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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Beyond the Bridge

The Old Man and The Spirit

Review by Gary Hill

I know that it’s just the first month of the year, but here’s a disc that might well make my “best of 2012” list. It’s that strong. When I first spun just little bits of this to get a feeling for it, I thought it was a metal album. Surely some progressive rock purists would put it there. It’s far more prog rock than metal, though. It’s also very powerful with extremely innovative and creative musical and vocal arrangements. This is related to epic metal, but it’s far more progressive rock aligned than that suggests. If you like your progressive rock with some crunch, you’ll love this album.

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
The Call

This opens with mellower, progressive rock sounding music. It crunches out from there in something akin to prog metal. There are several changes and alterations and some Middle Eastern elements are heard. This is a dynamic and powerfully growing number that works really well. It’s definitely a great way to start things off in style. It drops back mid-track to a progressive rock section with spoken vocals. They take us in the direction of thrash for a short time.

The Apparition
Mellow, pure progressive rock with spoken vocals starts this off. They fire out into riff driven metal from there. Keyboards come over the top to complete the sound. It powers out later to a symphonic metal approach that really pulls this into the direction of progressive rock. Firing out into a killer metal groove, they take us in a different direction. It gets theatric and powerful. Then there is a strange, almost funky break before moving into a new melodic section that borders on fusion. It builds out later into another Middle Eastern tinged symphonic metal movement. It resolves out from there into some more pure progressive rock that climbs to the climax of the piece.
Triumph Of Irreality
Piano brings this one in, rising from the conclusion of the previous number. It builds up before there’s a flash of pure progressive rock to continue. More melodic metallic prog moves it out from there. They drop way down for some spoken vocals and then fire out into a jam that’s both metallic and classically tinged. It’s a killer movement that works quite well. As this extended instrumental movement continues they take it to a more melodic progressive rock section. Then it fires out in the classically oriented section again, feeling a bit like Dream Theater. Various changes ensue as this constantly evolving section continues. It is very definitely progressive rock at some points, and more melodic at others. In fact, some of this really feels like classic prog from the 1970s. The extensive instrumental movement takes us into the next number.
The Spring Of It All
Piano with female vocals opens this number. As it continues more powerful, but still totally melodic and prog oriented, elements augment the arrangement. Male vocals provide the next bit of lyrical journeying. This song is a short one at less than two minutes in length.
World Of Wonders
Keyboards also lead this tune off. They build it up as a progressive rock ballad and female vocals drive the piece. Eventually it builds out to melodic, but hard edged progressive rock.
The Primal Demand
Sound effects serve at the backdrop for spoken vocals. As this continues keyboards rise up to provide melody. It builds out from there for a while, but then fires out into some seriously metallic guitar shredding. This is sort of like thrash meets Dream Theater in that section.
Doorway To Salvation
Seeming like a continuation of the previous cut, thrashing guitar opens this. Then other layers of sound create some crazed progressive rock. The music drops away and unaccompanied female vocals rise up. When the music returns it brings with it male vocals and a hard edged, symphonically styled metallic sound. They continue expanding and growing the music here. It becomes quite dramatic and theatric. They bring another drop down for nearly unaccompanied vocals later. Eventually they move out to an almost metal romp. If you don’t like a section of this you shouldn’t have to wait long because it changes frequently. That said, there’s a thrashy movement later that’s one of the most metallic segments on the whole disc. A killer keyboard solo emerges over the top of that as this continues. They work it back out into more symphonic (yet still crunchy) melodic prog after that. The changes continue.
The Struggle
There’s a driving vocal line accompanied by a guitar line that seems to follow it that opens this one up. Other instruments join as the tune continues. Then it shifts to female vocals layered on a more melodic arrangement. Dream Theater is certainly a valid reference as this continues, but there are hints of fusion and more old school progressive rock here, too. The piano solo later is very jazz-like. Still, there’s a crunchy groove serving as the backdrop for that section. Later it almost feels like a more metallic Kansas. The vocal arrangement on this tune is especially complex and interesting. The music works between more melodic prog and more metallic. This number is truly a powerhouse. A cool instrumental section later feels a bit like Emerson Lake and Palmer with some extra crunch. They take that movement through a number of changes. A crescendo appears from nowhere and stretches to segue this into the next tune.
The Difference Is Human
Mellow and melodic sounds blending jazz and prog open this and hold it for half a minute or so. Then it powers out to more crunchy sounds as it rises toward the sky. They take it through several changes before dropping it back to acoustic guitar driven sounds around the minute and a half mark. As keyboards skate across this backdrop it is definitely progressive rock. The basic musical concept continues as the vocals emerge. At times they crunch it up a bit, but this doesn’t turn towards metal. Instead it climbs in intensity and power. Around the three minute mark, though, the crunch gets to a point where some prog purists might call this metal. The multi-layered vocal arrangement is complex and powerful. They continue changing this up as they continue. It’s gets dramatic and theatric later. A piano based ballad section takes over further down the musical road and connects this tune to the next one.
Where The Earth And Sky Meet
With the opening segments here seeming like a continuation of the previous piece, keyboards in atmospheric layers serve as the backdrop for the first vocals. In a lot of ways this feels like Fish era Marillion as it moves slowly out from there. It works out to more energetic melodic progressive rock from there, feeling a bit like Dream Theater as it continues. A melodic guitar solo moves it forward later, but then it drops down to a very stripped down arrangement. Dramatic progressive rock tones emerge later and it works up to a triumphant sounding movement. After a crescendo a short mellower section focuses on female vocals. Then it turns towards sound effects and textural sounds to segue into the next number.
All A Man Can Do
Coming in with a continuation of some of the sounds heard at the end of the previous piece, this powers out into a hard rocking progressive rock jam with lots of keyboards after a time. Then it drops way down. They take it into a rather ballad-like prog movement from there. It gets harder rocking sounds brought to the table later. It drops down to a jazzy acoustic guitar solo later. Then they work out from there with more melodic sounds. Eventually it gets more energized as they continue. Describing the rest of this cut in blow by blow fashion seems an injustice to the piece. Let’s put it this way, it’s a powerful and dramatic journey that takes us through symphonic majesty and world music. It’s incredibly theatrical and dramatic and just a real powerhouse arrangement. It drops way down around the nine minute mark for a short, mellower section that ends it. This is without question the best piece here and it’s one that will have you reaching for the “repeat” button to start the ride all over again.
 
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