Review Summary: A worthy sucessor to "Tyranny"
Since the 90s came, strong progressive music practically vanished, buried by grunge, and later on, rap and pop bands. There don’t seem to be more than a few dozen bands of the genre, and even more rare is finding a worth while, interesting one to the listen to. The few bands that actually play any form of progressive music also seem to get little to no attention, save a few choice bands such as Dream Theater and possibly Symphony X. Shadow Gallery is one of the relatively unfortunate bands to be virtually unknown. They have been around for 15 years, and have remained deep underground for their whole career. Of course, never playing live doesn’t help, but Shadow Gallery are immensely Talented at what they do.
This is the Pennsylvanian band’s fifth studio release, and it is the sequel in concept to their third album, Tyranny.
For those who don’t know the story (and I’m sure 99 percent of those reading this do not) Tyranny’s
story began with a weapons designer in the military becoming aware of what he was doing in life, and of the killing machines he was creating. He quits his job and his eyes come open to the government complex, and he starts using the internet to find out more. He meets a women there who he quickly grows fond of, and he eventually comes so attached to her that he asks for a phone call. She is reluctant at first, so he decides to plant a virus that would “bring the system down in flames” to convince her that he is real and wants to take down the government. Shortly after this, his phone rings and he talks with the women, who tells him of upcoming dangers and that the government could be tracking their every move. They plan to rendezvous somewhere far away After the call, he gets a message on the computer from a government agent, who claims that he is “of risk.” They track him to his house, and the man flees. to Alaska. (The lyrics do not actually say Alaska, but their are lyrical similarities to this album closer that relate to the song “Alaska” off their sophomore effort that leads many fans to believe this.) Tyranny
The Story of Room V
I found Room V
a bit harder to decipher than Tyranny,
but this is the best I can come up with for a short overview of the plot: Tracks 1-7 form Act III and 8-14 are act IV (I and II were on Tyranny
This starts right where the story left off. The protagonist is still running and hiding from the government and searching for his “lover.” (Manhunt) The two finally meet and realize how comfortable and safe they feel when they’re together. (Comfort Me) It is revealed later than she is a bio-engineer, and when the protagonist falls asleep, she starts working on a cure for smallpox, bought from intelligence in Israel. She uses her own DNA to create a serum to cure the disease. (The Andromeda Stain) It is also hints in this song that she is working for the government, and they plan to unleash the pox on the city, and sell the cure at high price. (This particular track was pretty confusing to decipher for me, read the lyrics yourself and come up with your own conclusion) As their relationship progresses, the protagonist proposes to her, and the two get married. (Vow) The woman gives birth to a daughter (Birth of a daughter) but tragically dies in the process, (Death of a Mother) leaving the protagonist alone with his new daughter. Act III ends a somber note as the protagonist expresses how she promised she would never leave, and that she left so soon. (Lamentia)
Our story continues seven years later (Seven Years) and the man’s daughter has grown healthy. The peaceful mood changes as a shattering window and a very high pitched scream is heard. (Dark) The protagonist now has had his daughter kidnapped, and all of his emotions are let loose. (Torn) The next morning he heads out into the forest determined to bring her back alive, where he sees a soldier with a crossbow aimed at him. (The Archer of Ben Salem) He says how his daughter was taken because her DNA could be used in place of his wife’s because they shared the same blood type, and he too had that same rare blood type that could be used for the serum. The Archer takes the man to well hidden town, to the back room of a library. It is here that he discovers that the agency “New World Order” (see the song by the same name on “Tyranny.”) is planning to unleash the plague, and sell the serums to those fortunate enough to pay the high fees for it. (Encrypted)
These final two songs are incredibly foggy lyric wise, and I cant really figure out quite what they have to do with the plot, but I’m guessing that the title track references how “New World Order” can use the internet and other communications to carry out the plan. (yet the chorus seems like a band anthem....really confuses me) Rain
may be even more complicated. I’ve gathered that they left the protagonist out on the street and planted the antidote in him, which was “poison.” So possibly instead of selling an actual serum, they made money off of killing the innocent" I’m sorry, but I couldn’t really figure the end out, look it up yourself (and wikipedia says nothing about the concept of this album.)
