anesthesiologist takes more conventional measures. It's along the lines of U2, Coldplay, and Level 42. I hear Aha's "Take on Me" and Goo Goo Dolls' "Name". The guitars shake, rattle, and roll as this small load is set to spin and put on a cold cycle. The perfumed sheets are thrown into the dryer, removing static cling and making the fabric of the solo that much softer. While watching over this bedridden and comatose specimen, they give it attention and care. It's part of my immediate family on the Joshua Tree and since it's what I'd consider the second best song, it's next of kin in the hierarchy. My nephew Jacob climbs The Ladder and enters into the guarded memories and hidden membranes. The drums bang on the door as if they intend to pay their dues and join in on the free association. With so much horseplay, it's sensible to believe this is one of the better songs. As progressive as the other tracks can be, this one could be a hit radio single. For the most part, the souvenirs in this song contain a number of mainstream melodies. The last notes are out of place, distinctively lingering like a forgotten memento or a foregone conclusion.
clock hands heart
The longest track (14 minutes) has varied disposition and cruel intentions. Nevertheless, the trip to the Hostel is rewarding, exuberant, and adventurous at first. The slow and sweeping passages brush upon its grainy panels. We get many nostalgic themes from earlier parts of the album. This keeps with a pace that's lazy and laggard, but somehow it proceeds to outwit opposing inertia. The guitar strums and the drums tap while the bass is mottled in bright mushy flesh. The ivory keys are out on the feet until they are slapped senseless and roused by a handful of smelling salts. Towards the end, a pesky fly buzzes in the background and wakes the idle antagonist up. Initially, it succumbs to the inevitable complacency, but changes its mind, fights the good the fight and flees. Like From Dusk Till Dawn, the creatures of the night come out as soon as the sun sets in. You may not be ready when darkness falls, but to survive the Urak-hai, say your goodbyes and farewells soon and be sure to get with the program fast.
new day
This lacey piece is a gift of expensive lingerie. It's not rude or raunchy, but it's rather pleasant debauchery. Since it's thin and stringy, it's sure to capture your interest. Yet, it adds another layer of captivation and curiosity. Once it disrobes, it's pure unadulterated pleasure, but before long, the moment is gone. It's not so much sad as it's bittersweet. It's a milky piece of chocolate with flakey garnish on top. This regale russet morsel makes one exquisite truffle. Just when you think you're relieved of your duties without a fuss or a tussle, it's battered and beaten by the likes of The Who's Keith Moon. While it may have started out hesitant, it becomes a fighter once it has its back to the wall. Analogous to David Cronenberg's "A History of Violence," the brutal finish is both crazy and unexpected. Front and center, there lies a compassionate and passive human being. Regardless of that assumption, you don't know Jack. When pushed to the limits, the king returns and mercilessly strikes back. I really like the character development in this well-acted affair. The singing is great, but the sweetest part is the composition. It's as tart as a chopped-up chunk from a freshly-picked bunch of Pineapple Thief. While slightly hidden, Dave Bainbridge's "Veil of Gossamer" is also showing. It's thrown into the basket for good measure along with the rest of the swag. These folks may hail from Germany, but they dust the music with Latin licks and Spanish verses. It's a cacophony of helpful bacteria and useful influences. Using fast-acting acids, the sink is scrubbed and scoured while the pipes are flushed clean. Climb into the tub, but be sure to turn each knob equally. Then immerse yourself in a lukewarm mixture of bubbles, aqua, and Epson Salts. After bathing in these spiritual expressions, you're body will be completely relaxed and your soul will be thoroughly rinsed.
 
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