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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Highest Place

Dilemma's

Review by Gary Hill

I know the prog purists are not going to like this one. Yes, there is a lot of metal here. There a couple songs that are nearly all metal. But the truth is there is also plenty of fusion and other elements that elevate this beyond the realm of prog metal and into metallic prog. Some of this is a little awkward at times, and the vocals are a little hard for me to take, but these guys can really play. It’s well worth picking up.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2008  Volume 4 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Quantic Macrorealms
A metallic structure leads off. As they pound out into the song proper this feels quite thrash-like. They work this through a number of changes and it becomes more prog-like at times. There is one melodic prog movement that has a lot in common with fusion. Really, though, if you had to base the classification on this one track, it would definitely land them firmly in the metal category.
It's Only a Matter of Choice
Odd sound effects and textures make up the majority of this track. We get some hints of actual “music” here and there, but this stays quite textural throughout.
Mental Distortions
If you listen no further than the extended introduction on this you would think the track is progressively oriented thrash metal. They take this in all kinds of weird directions, though. First it’s off into neo-classical territory for a short time. Then a mellower fusion section is introduced. From there they merge thrashier elements with that fusion sound. Then a full shift to a more pure progressive rock – although still fusion oriented – texture takes it. We’re almost three and a half minutes in before they drop it back to a mellow mode for the vocals. Fusion bass plays behind this as they continue onward. It shifts out toward more thrashy sounds.  They drop it back for a short modern Crimson styled jam. Then we are out into a new fusion section. A number of alterations take this. At times it’s turned more towards free form prog and at other times it turns more metallic. I know the prog purists will run like the plague from this, but anyone who is open-minded should realize that this certainly progressive rock rather than metal. They just keep reworking and deconstructing and reconstructing it as they carry forward. Of course, for those on the “metal” side of the genre argument the death metal vocals later will certainly provide ammunition.

Above Ourselves We Must Pass
This is a gentle balladic piece. It’s pretty and potent. It’s also definitely progressive rock.
Temporary Out of Order
I’d have to say that this feels more like an extension of the last track than anything else. It seems like they expand somewhat upon the musical themes a little more, but in general this doesn’t differ far from the last piece.

About Setting Illusions on Fire
Now, here is more fire to the flame of saying these guys are a metal band. This is fast and furious metal that’s quite heavy and extreme for most of the course of the track. They drop it way back down to a section that feels a lot like the previous couple pieces, though and then fire back up into a fusion sort of jam. All of this gives way to a return to the metal after a time but they continue to utilize these other elements at varying points.
Humanized
Much mellower and more melodic music makes up this number. How was that for alliteration? Anyway, the early segments here are rather fusion-like and quite pretty. They fire out into a more crunchy section that combines both fusion and metal here. When they take to the vocal segment it’s more purely metallic. We are taken through a series of changes as this thrill ride continues. Fusion is the order of the day through much of this, but so is metallic prog.

It Flows
This is an extremely dynamic and powerful piece. Surely it has less metal than a lot of the other stuff here. This one is pretty purely set in a combination of fusion with metallic progressive rock. I like this one a lot. We get some killer guitar soloing later in this number. They shift this out later to a ballad-like movement. Further down the road we get a Satriani-like take on some ethnic instrumental lines. They take it back to the song proper before they turn it out to a melodic, acoustic based fusion jam. This section takes the track out in a very satisfying way.
When It Looks Like an End...
An intriguing twist on the group’s sound this has a rather unusual blend of mellower, rather stripped down guitar based prog with more metallic choruses. While this doesn’t break any molds it’s another fine example of the unique sounds this band produces. There is a cool instrumental section later that includes some klezmer-like music. We also get some exceptionally powerful guitar soloing on this track.

Inertia
This is a frantic jam that’s based on weird angular riffs. This is King Crimson turned more metallic. Later they pull this out to a Satriani meets fusion jam that’s much more melodic. We get more of the stranger sounds as they take it out of there and this again has hints of ethnic music. They continue on this journey taking us to new and wonderful places before taking it way down to end.
 
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