Well, that’s basically an overview of the plot, I really suggest reading the lyrics, the story is very interesting, and it really caused me to think, maybe even more than “Operation: Mindcrime” did.
Musically, this album is similar to Tyranny, yet different. If it makes any sense, this album is heavier, yet more mellow at the same time. Out of the 14 tracks, there are really only 8 songs (5 of the tracks are instrumental, and “Lamentia” is just a one minute interlude in the same vain as “Broken” on Tyranny.) Out of those 8 tracks, half of them are ballads. The remaining 4 are for the most part, heavier than most material on Tyranny.
was basically balanced throughout, and never really had any real all metal songs (save possibly “War for Sale.”) This album contains heavier moments in most of the songs, yet somehow seems more mellow as a whole. The track lengths on this album are longer overall, well, of the 8 real tracks that is. The shortest real track is 6:46, and there are 4 over 8 minutes here. However, the album is only two minutes longer than Tyranny, obviously because the 6 other songs are all generally around 2 minutes in length. Though it would’ve been nicer for less instrumentals, they do serve well in the overall atmosphere of the album.
is a crazy two minute instrumental, much like the opener for [b[Tyranny[/b] again. The main piano theme of Christmas Day
is briefly featured about 2/3 a way through the track, which keeps it from being fully intense. The Birth of a Daughter/Death of a Mother
double are possibly even more frantic and exciting. The former starts off ambient, but later explodes into more soloing, by both the guitars and keyboards, while the latter is the opposite, beginning fast and ending a bitter note, just as the title suggests. Lamentia
is beautiful, there aren’t really any other words to describe the sound of it. It’s shame it’s only a minute long, it easily could’ve been made into a longer composition. In it the chorus melody of Comfort Me
is played, only instead of a joyous emotion, a much deeper, saddening emotion is emitted. For such a short piece, it really touches you. Seven Years
begins right after, sounding incredibly hopeful and upbeat after such a melancholy interlude, with some gorgeous flute playing by the band bassist, Carl Cadden-James and guitar that gives off the atmosphere of the beginning of Spring. As soon as it starts the happy atmosphere dissipates with the sound of a shattering window and a terrified scream from the protagonist’s 7 year old daughter. The rest of Dark
is simply spooky, dark ambiance and white noise, that segues to the next track.
Act III contains 3 actual songs within it, Comfort Me, The Andromeda Stain,
After such a blistering opener, Comfort Me
will most likely catch you off guard. A simple piano melody is played, and Mike Baker sings with new hope, now that he has found his lover. Much like Spoken Words
on Tyranny, both male and female vocalists are in this track, and again, Laura Jaeger plays the role of the protagonist’s soon to be wife. The verses on this track are just about only vocals and piano, some quiet clean guitar licks, and simple drumming in the later verses. It isn’t until the chorus that the distortion kicks in, and in a way much like “Space Dye-Vest,” just a few chords are struck. The two vocalists both sing here, with some very touching and uplifting lyrics, though slightly cheesy.
“And now you're next to me
I beg you baby please don't go
End of the road for me
I'll just hold you close
Just hold you close
End of the mystery a gift from heaven on this day
Your touch to comfort me
Just comfort me.”
The Andromeda Stain
is more of a rocker. It starts with a, dare I say it, almost nu-metal sounding guitar riff. The verses sound a bit dark, but as they progress, the song become more upbeat and arrives at a very catchy chorus, that almost sounds like it could be on mainstream rock radio. In fact, if this track was shortened a few minutes, it would’ve fit in fine as a modern rock single. It’s a song that the listener should like right away, which is needed on album of this genre, but unlike the other tracks, it probably will not grow on you.
