Sonic Pulsar - Out Of Place

Year of Release: 2005
Label: Mellow Records
Catalog Number: MMP 477
Format: CD
Total Time: 00:00:00

One aspect, and perhaps the most important aspect, of progressive music is that it progresses. Whether in a universal sense that the artist making the music is pushing the boundaries of what is defined as music (and here can be experimental or just simply bringing textures and element not heard in a particular context) or whether we mean that an artist is growing, maturing, refining. It is in this latter sense that we find Sonic Pulsar. Out Of Place is a stronger, more focused release, as a follow up to Playing The Universe. Where the improvements are mostly heard is in the overall warmth of the production and in the fact that, except for here and there, the synthetic drums don?t sound synthetic. That alone makes Out Of Place an improvement; and Playing The Universe wasn't a bad offender either.

The canvas and colours that core members Hugo Flores and Carlos Mateus paint on and with are not unique, as it stylistically falls somewhere near Pallas, Arena and Pendragon... and Ayreon (though the latter is also due to the space theme of the album), that is progressive rock with a harder edge, sometimes moving into prog metal territory. Of course, that we have to draw comparisons, might cause some to view this as not progressive at all, because it doesn't fall into the first category. Let's just say it's the difference between Progressive and progressive (big enders versus little enders, if you will). They are aided and abetted in this sonic adventure by bassist Nuno Ferreira.

What we get on Out Of Place, in the whole, is a tumultuous mix of heavy, shifting and turning rhythms - percussion and bass are just as important as fiery guitar, all given a spacey keyboard-driven backdrop. The title track is quite catchy, though not in a poppy way. I think here, Flores sounds a bit like Jon Anderson, and I want to emphasize "a bit;" at least he's singing in an Anderson range. In as much as the album remains accessible, this is the most accessible track (perhaps why the radio edit on this promo version is of this song). The churning "Burning Inside" reminds me mostly of early Pallas, even as Flores sounds like Nick Barrett ... which may seem strange given that Flores is Portuguese not English. Ferreira's fat, and jazzy, bass comes to the fore on the closing minute or so of this piece.

Flores is an able vocalist, but even more so he is an amazing guitarist ... able to play fiery leads, distorted and acidic leads, steely leads ... the gamut, and able to transition from one to other smoothly. Most notably on the 10-minute plus instrumental suite "Schizophrenic Playground" which flows together five different movements, each with their own character and yet also seeming of a whole. It begins with the spacey, breathy keys and some harp-like tones of "Falling Asleep," these harp-like tones carrying over into the darker "The Dream Begins" where we get acidic, churning guitar phrases over a plunking piano. This dream is nightmare dark... and leads into, appropriately enough, part 3: "Nightmare..." which is even darker with rumbling piano notes, crisp, dynamic drumming (I'm not convinced they're synthetic), and searing guitar... all with a slightly Latin feel, that gives way to a violently turbulent section.

Part 4, "Innerspace" elongates things, the searing guitar leads becoming a little more languid, even as the drums become more frenetic. This shifts seamlessly into the final portion "Awakening" - it's still heart-pounding and chaotic, guitars, bass, and drums colliding together, tumbling towards some resolution. That resolution is a spacey keyboard and percussion filled outro.

Flores' appreciation of Rush and Dream Theater comes out in the shimmery guitar piece "I Always Knew," which also gives focus to Mateus' acoustic playing - resonate, sharp notes (methinks steel strings). It's mellower piece, a classic power ballad that has Flores sounding vaguely like LaBrie. There's even a room for a brief piano interlude. If there is minus, it seems to end too abruptly.

The latter half of Out Of Place is a concept suite, "the story, and point of view, of a star with a conscience, and also the point of view of someone living in a planet fed by the star's energy," Flores writes at the band's website. "The need to expand her knowledge and to get to know the corners of the universe, led to a supernova and the evacuation of the planet..." "her" being the star, of course; one supposes that Flores means "on a planet fed by...," but... "in" is equally valid if the "planet" drawing power from this star is a Dyson sphere... But then again, I read a lot of sci-fi, so maybe it's just me and that's a sort of typo.

