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Explorer's Club

Age of Impact

Review by G. W. Hill

This album could well be the most important progressive disc of the decade for two reasons. Firstly, by the sheer magnitude of performers on this CD. The lineup includes Terry Bozzio, Billy Sheehan, Trent Gardner (Magellan), Wayne Gardner (Magellan), Bret Douglas (Cairo), James LaBrie (Dream Theater), D. C. Cooper (Royal Hunt), John Petrucci (Dream Theater), Steve Howe (Yes), Derek Sherinian (Dream Theater) and others. The album is also important because it does a wonderful job of merging the intensity and arrangements of older prog classics with the newer progressive stylings in a considerably coherent marriage.

Although perhaps a little solo happy, this album is a definite listening joy. The large quantity of solos could certainly be simply a reflection of the massive quantity of virtuoso quality musicians in need of time to solo. In many places on this album, the movement is too fluid and the movement too mercurial to make the track by track reviews simple. With that in mind, remember, there is much going on here that is not chronicled in this review.

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

Track by Track Review
Impact 1-Fate Speaks
A beautifully intricate and emotional acoustic guitar intro serves as an appealing appetizer to the album. The track jumps into a very hard rocking groove very much in the vein of Dream Theater`s Falling Into Infinity. Even the changes here have solidly DTish tones as the piece weaves a trail around many landmarks in its course. After a time, the song shifts from the tumultuous intro into the verse. This section is very much in the style of Magellan, as are the choruses to the piece. More stable musical ground is the status quo here, while still featuring plenty of progish musical exploration. The entire (without the acoustic section) is reprised here as an instrumental break. This piece does a very nice job of taking classic prog moments (ala Yes` Close To The Edge and King Crimson`s Red) and updating them in the manner of of the new wave of prog. Fate Speaks is a virtual maelstrom of musical mayhem.
Impact 2-Fading Fast
Starting with beautifully moody textural tones on keyboards and acoustic guitar, the cut builds, while still remaining quite mellow, and then drops off quite abrubtly. Next, a percussive section with keys that sound considerably like chatting monks makes its appearance. A gong signifies another change, this time to rather Japanese flavored sounds. The cut builds from there, taking on a very Dimeolaish feel before, once again, dropping back down. This time, it falls into a very evokative ballad type format. As the second chorus reaches its emotional apex, the instrumental section explodes into soaring, passionate work, seemingly combining the earlier Dimeolaish segment with the ballad format. Several gongs help to pull the piece back down for a short time, but nothing can keep these horses penned up for long. They come running out of the gate quite driven by progressive brilliance which evolves far too quickly to really put a name on. However, two names that do pop out are King Crimson and ELP.
Impact 3-No Returning
Earlier hard-edged themes signify the beginning of this piece. Eventually the number drops down to an acoustically based segment that is both Yesish and Triumph influenced. This, again, doesn`t last extremely long. In this case, the DT leanings come back in full force. When the acoustic moments return, the feel is predominately Yesish (although the drum work is more in the style of Neil Peart. This track leads gloriously straight intoTime Enough.
Impact 4-Time Enough
Queensrycheian tones start this one, but then the pretty piano texture takes over before some meaty guitar draws the focus away for a time. After a time, the rycheish focus returns and the song builds on that. Later, a more progressive DTish feel takes over, but that is just for a time. The piece even breaks into a few jazzy measures. First those sounds are very Davisish, then more fusion. Also in the mix is a lovely acoustic guitar solo by Steve Howe. This entire series of solos adds an intriguing texture to the piece, and a very progish segment starts the song back on a building process. Church bells followed by a ticking clock usher in a dramatic pause before a return to the central song structure. The change between this track and the next is very abrupt.
Impact 5-Last Call
This one returns the listener to the same Dream Theater inpired elements that have shown up throughout the album, but most specifically in No Returning. Certainly a piece designed to pull the various themes of the piece together, highlighting the fact that this truly is a prog rock magnum opus. This is very Yesish, but with a harder edge, and encompasses the major movements of the piece, reprising and tieing up the loose ends. The ending segments feature an intensity which just seems to climb higher and higher, until, as the liner notes say "Bozzio goes wild" to the end of the album.
 
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