The last real song on act III is Vow,
which is the first of three 8 minute ballads to follow. This song is basically a lot like a stretched out version of Comfort Me
without the female vocals. The verses are quieter, with the chorus being very emotional. The guitars are much more prominent on this track though, and the clean guitar licks are done very well. However, this track does get repetitive, and it takes a while to fully appreciate. (grant ed I probably haven’t yet)
Now, act IV contains five real tracks, and personally, I believe these five tracks to be the five best on the album. Yup, musically, I would say this act is much better. Torn
begins after the short, ambient interlude with one of the saddest clean guitar lines ever. It’s simple, but man is it ever effective. I would say that this is easily the most emotional song on the album, and if any is able to really touch you emotionally, this would be the one. This song was actually written for one of James Labrie’s projects (Mike Baker wrote a few songs for his solo work) and he chose a few other of Baker’s writings over it, so he incorporated it to this album. Like the other ballads on the album, it follows a very similar structure, with the quiet verses, and more emotional chorus, yet here, an impressive melodic lead is layered into the chorus, for a better, more interesting effect. Another song that seems like it could possibly be a radio hit if four minutes were shaved off it.
The Archer of Den Salem
is next, and it may be the proggiest track here. Carl Cadden-James (busy guy) does the vocals for the archer in this song, and his style is almost exactly like Baker’s only a little rougher sounding. There are many fantastic heavy guitar riffs and key licks strewn about this piece, it’s about all distorted. The first four minutes are full of proggy goodness, with the very interesting duet vocals between Baker and James. The last part of the song is all instrumental, and I would have to say that it unfortunately, takes a little bit from the song. (or at least I would’ve loved to see more vocals at the end of the section) On the plus side, it’s possibly my favorite instrumental section on the album, it’s full of crazy time signatures and plenty of solos, by both the axe and the keys. Wehrkamp and Allman really shred here, and the lick from 5:13-5:27 is absolutely mind blowing imo, it’s nothing too complex, but it really leaves a jaw-dropping impression, like the whole song actually.
And then we have the final ballad on the album, Encrypted,
and do they ever save the best for last. This song has a more organic feel than the other ballads, and is more progressive than the others, perhaps that’s why it really struck me. This song isn’t as emotional as the other ballads, that’s for sure, but unlike the others, this one somehow seems just about perfect. I would say this may be my favorite song on the album (the previous track is close behind though) The chorus here is stunning, Baker holds a high note for a few seconds before going right into the majestic chorus. What may be even better than the chorus, is the blues influenced solo that lasts from 5:12-6:06. This song must be heard to be believed.
The title track is next, and is the most metal song on the album. There is no thought denying it as the thundering opening riff blasts from the stereo. The chorus will be stuck in your head for weeks, but unfortunately, the lyrics on this are really cheesy, and I have no idea how they intertwine with the plot at all. These are the lyrics to the chorus:
“Here we are, we’re the band, we’ve got your marching orders
It’s in the music and the words that we sing. (that we sing)
Sing along, sing aloud, and you’ll join the answer
We will rock with the thunder of a thousand might horses.”
Sounds more like an anthem to me 0_o but other than that, this is a very solid song. Although unfortunately, it has the same probably that “Archer” does, only more severe. At about 2:45 onwards, the song is completely instrumental. While this isn’t completely a bad this, this instrumental section isn’t quite as good as the one on “Archer,” and after such an impressive start, the song really loses it’s might. If there was less instrumental, and more singing on this song, I would say it would easily be the best, but because of this, it suffers a bit. I consider the previous two tracks a little better than this track, but it’s still amazing.
proves to be a worthy, and epic prog metal closer. It’s the longest song at 8:59 and is full of melodic guitar leads. The whole song is a bit spacey sounding, and I feel the vocals could’ve been a little better, but it overall does not disappoint. A great closer to a great album.
+Final 5 tracks
+Very intriguing story
+Impressive guitar and keys throughout
+bass is actually audible
+Baker gives a solid vocal performance
-Too many instrumentals/interludes
-Ballads are a little outstretched at times
-Some instrumental sections feel too long.
Verdict: I personally believe Tyranny to be a stronger album than this. Not by too much, but enough. If this album had more songs and less instrumentals, it may have been a little better, but no song on this album is as good as “War for Sale” and “I Believe” imo.
Final Rating: 4/5