Shrouded Unity - The I-Factor


Year of Release: 2004
Label: Drama Records
Catalog Number: AJON04
Format: CD
Total Time: 65:19:00

This is one of four reviews in a series, beginning with Shrouded Unity - Crossing The Line - ed.]

This week I'm posting four reviews of bands from my home state of Maryland - which we often call "the state that doesn't have a capital city." You see - by the English definition of the word a city is a big place - and in that sense Annapolis is hardly a city at all. It's closer to an historic village with a pretty capitol building, sailboats and a Naval Academy. Don't get me wrong - we like being governed from a picturesque village instead of a big ugly city, and a jaunt to Annapolis has always been one of my family's favorite day trips.

More relevant to these pages is the fact that the laid-back seaside atmosphere in our capital village has apparently spawned a strong culture of progressive music. Not only does the town's Ram's Head Tavern host a lot of excellent prog shows, but Annapolis and its suburbs have also fostered Shrouded Unity. This is a wonderfully talented band that was originally rooted in Yes but is now carving its own place in the music world.

A few comparisons of Shrouded Unity's first two CDs: In my review of the band's debut album I praised their musicianship, songwriting and musical diversity - yet with The I-Factor, their sophomore release, these elements have improved by quantum leaps. I criticized their singing and production, but these have also improved. Thankfully the vocals are no longer as strained and the pitch is under better control. A final point of comparison - the band's debut album showed very strong Yes influences. Besides a few areas (particularly in "Cliché" and track 3, "Elevation"), they've grown away from that, and have developed an interesting persona that blends old and modern influences.

It's hard to pick a standout track, but "Empty Room" certainly deserves mention. It is a 10-minute piece that starts out as a simple but pleasant ballad. But listen to the lyrics and you'll quickly understand that it's hardly a ballad. The piece is evenly divided into four major sections - and at the first tempo shift it becomes an angry hard rock piece. Then it morphs into a gloomy, brooding sound with heavy bass, pealing bells and singing that is an emotional cry. It ends with a very dark, foreboding electronica-based instrumental. Very heavy, and so ... dark - but a truly excellent powerful, deep and frightening piece. You could easily Buy this record for that song alone - and consider all the other excellent tracks to be a happy bonus.

"Mother Told Me" sounds a bit like a proggy version of Lou Reed, and although I like the family-oriented ditty "Gladiator," I couldn't help thinking that it belonged on a different record. I suspect many listeners will programs their CD players to run through tracks 1 through 9 - and stop there.

There are some wonderful ideas here and songwriter Arnold Jerrell deserves kudos for a well constructed, imaginative body of work. Bass guitarist Mike Routh also deserves mention for a very strong performance. Given the talents on display on The I-Factor, I'm surprised these guys haven't marketed themselves aggressively, or even developed themselves web site. This music needs to be heard.

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Tracklisting:
Clich? / Cerebral Conflict Part II / Elevation / A Creative Response To Poor Planning / Elevation / A Creative Response To Poor Planning / Empty Room / All The Same / Mother Told Me / The Breakdown Of Imaginary Separators / Gladiator / Olivia

Musicians:
Dave Durst - keys, accordion
Mike Routh - bass
Larry Parson - vocals, drums
Arnold Jerrell - all fuitars, bells, drums and, vocals
Mike Kirby - drums, vibes, tubular bells, electric percussion
Beth Cole - vocals

Discography:
Crossing The Line (1995)
The I-Factor (2004)

Genre: Progressive Rock

Origin US

Added: January 29th 2006
Reviewer: Duncan N Glenday
Score:
Hits: 1643
Language: english

  

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