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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

The Cyberiam

The Cyberiam

Review by Gary Hill

This is the debut album from a band out of Chicago. While their blend of progressive rock has plenty of ties to things that have come before, their approach to it feels quite new and fresh. They have a great balance between the mellower and more metallic, the retro and modern. There isn't a weak track here, and it never feels tired or repetitive. The field is beginning to get crowded, but this will be a contender for my best of 2018 list of ten releases. It's that good.

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Track by Track Review
Alice in Afterland
Trippy electronics bring this into being and hold it for the introduction. Then percussion climbs up to lead out into a cool rocking jam. There is a metal edge to this section. It drops back to a balladic approach to continue. The vocals come in over the top of that arrangement.  When it powers back up at the end of that movement, there is a definite metal texture to the cut.  I really love the bass breakout section on this. It pounds into some Zeppelin-like metallic territory from there, but the cut just keeps shifting and changing. In a lot of ways I can make out both Rush and Dream Theater in the list of musical reference points here.
Cool Kids
The riff that opens this is aggressive and particularly metallic. As this works onward I'm again heavily reminded of Dream Theater. This is such a classy and powerful cut. Again there are definitely some Rush like reference points on this piece, too. It is quite an intriguing run that has some exceptional moments. I love the organ solo section.
The Fall
After a hard rocking introduction, this moves out to more of a melodic rocker. There is a harder rocking jam after the half-way mark of the piece that moves things again into Dream Theater-like territory. That said, the whole cut has ties to that sound. However, the vocals on this number remind me of Steve Hogarth's work in Marillion quite a bit.
Don't Blink
I love the intricate guitar work on the mellower opening section of this piece. The mood of that portion of the cut is quite evocative. The vocals come in over the top of that backdrop. This cut earns bonus points from me for the references to "Doctor Who." There is a drop down from fairly mellow to very mellow for some cool guitar exploration later in the track. The cut shifts toward an electronic jazz vibe from there. This piece makes me think of acts like Lands End and Porcupine Tree to a large degree. They get into harder rocking territory later in the piece as it again works out toward Dream Theater territory. It gets quite metallic as it grows outward from there.
2020 Visionary
Hard rocking and rather fierce, this is an intriguing change. It's much more along the hard rock lines than the progressive rock ones, but there are enough changes and twists to keep it proggy. This does earn a parental advisory for the lyrics.
The Historian
Striking a good balance between the mellower end and the harder rocking one, there is an extended instrumental movement mid-track that really pushes into the metal end of the equation. This is a real powerhouse number. In fact, it might be my favorite here.
My Occupation
This comes in rather mellow and tentative, and works out from there to a fast paced, tastefully odd jam. It gets some real power as the vocals join. Around the two minute mark there is a cool spacey jam that has some amazing bass work. It grows out as that works forward into some serious Dream Theater like territory. As the guitar riff takes command of this jam I'm reminded of a proggy version of Iron Maiden. The piece continues to evolves with some more exceptional modern progressive rock sections emerging.
Coming in more on the mellow side of things, a lot of this feels along the lines of things like The Pineapple Thief and Porcupine Tree. Yet they still manage to power things out into harder rocking territory along the lines of Dream Theater at points. I love the drop back for acoustic guitar. The bass guitar line that takes over from there is so cool, and as the organ joins it just adds to the magic.
Brain in a Vat
I love the vibe that opens this. It has a slightly creepy kind of prog sound that leans toward the melodic side of the equation. For some reason the vocal line on this part of the tune makes me think of Robert Plant just a bit. They counterpoint this with some harder rocking accents as the cut moves forward. The harder edged jam further down the road is particularly dramatic and effective. The jam around the four-minute mark seriously calls to mind A Farewell to Kings era Rush. This cut is one heck of a ride.
A lot of found sounds are on display as this starts. Piano and other keyboards are heard on this. There is a spoken vocal part on this early section, and it earns a parental advisory. The cut continues to grow from there turning out to a bit more of a driving, but still melodic, prog jam. This gets more hard-edged at times, but overall lands more on the other end of the spectrum. There is definitely a lot of Dream Theater here (they even get a mention in that spoken early part). I can also make out some Rush in the mix. There are some particularly noteworthy bass moments built into this thing, too. After the seven-minute mark, it drops back down and a ringing phone is heard. The spoken section returns as this makes its way toward the ending. It eventually drops to the found sound stuff that started it, creating a great bookend type vibe.
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