Review Summary: Children of Nova show they've matured a bit since their initial release, but lose some of their spastic charm along the way.
Ahhh, Children Of Nova. I've been keeping an eye on this group ever since I stumbled upon their debut EP Complexity Of Light. Despite the storyline attached to it that I didn't particularly care for, the musicianship was impressive and it was overall a fun little adventure.
Having said that, let me get out of the way that Impossible Landscape is not as "fun" or "exciting" as the EP that preceded it. There are no crazy conga parts and hardly as many falsetto flourishes that make me wonder where the singer's balls went. Instead, we have a more focused and refined effort that marks a step in a mature direction for the Progressive Rock act.
Impossible Landscape definitely puts it's best foot forward and opens the album with some of its most solid tracks. The opener, Erratic, showcases CoN's ability to change moods and textures at a moment's notice with it's climbing riffs and laid back bridge segment. Kaleido brings to light one of CoN's favorite techniques: Full band stop-and-go's. These are tricky to perform and I'm sure some of my readers have had the experience of trying to get your group of 4-5 musicians to cut all at the same time and then come back in simultaneously a second later. It's not quite as easy as it sounds. It's obvious these guys want you to know they can play, and aren't afraid to show it in true Prog fashion. The next two tracks, Impossible Landscape and Moment of Clarity are easily my favorite on the record with their high-pitched vocals and effects-laden guitar parts soaring over tasty bass lines,topped off by quick drum licks that always manage to grab my attention. Speaking of drums, Colin Ingram smooths out his groove a little bit more this time and although he maintains his bursty, innovative feel, it definitely blends better into the sound the band is trying to achieve. This Graceful Tragedy is an excellent example of Ingram working the hi-hat to great effect during the verse, but taking a back seat during the chorus to let the guitars do their thing.
The second half of the album is where it starts to drop off in terms of excitement, and I can't help but feel fatigued by the decrease in momentum. The last track, It's Just A Ride, manages to bring things back to life with some sick riffs and fantastic bridge section but it's too late at that point. It might have helped the album as a whole if the high-energy tracks were dispersed more evenly or if a few of the slower ballads were dropped in favor of more aggressive songs like on their EP.
Another difficulty I had with Impossible Landscape were the vocals. While high-pitched falsetto singing is one of my guilty pleasures, (Mmmmm, I like me some Rishloo, TMV, and Fair To Midland), Impossible Landscape could have easily benefited from a break in the singing. The vocals are definitely mixed to be the center of attention, and the singer spends a considerably higher percentage of the songs singing than he did on Complexity of Light. This is not a change I'm particularly fond of, and there are several moments on the CD where I just wish he would ease up off the rest of the band's nuts and let them have more of the spotlight. Perhaps my judgement is clouded by the "Instruments > Vocals" norm that Progressive music clings to, but the way I see it, this album had a lot to lose by giving more ground to the singer this time around. A purely instrumental track might have been a good break in the action and would have opened some interesting possibilities. Despite these gripes, something must be said about how focused the album is in it's sound. Landscapes manages to avoid being a sloppy mess and although it slows down near the end, it stays cohesive as a whole.
All in all, while Impossible Landscapes is a necessary stepping stone in Children of Nova's journey to take it's place in the Prog Rock world, the execution falls a bit short and I'm left wanting more of what I heard on the EP that preceded it. Next time around, I hope they realize a little more old fasioned instrumental indulgence probably wouldn't hurt their new sound.
All things considered, I give Impossible Landscape 3 Sorely-Missed Conga Solos out of 5.