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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

The Mercury Tree

Countenance

Review by Gary Hill

I can see people arguing with this landing under progressive rock. For my money, though, there is no place else for it to go. There are a lot of references to things like Tool, but King Crimson is a definite leaning here, too. A lot of this makes me think of acts like Giant Squid and Diablo Swing Orchestra. Whether you think this is prog or not, it’s adventurous music that’s quite strong.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2014  Volume 6 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Pitchless Tone

There’s sort of textural introduction here. Then an awesome bass line joins. From there it fires out into some frantic music that seems to combine Tool, modern King Crimson and King’s X. There’s a mellower, but still quite energized movement around the three minute mark that is very cool. The whole piece is dark, modern and rather crunchy. It’s also very melodic. There is some pretty awesome bass playing at various times on this piece. The fast paced instrumental section later has some great timing changes and inspired jamming. It takes it out in fine fashion.

Vestigial
Harmonics lead this out of the gate. From there, it turns into some strange, but very compelling, melodic, yet dark progressive rock. Tool is definitely a valid reference. Still, the shifts and changes and the vocal progression land it more purely into progressive rock. There is a crazed, metallic section later that makes me think of Giant Squid in some ways, or perhaps Diablo Swing Orchestra. This is another powerhouse piece with a lot of variation and surprises. A later section is set in more of a mainstream song motif. That gives way to more bass driven music as they drop it down for the outro. The actual ending is a bit of atmospherics.
Otoliths

At almost eleven minutes in length, this is an epic. It comes in with a much more mainstream progressive rock sound. Still, it’s got a bit of that dark modern texture at play. This is the most pure progressive rock piece we’ve heard so far. It has some killer shifts and changes There are melodic vocal movements, frantic, crazed prog jams and more here. The section around the four and a half minute is just plain mean. It’s very much in keeping with the more metallic prog of acts like Giant Squid. It’s also very powerful. There are some great shifts and changes as this continues to evolve. It works through some great territory. This cut continues to work through a number of changes visiting and revisiting themes. It’s an awesome piece of music.

Mazz Jathy

Progressive rock and jazz seem to merge as this piece moves out and evolves. There is a stop mid-piece and then it gets reinvented, but still in the same general musical territory. This is great stuff. It’s an instrumental that’s more or less pure progressive rock, in the standard definition of that term. This feels very much like classic prog.

To Serve Man

This is powerhouse piece that’s got a lot of the King’s X kind of vibe. It’s energized and very much a progressive rocker. The vocal arrangement is among the best of the set and the whole thing just grooves. It does get into more screaming hot territory later. Some heavy jamming emerges further down the road, too.

The Ellsberg Cycle

Starting slower and mellower, this evolves gradually, too. Some world music and more emerges as this continues later. There is a real dream-like quality to a lot of it. It wanders toward space music at times. This turns harder rocking and faster moving after the four minute mark. That Tool meets King Crimson kind of thing is still present there.

False Meaning

The opening section here definitely makes me think of Rush. It drops down to mellower prog elements from there. The first vocals come in over the top of this arrangement. The cut has a good balance between those more sedate elements and the harder rocking ones.

Artifracture
Coming in with a harder edge, lots of energy and a great groove, the vocals bring it more into progressive rock territory. In another nod to bands like Giant Squid, this gets into more metallic jamming for a time. It resolves out into more melodic sounds from there. A keyboard laden section really brings it into classic prog territory. As it evolves from there, it does a great job of merging the classic progressive rock with the heavier modern stuff. 
Jazz Hands of Doom
This definitely has a lot of jazz in the mix. It’s a cool and quite complex jam. It’s an instrumental that will work well for the prog purists. It’s also fun.
Rappel
Intricate guitar sounds begin this and vocals come in over that mellow backdrop. It eventually turns more toward the type of melodic modern progressive rock that dominates the set. It’s not overly different, but it’s very effective.
 
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