HYMNS FOR THE BROKEN
In the world of progressive metal, there are exactly 2 bands which I worship. Those bands are Symphony X and Evergrey. Both bands are immensely talented, feature incredible musicianship, and come full of great lyrical and musical representations that tell amazing stories to the listeners. Following their last release GLORIOUS COLLISION, it really seemed like Evergrey may have hit the end of their run. GLORIOUS COLLISION didn't do especially well for the band, and they seemingly disappeared as soon as it came out. There's been a lot of rumors that they had indeed broken up. Those turned out to be untrue though, and back comes Evergrey with a revamped lineup and HYMNS FOR THE BROKEN; a release that could very well be the very best of their almost two decade long career.
Some points of clarity before I write a single world about the new project KXM, in order that this review is understood and evaluated fairly by anyone reading it. This project features three guys - Dug Pinnick of King's X, George Lynch of Dokken and Lynch Mob fame, and Ray Luzier who is currently the drummer for Korn. Out of fairness, I'll allow the following for this review. First, I'm not a fan of Dug Pinnick's music at all. I've interviewed him several times (I think five times, actually), and he's a super cool guy, but musically I've just never, ever gotten King's X as much as I've wanted to understand why so many just worship them. In many ways, King's X falls into that category that Dream Theater does for me - that I just don't understand the appeal of. As for Lynch, again putting it out there, I work for Dokken as their webmaster and also for current Dokken guitarist Jon Levin as his as well. That said, I think Lynch has the distinction of not only recording some of the best music of the "hair era and beyond (because LYNCH/PILSON was by far his best recorded work), but he's also recorded two of the worst albums of all time in my ears in Dokken's SHADOWLIFE and Lynch Mob's SMOKE THIS. I haven't liked much of Lynch's work in a long time, as Microdot, Souls of We and other stuff I'm sure I'm missing have just not been very good. As for Luzier, I think I met him once at a David Lee Roth show in the late 90s, enjoyed the DLR Band album he played on, like Korn, and also remember that he had some sort of association with Darren Householder from one of my favorite bands that never made it big, Love/Hate. So there, it's on the table.
DARKNESS IN A DIFFERENT LIGHT
Fates Warning are a band that has a ton of talent, but it's never been realized by the masses for one reason - they were always a bit too crafty for their own good. In many ways, they remind me of a better musical version of bands like Rush or Dream Theater. While the band is clearly filled with musicians that are as talented as any that are working today, they almost always over-extended their chops both musically and in writing material to a point that the masses just couldn't easily consume and "get" what they were about. The result is that they never got big while other bands raced to the top of the niche they fall into. The results have been releases like AWAKEN THE GUARDIAN, DISCONNECTED and A PLEASANT SHADE OF GRAY; albums that their core audience love, but just didn't have any real "hit" potential to break them past their niche audience. DARKNESS IN A DIFFERENT LIGHT is their most straightforward effort since they debuted in the 80s, but it's a little too late at this point. That said, this is a seriously solid Fates Warning album.
Shades Of Remembrance
For years and years, there have been many progressive metal bands that have struggled to be heard. For many, they never get the chance, and therefore never truly get out there. For others, their sheer will to be known pushed them to be discovered by fans. With progressive metal, it's difficult to really make a statement about your sound. Everyone looks and claims to sound like the next Fates Warning, Dream Theater or Queensryche, but with such lofty names to put as an equal to yourself, the actual music behind it lets you down somewhat. For Cleveland's Shades Of Remembrance, they can loosely claim the name Fates Warning as somewhat of an influence, but ultimately they are not a good counter to any of those named bands. While VEIL is a very good release, it's not really comparable to big name progressive metal bands. They are much more metal; more gritty and more raw then the uber polished approach the bands listed about have exhibited. Don't take that as a bad thing either, as it's refreshing to hear powerful progressive playing without some studio engineer "cleaning it up". This is a solid listen.
...and once again I prepare for the argument that I always have when writing a review of a new Dream Theater release. It's the argument that I always make, and that every one of you musicians out there that worship this band always fight me tooth and nail on. That argument is simple - that Dream Theater are the most talented, and yet most undisciplined band in the history of recorded music. There is no person in their right mind that will say that they aren't a collection of some of the most talented virtuoso performers on the planet. With all their talent though, they are simply not disciplined enough to write songs that aren't bloated, pompous and designed to be more of a showcase of their musicianship than to creating something instantly memorable to anyone but their hardcore fans. There's a reason that casual fans don't know that they ever had another song after "Pull Me Under" - it's the lack of discipline in their songwriting to write concise, brilliant songs. They have brilliant performances all over each and every release, but few brilliant songs. I'd argue that Mr. Big was a much better band. They are a band of equal talent individually, but were also a band that honed their individual talents to create a lot more memorable songs. Let the hatred begin!