Review Summary: An excellent piece of progressive metal with an epic story, and virtuoso musicianship.
Shadow Gallery is an obscure progressive metal band from Pennsylvania who despite their fifteen years as aa band, have never performed live. In those fifteen years, they have released five studio albums. Here we have Tyranny,
their third album, and first concept album. Released in 1998, Tyranny
is a strongly political album, which tells the story of a weapons designer realizing the true nature of the military complex. This concept is continued in their fifth studio release, entitled Room V.
Throughout the album’s 75 minute running time, a good deal of musical styles and atmospheres are explored. The cd opens with a blistering two minute instrumental entitled Stiletto in the Sand,
which despite it’s short running time, is a very effective opening to the album. Sure it’s mainly guitar and keyboard wankery, but it works well, and transitions to the album’s first real track, War For Sale
quite well. As the album progresses, it becomes much darker, most visibly with the second of the album’s two epics, New World Order.
The closing track, Christmas Day
works well as a somber and emotional ballad, with some keyboard effects sounding similar to a pan flute in some parts.
I’ve already stated that the albums starts more upbeat and ends darker, so what’s in between? For the most part, it’s a blend of mid tempo tracks and ballads, along with a few epic sounding pieces in between. The track Mystery
is a very good example of a mid tempo, upbeat rack. It opens to an organic riff with very atmospheric keyboards backing the sound up. The chorus is pretty simple, but is a very successful one, and the instrumental section in the middle features a barrage of keyboard and guitar solos. I Believe
is the albums longest track at 8:40, and is one of the best featured. It’s got an almost operatic feel to it, and some strong lyrics. James Labrie provides backing vocals to this track, and briefly sings the main character’s father’s last lines from 2:22 to 2:37. (the song includes the father of the protagonist passing away)
Vocalist Mike Baker overall is an average, maybe a little above average vocalist, though may take time to grow on one. His voice can most be described as James Labrie’s, though lower pitched. When he sticks to this range, he sounds fine, and is able to pull off the emotion in some of the songs very well. However, when he attempts to sing higher, his voice becomes much more annoying, and it sounds almost angsty. Lucky for us, this only happens in a a few choice moments and for the most part, he is an enjoyable vocalist.
As do most guitarists of the genre, Brendt Allman and Gary Wehrkamp definitely write some very catchy, and at some times quite chilling guitar lines. The fore mentioned Stiletto in the Sand
and the albums second instrumental, Chased
feature some stunning guitar work. And one of the album,s most emotional tracks, Hope For Us?
features an incredibly beautiful solo, one of those one’s that has that emotional effect that may provoke one to tears. The acoustic guitar is handled very nicely as well, as shown in the acoustic guitar oriented track Ghost of a Chance.
As the bassist, Carl Cadden-James is often over shadowed by the guitars, much like many metal bands. He can plainly be heard in the opening to Victims
as well as New World Order.
It’s a bit of a shame that he doesn’t have a chance to shine much, like John Myung has, but he provides a solid backbone to the majestic guitar duo of Allman and Wehrkamp.
Joe Nevolo is just what any progressive metal band needs. As the band’s drummer, he provides powerful beats and adds in fills where they need to be. He’s no Mike Portnoy, but for the laid back sound of some of the songs, he fits the job as the drummer well.
The final band member is Chris Ingles, and he is the pianist/keyboardist. He is definitely immensely talented, and reminds me much of old Dream Theater keyboardist Kevin Moore. He doesn’t show off or solo too much, (save the two instrumental tracks and the instrumental sections of some of the longer songs) instead, he works on providing a ton of atmosphere to the tracks. Whether they give a hopeful and uplifting feeling, or add a haunting and chilling touch to the songs, the band would definitely lack much without him. He also proves to be a very strong writer. The two minute ballad Broken,
as well as the track Spoken Words
are centered around beautiful piano melodies, and each work perfectly and fit the style of the music.
I would strongly recommend this to lovers of Dream Theater
or just lovers of prog metal in general. I will warn you that this album is a lot to take in, and will take any listens to fully appreciate. If you give it the time however, it will become a quick favorite.
Top Five Tracks
War For Sale-
The albums first real track, and the fastest. Everything about this track is phenomenal, from the opening assault of all the instruments, to the solo that leads to the first verse, to the instrumental section. The chorus here is an easy winner, consisting of the first line being sung by backing vocals, the next by Mike Baker, and so on. The lyrics are strong and catchy as well, especially during the verses.
The aforementioned longest track on the album. It’s almost like a mini suite, and is one of the darker tracks on the album. There’s some beautiful instrumental work here, and the piano holds it together.
New World Order-
The albums other epic, and is perhaps the darkest track on the album. It features Royal Hunt vocalist D.C. Cooper in the beginning. His voice is extremely brooding and sinister sounding, perfect for opening up the rest of the song. The instrumental section in the middle once again is pulled off wonderfully.
One of the more upbeat tracks on the album. A pretty basic sounding song that has catchy sing a long chorus. And not to sound repetitive, but the instrumental bit here is organic and well pulled off as well.
Roads of Thunder-
This may be the catchiest song featured. The keyboards in the beginning reminds me a lot of the song “Octavarium” by Dream Theater. The verses are relatively soft, and it builds up the chorus, which almost has a bit of a country vibe to it, which surprisingly is breathtaking. Each member of the band shines and comes together on this track, the bass is even audible around the 4:30 minute mark.
My first not track by track review in a while. I don’t think it’s too great, but please send feedback.
Final rating: 4/5