Review Summary: One of the best progressive rock albums of the '90s. Discipline struggle for identity but still succeed in channelling their influences into a tour de force of symphonic prog.
The hankering to experience something new and exciting is an essential part of being human. Our natural curiosity leads us to experiment with all manner of things throughout our lives in an attempt to grow, it's in our DNA. However, the familiar can also be comforting, especially when it comes to music. Music which is easy to process can be very appealing, evidenced in the never ending popularity of simple and undemanding pop music among the masses. Progressive rock is seldom touted as a form which concentrates on easy listenability as one of its main goals. That is not to say, however, that a healthy dose of the familiar is always unwelcome as long as the music does not descend into parody. American symphonic prog group Discipline certainly weren't afraid to embrace their influences on this sophomore album and chose to tread ground that would be familiar to any fan of '70s progressive rock music. The result, while not exactly innovative, was one of the most enjoyable progressive rock albums of the 1990's.
The spectre of Genesis looms large on this sophomore album. Discipline also strongly invoke memories of Van Der Graaf Generator, King Crimson and several other '70s prog giants. These influences are immediately apparent on opener 'Conto IV (Limbo)' which kicks off with squirts of saxophone over some urgent riffing before some gently spiralling piano settles proceedings down into a delicate balladic passage built around a traditional verse-chorus structure. But it isn't long before the music shifts into complex multi-instrumental structures full of shifting time signatures interspersed with swelling volume-pedal guitar passages and minor mode riffs. Discipline show that they are eminently comfortable with the extended musical format that is so typical of the symphonic prog genre on the majestic 'Into The Dream'. This meandering slab of traditional progressive rock reinforces the early-Genesis comparisons with it's foreboding airs and bleak pastoral ambience. Singer/multi-instrumentalist Matthew Parmenter is in full-on Gabriel mode here with his throaty tormented vocals admirably matching the ominous guitar passages and somber mellotron swirls. Darkly melancholic lyrical themes also contribute to the overall feel of bleak yearning which suffuses the music throughout the album.
This is not an exercise in overt viruosity. Discipline prefer to focus on atmosphere and texture while channelling subtle haunting melodies into the restrained symphonics. This is not to say that the musical delivery is not competent. Parmenter's biting yet often contemplative Gabriel-eque vocals suit the music perfectly and guitarist John Preston Brouda's contribution is exemplary throughout. As previously alluded, there is little that was particularly original or experimental about the music on here. Discipline did, however, manage to channel their influences into something cohesive and eminently listenable and this album stands up as one of the best symphonic prog releases since the heyday of progressive rock in the early '70s.