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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Tranquil Echo

As It Should Be

Review by Gary Hill

How much guitar soloing can the human brain take before it shuts down? That might be one question this disc poses. Frankly the guitar heavy brand of instrumental fusion practiced here is good. It’s just too bad they don’t alter the formula a bit more because by the end of this I felt numb. Make no mistake, every song on the disc is good. It’s just that there’s not enough change from point to point on here and after a while it all feels the same. I’d have to guess that if you put a metronome on and checked the tempo from track to track, you’d barely need to adjust the speed to keep it on count. That’s not a good thing.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2009  Volume 1 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Tranquil Echo
There’s a gentle excitement as this leads off. It’s melodic, but fairly hard rocking. A smoking guitar solo comes across in this extended introduction. As they drop it down we get a rather jazzy texture. Piano dances across and carries the piece for a time. Guitar brings us into another jam but then it drops way down for a mellow keyboard dominated section. The alternating pattern continues as the guitar soars across again. As that solo ends, though, it drops to just piano which has the final word.
The Eternal
This feels much more “rock” than the opener which had a decidedly fusion texture to it. In many ways they haven’t broken the mold here, but I sense something like hard modern alternative rock blending with Dream Theater and Steve Vai on this. Like the opener, this track is closed out by keyboards. 
Sands of Time
Although quite similar to the previous two, this is perhaps closer to the opener in that it’s got a more fusion-like feel to it. 
Between the Sky
Thankfully they change things a bit here as it was starting to get too monolithic. This time they bring it in with an almost pure jazz arrangement but shift out to an instrumental fusion-like section that’s got a lot of 1980’s hair metal woven into it. In a lot of ways this is some of the most accessible music on show. The guitar soloing is perhaps more melodic than on some of the other tracks. 
Full Circle
This has more of a techno flavor to it and it’s another cut where the keyboards get a bigger bit of the spotlight. Still, this isn’t worlds different that what we’ve heard to this point and the formula is beginning to wear thin. 
Reflections
As keys and strings lead off here it seems we’re about to get our much needed bit of variety. That analysis proves to be true as this piece stays mellower. One complaint is that the percussion track really feels a lot like a drum machine. There are some wonderful keyboard melodies, though that can help to forgive things like a robotic rhythm section.
Mastery & Empowerment
The opening here is dramatically different. It really feels like the intro to some hip hop number. Instead of a rap, though, we get some scorching guitar soloing over the top. Although this is a well-needed bit of variety something just seems a bit odd about it to me. It’s good, but not one of the highlights of the disc. 
Days of Mu
This one comes in with a great mellow jazz motif. There’s a bit of an R & B feeling to this, too. It’s one of the most diverse compositions and one that showcases the keyboards quite a bit. 
Interleave
We move back into territory more like that which lead off the disc. There’s a bit of a Hawkwind element to this at times, though. They drop it to a pure jazz jam mid-song. Here’s another that’s quite diverse as it moves through a number of alterations and variations. It’s also one of the highlights of the set. 
Seven
Now this is perhaps a bit too much like the music that started the disc off. That’s not because that music was bad, it’s just that too much of this kind of stuff can get old fast. 
Alter
When the last song ended abruptly and this began I thought it was still part of the same number. In some ways this is more melodic, but in more ways it’s much too similar to that one. Here’s where the monolithic nature of the disc is really starting to weigh heavy and it’s feeling like one overlong piece of music. There is a cool spacey jam in the middle of this, and they create some swirling lines of hard rocking sound as this carries on. That section provides a bit of a break from the monotony, but it doesn’t last long enough. 
The Four Winds
In some ways this is a bit of a change. There’s a powerfully dramatic and rather odd texture to the cut. It’s a short one – only a little over a minute in length – and quite tasty. 
A Misdirection of Energy
Here’s a track that changes this up by being nearly heavy metal in texture. It’s another that has some Dream Theater-like elements. I can hear some echoes of Anubis Spire on this, but it’s also quite fusion oriented. 
The Evolved
This is the hardest rocking jam here and if the mind wasn’t so numb from the ride by the time you get here this would probably be the highlight of the disc.
 
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