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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Steam Theory


Review by Gary Hill

It can be tough to make an instrumental album work. Many times it can start to feel like one long progression of the same thing over and over. When you make that album a double disc set, it becomes even harder to be effective. This set manages to pull it off. There is enough variety here for it to never feel redundant. It works between classically tinged sounds, progressive rock, soundtrack type music and more. It’s a cool set.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2015  Volume 1 at

Track by Track Review
Disc 1
The title track comes in with quite a classical, cinematic approach. It is beautiful and mellow with chorale vocals gliding over the top in this opening section. Then, shortly after the one minute mark, some mellow guitar enters and the cut begins to build in more traditional progressive rock ways. There are some hints of country here, but much like the kind of thing Steve Howe often brings to the table. This instrumental takes us through quite a few shifts and changes in an arrangement that definitely fits under the symphonic rock banner. The bass on this at times brings some fusion to the table, too. This thing really gets quite powerful and soaring later.
Although this is definitely related to the previous piece, it’s more of a rocking powerhouse in a lot of ways. It’s an inspired piece of music that really drives forward and soars. There is definitely a lot of fusion in the mix. It gets almost into technical neo-classical based metal at times. Still, this is far more complex and progressive rock oriented than metal.
Folk music merges with classical as this comes in mellow and gradually works forward. It drops way down to atmospheric elements with symphonic instrumentation, though. It turns toward weird, cinematic music from there. Then around the two and a half minute mark it threatens to turn to fusion. Instead it powers to some driving, classically tinged hard rock that is definitely tastefully strange. The arrangement gets more lush as it continues. This thing gets into more melodic, but still quite “out there” progressive rock territory as it keeps moving forward. By around the six minute mark, it reaches a climax and drops back down to be reborn. Familiar themes and concepts return to bring it back into being. Some of the guitar soloing later definitely makes me think of Yes a little. Weird electronic, pseudo-symphonic music emerges to own it further down the road. The piece turns quite cinematic in style as it continues.
No Such Thing
A killer bass line starts this. Then the drums join, followed by guitar. This has a real hard edged modern King Crimson kind of vibe going. There are symphonic edges, but bombastic ones, over the top of this. It’s a powerhouse rocker that’s definitely prog. This is furious and yet has a lot of melody. It’s got a really crunchy side to it, but no one would call this metal. It’s definitely one of the shorter pieces.
Coming in mellow, this works out through cinematic type music to harder rocking prog from there. This is quite a dynamic cut, making its way through a lot of different shifts and changes. At times it’s more classical nature. At times the rock really drives it. It’s always compelling, though.
In a lot of ways this is a classical piece. Yet, it’s driving and energized. It has a lot of rock music built into it. It’s a really powerful piece of music. In a lot of ways it feels like music to a science fiction movie.
Disc 2
Fast paced, this careens this way and that. It has some pretty crazed movements and passages. It is hard rocking, but also quite symphonic in a lot of ways. There is an electronic edge to it. There is a lot of fusion built into this, too. It gets into some pretty free form territory on the section that fades out to end it.

There are some great middle Eastern melodies built into this. The music ranges from more symphonic to more rocking. This is actually one of my favorite songs, but I’m a sucker for those kind of modes. This is more of a straight line cut than some of the others are, really.

More classical in nature, this still has plenty of crazed prog rock in the mix. Fusion and more are heard here. This quite a dynamic and ever changing musical tapestry. There is some scorching hot guitar soloing later in the track. This is quite a screamer at times, yet it’s all tempered with that symphonic edge that is woven over the top of the majority of the piece.
In keeping with the title, there is a bit of a ghostly, mysterious sound to the opening of this piece. It is fairly mellow and both classical and electronic in nature. It works into more soaring hard rocking sounds that combine jazz, classical and progressive rock. A mellower section takes it at the end.
Escape Velocity
This is energized. It’s got a lush, symphonic arrangement over the top. It works through a number of changes and shifts this way and that.

This includes some great fusion styled guitar soloing. Further down the road, this turns to near technical metal as the guitar continues to solo. There are definitely some pretty intense prog moments as this works forward.

This piece is quite textural. Although the guitar has some crunchy edges, it’s quite a mellow composition.
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