The concept begins with "A Chain Of Actions," a short instrumental that features keyboard atmospheres and a rippling solo from Flores. This moves into the spacey, breathy keys that begin "I Heard Of A Place Called Earth" - a song with an socio-ecological message. The planet in this tale seems to have been ruined by man and man's greed ... it's not Earth, but is a stand-in for where Earth is headed. "...A Place Called Earth" builds slowly to become an intense piece with crashing drums, and rumbling percussion, parpy keys, and buzz-sawing guitars. It's the prog metal piece of the album, if what preceded was the heavy prog rock aspect. Sonic Pulsar let loose during the "War" section - a rollicking rollercoaster ride of sight (sound effects) and sound that leads into the momentarily mellower (comparatively) section "Post War," where chaotic rhythms trade off with more "structured" passages - guitar and vocals. Tinkling piano leads us into the final movement of this first act, "An Out Of Place Planet."

The spacey atmospheres recur in the short instrumental "Ghosts Of The Lost Planes" a few tracks later (I'm brought to mind of the intro to Marillion's Brave).

"A Chain..." was the human's tale of her worlds destruction, "Solitary Star" is the star's tale. "The Story" is a lighter, more melodic passage (think Arena), though maintaining the album's overall heaviness, where guitar sings, bass throbs, and drums snick, all in an almost restrained fashion that hints at some explosive playing to come, as the story progresses towards its own explosion.

Groovy prog metal comes in the form of the instrumental "Instrumetal," beginning with fat bass lines from Ferreira ("Starting Engines") moving to some soaring guitar work and moody keyboards from Flores ("Desolation To Joy," "Death Into Life" - this latter piece a quite beautiful 34 seconds), to a churning, dark rocker with more screaming and fiery guitar work from Flores (the tour-de-force "Silence Into Rhythm") back to the groovy rhythm we started with, if a bit heavier ("Engines Stop") -- all against the backdrop of rumbling, taut drums and percussion.

"Moving Engines" is the planet's inhabitant's exodus away; this is slowly evolving piece with clearly synthetic drums/percussion, digitized vocals, and lots of spacey calm (lone, sparse piano over sonic effects, some created by guitar). The album proper and the concept closes with "Time Has Been Broken" which has a slight reference to Yes, here the Rabin period in a piece that falls somewhere between 90125 and Talk. It also gets back to the heavy prog rock feel of the title track, recalling at times early Pallas and Ayreon.

Out Of Place isn't a perfect album, but it doesn't need to be to be entertaining and worthy of your attention. Flores and company convinces with their compositions and their instrumental execution. Meaning the only thing that makes this fall short of a perfect score is that Flores isn't the strongest of vocalists ... not at all bad, just not great. It's a minor flaw that should not interfere with one's appreciation of this album at all.

Out Of Place (5:36) / Burning Inside Me (5:63) / Schizophrenic Playground (10:08): Falling Asleep - The Dream Begins - Nightmare - Innerspace - Awakening / I Always Knew (3:34) / A Chain Of Events (44:11): Intro (1:58) / I Heard Of A Place Called Earth (10:07): Prelude - Getting Out Of Control - War - Post War - An Out Of Place Planet / Ghosts Of The Lost Planes (1:54) / Solitary Star (10:07): The Story - Supernova - Part Of The Universe / Instrumetal (6:51): Starting Engines - Desolation To Joy - Death Into Life - Silence In Rhythm - Engines Stop / Moving Engines (6:05) / Time Has Been Broken (Solitary Particles) (7:05)

Hugo Flores - vocals, acoustic and electric guitars, synths, piano
Carlos Mateus - acoustic guitars
Nuno Ferreira - bass guitars

Playing The Universe (2002/2003)
Out Of Place (2005)

Genre: Progressive-Power Metal

Origin PT

Added: February 20th 2006
Reviewer: Stephanie Sollow
Artist website:
Hits: 872
Language: english


[ Back to Reviews Index | Post Comment ]