Review Summary: Nostalgic, majestic, and ultimately unforgettable.
Progressive rock is a genre with deep personal roots for me. Some of the first music I ever listened to was steeped in prog tendencies, even if I didn't know it as a child: Pink Floyd, The Moody Blues, Genesis, Yes, Jethro Tull...these were bands that were always playing in my household growing up. It's funny how as adults we end up finding comfort in things that remind us of simpler times; it can be anything from a television show to a specific household item that draws upon feelings of warm nostalgia. For me, perhaps strangely, it's progressive rock. If a band can conjure similar atmospheres to the those that I heard while I was doing homework, playing video games, or roughhousing with my brother, then it already has one foot in the door.
D Project is one of those rare modern bands that is able to replicate the magic I felt while listening to those classics while still existing entirely within their own creative sphere. The Sagarmatha Dilemma
, D Project's 2008 sophomore LP, illustrates their craft masterfully and to shimmering, breathtaking results. Progressive rock often suffers from over-ambition to the point that it loses what makes it music; The Sagarmatha Dilemma
, however, unfurls effortlessly and beautifully while yielding some of the most memorable melodies I've ever heard. 'Closer to Heaven' breaks the ice perfectly with verses that sound like they were ripped straight out of The Dark Side of the Moon
, which I wholly intend as a compliment. Stephane Desbiens' voice is mesmerizing and soothing, ushering in sparkling acoustic guitars that are tethered to the Earth by soulful, eloquent electric riffs. By the end of the song, the drums magnify in intensity and give way to an extended violin solo that comes as a most pleasant surprise. It carries itself very much like a Pink Floyd song, only trading in the moody psychedelics for lush acoustics and a more uplifting aura.
Every song on The Sagarmatha Dilemma
offers a discernible wrinkle, but the whole entity retains its crisp tone and sharp songwriting. The title track's acoustic guitars are so gorgeous that they're practically incandescent, while Desbiens' layered vocals sound angrier and more intense - approaching a shout/scream without breaking his highly melodic delivery. The song is overflowing with deceptively complex guitar solos, although gleaming keyboards are sprinkled throughout and shine through brilliantly near the end of the track. 'Red Mountain' possesses a very natural aura, driven by elegant classical pianos that eventually become awash in vibrant synths and acoustic guitars that mimic a trickling stream. Longing strings join into the mix before the track is eventually whisked away into a drawn out solo, and the entire experience feels so flourishing...so transcendent. D Project bring a heavier edge with 'Thin Air', which rocks to-and-fro with an aggressive groove, although the pace unpredictably falls off a cliff midway through to dabble in meandering, flute-sounding synths atop a wispy, airy backdrop.
D Project continue proving their versatility across The Sagarmatha Dilemma
's second half: 'Even If I Was Wrong' features what is arguably the most purely catchy
chorus on the record, while 'Radio Sherpa' is possibly the most experimental piece with its sporadic audio clips, wobbly/electronically-altered snyths and keyboards, and hollow, pattering percussive effects. The curtain call, 'I'm Coming Down', is a grandiose farewell worthy of the journey that preceded it. Blazing electric guitar solos erupt between soft, nearly whispered verses before the song disintegrates into plucked sitars and a menacing surge of drums and riffs that carry the song to its satisfyingly string-swept conclusion. The record possesses a majestic, monumental aura even at just seven songs, a refined tracklist that serves as a testament to the band's confidence in its craft.
D Project isn't a name that comes up very often, even in prog circles, but it's difficult for me to imagine a band doing much more to fall into the good graces of the progressive community than what D Project offers here. I say that as a knowing outsider to the genre's deeper cuts, but at the same time this is an album - and a band really - that oozes classic prog-rock charisma and demonstrates impressive instrumental talent while still allowing each of the songs to breathe. It all makes for an irresistibly charming aesthetic, and one that even as a mere casual fan of the genre, I haven't been able to forget about for thirteen years now. Perhaps the nostalgic glow of this thing is blinding me, but any album that's able to captivate a fringe-fan of the genre for well over a decade is doing a lot of things right. The Sagarmatha Dilemma
's greater fate can be decided in the court of prog diehards, but its place in my heart is already sealed.