Cryptic Vision - In A World

Year of Release: 2006
Label: ProgRock Records
Catalog Number: n/a
Format: CD
Total Time: 72:22:00

I have been impressed with these guys ever since I saw them give an incredible, show-stopping performance back at RoSFest 2005, and their debut album Moments Of Clarity is a superb album that still gets regular play by me.

So naturally the follow up album has been long-awaited. Since the last album, due to various musical commitments, original keyboard player John Zahner has left the band to be replaced by the very capable Howard Helm.

Opener and title track "In A World" is, of course, familiar from the earlier version on the Live At RoSFest CD, and is still just as impressive; an epic track with many interesting twists and turns along the way, with a jazz -flavored section featuring trumpet/synth and an acoustic, Spanish/Mexican style section, but with those exquisite harmonies that the band do so well, led as always by the incredible vocal talents of Todd Plant, especially during the majestic climax - that man's got a helluva set of lungs! "This Dream Pt 1" is a short acoustic track that leads us into "Common Ground," a good solid rocker but a little ordinary. Not a bad song, well performed and with a great synth solo from Howard Helm, but after a few listens now, it does not really stand out for me; the only track on the album I cannot get to grips with.

"Merkaba" is a jaunty, appealing little instrumental that does not outstay its welcome and has some great guitar/keyboard interplay between Howard and guitarist Tim Keese. Next up is "All Along" - now this is where the band really play to their strengths, a very appealing melodic ballad with an incredible vocal from Todd. And it's not only Todd that shines on vocals here, the harmony work from the rest of the band at the climax is quite incredible. It has that strong 80s AOR feel to it that I often hear in the band's music, and that's certainly meant as a compliment.

"The Space In Between" is an impressive track with a very strong chorus, melodic acoustic guitar passages mixed with rockier moments, and a mental guitar solo from Spock's Beard's Al Morse that he really lets rip on.

As for "I Am The Energy," this is something of a revelation. It kicks off atmospherically with electonica and what sounds like sampled helicopter sounds, similar to the opening of Floyd's "Another Brick In The Wall," but then Sam Conable thunders in with some room-shaking bass notes and were off into a fast, furious, metal-flavoured and somewhat uncharacteristic Cryptic Vision track, but a more than welcome one. With wild guitar solos, chunky Hammond organ and Rick Duncan's pounding drums, this is certainly the heaviest I have ever heard the band get, and should be heard by those who constantly critiscise the band for being a derivative 70's/80s prog throwback. Personally, I think they should mix tracks like this in with the melodic numbers more often - it's a great contrast to their normal style.

But then just when I was starting to think they were turning into a metal band, back they come with "Point Of View," one of those patented melodic, upbeat and infuriatingly catchy numbers that they do so well. And I just can't seem to get that damn chorus out of my mind. One of my faves, one of those songs that just seem to put you in a good mood and makes me remember why I started listening to prog in the first place. And with a David Ragsdale violin solo as well - what's not to like?

"Power To Mend" has a quiet, low key but atmospheric opening with synth washes and gentle guitar gives way to some incredibly tight bass and drum work before were off into one of those great, sing-along choruses again. Damn ... hooked again. And another great keyboard solo from Howard, one of those, expressive, guitar-style solos that I happen to be particularly fond of. Todd's vocal is particularly impressive here, very intense and sung in a slightly lower register than usual, showing the incredible scope of his vocal range. The whole thing is rounded off nicely with a reprise of the main chorus, sung a cappella style by all the band.

Stabbing bass synth notes open "Find," which has a nice funky feel to it but again is one of those tracks that just does not seem to stand out for me despite many listens. I can appreciate it musically and it has another great solo from Al Morse, but somehow does not have an appealing enough melody for me.

Things improve greatly with "The Balance." After a very film-theme style keyboard opening melody, typically strong melodies and chorus give way to a very Spock's Beard inspired instrumental mid-section that is just pure prog heaven - Hammond organ and synths dancing around fiery guitar passages, all powered along by the powerful rhythm section.

"This Dream Part 2" kicks off in epic, orchestral style, before segueing into a quiet, acoustic reprise from opening track "In A World" ... but it doesn't remain quiet for long, building to an incredible, soaring, sustained note from Todd before treating us to that wonderful, majestic end section from the title track, finishing the album in fine style.

Overall it's a very good album, but for me does not quite have the coherence of the band's debut album, which I can happily listen to all the way through without skipping any of the tracks. A couple of aforementioned songs on this one, though well performed, are just a little undistinguished and don't stand up quite as well as the rest of the album. But this is still an album I would recommend nevertheless - it's good to see the band stretching out on tracks such as "I Am The Energy," and that they still know how to craft fine melodies and catchy choruses. Considering the band have not been together very long and are only just starting to gig regularly (and they are a superb live act despite this, make no mistake), I still think they have great things ahead of them and have it within them to produce an absolutely killer album.

In A World (16:22) / This Dream Part I (1:06) / Common Ground (4:37) / Merkaba (3:14) / All Along (5:09) / The Space In Between (4:58) / I Am The Energy (4:10) / Point Of View (4:49) / Power To Mend (10:03) / Find (4:09) / The Balance (8:42) / This Dream Part II/In A World (Reprise) (5:03)

Rick Duncan - drums, guitar, keyboards
Todd Plant - vocals, guitar
Sam Conable - bass, vocals
Timothy Keese - guitar, vocals
Howard Helm - keyboards, vocals


David Ragsdale - violin
Alan Morse - guitar
Ralph Santolla - guitar
John Zahner - keyboards
Jerry Outlaw - guitar
Shawn Bowen - guitar
Carrie Martin- angelic choir vocals

Moments Of Clarity (2003)
'In A World' (single demo)
Live At RoSFest 2005 (2005)
In A World (2006)

Genre: Progressive Rock

Origin US

Added: August 6th 2006
Reviewer: John Morley
Artist website:
Hits: 2383
Language: english


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