Dimension X - So ... This Is Earth?

Year of Release: 2005
Label: Unicorn Records/Unicorn Digital
Catalog Number: UNCR 5016
Format: CD
Total Time: 51:46:00

Milwaukee. Let's face it. Even though the place has its fair share of both progressive and metal acts, nary a soul is going to associate Milwaukee with metal, save for maybe the city's Metalfest and Alice Cooper's excellent appearance in Wayne's World. And progressive? Lord, maybe if someone has heard of the "Planet Prog" radio show. So what are the odds of one finding a progressive metal band in Milwaukee, WI? Pretty damn good, actually, because that's where Dimension X is from. And with a name like that, c'mon, what else were these guys going to be playing? Folk? Ich don't think so. So we proceed to what some consider the rulebook for this genre, or at least its melodic side, and excepting those who like their bands to all sound the same:

Rule number one: The members better be able to shred like maniacs and write stuff with odd-time signatures and wild tempo changes in it.

Rule number two: The songs should be well-arranged and thus not sound too disjointed.

Rule number three: Vocalist must have a wide range and interesting vocal lines.

Rule number four: The band shouldn't sound like the established titans.

And for the verdict:

1) The latest addendum to prog metal bands with names ending in "X" is a collective of apparently seasoned veterans that have been playing since the eighties, so it comes as no surprise that its members can shred with the best of 'em and know how to work with each other just fine in the tricky twists and turns of prog time zaniness. Interestingly enough, Kent Herman recalls a fiery Criss Oliva (of Savatage fame) on a couple of really short moments, although the distinct influence of John Petrucci is much more evident. Also, kudos to Andy Jimenez, whose drumming is both energetic and tight, and whose style never seems really derivative, save for a couple of moments that are too close to Mike Portnoy.

Rule number one: Check.

2) The songs on So ?This Is Earth?, while busting at the seams with complicated arrangements, regal harmonic progressions, nice interplay, and even some interesting Chapman Stick work courtesy of D.R. Burkowitz, could have ultimately used some more work. It's not that new ideas are out of character in each track, or even that there are overtly embarrassing moments, save for maybe that German segment in "Xeno's Paradox," which sounds too comical for its own good. It's just that parts segue into each other too roughly at times, and a large number of arrangements seem more like an excuse to engage the listener with their virtuosity rather than structural elements with a purpose.

Rule number two: X.

3) Singer David Hoover II does not have either the range or the tessitura of a James LaBrie or Geoff Tate, which might detract fans of progressive metal. And while the range in his own voice fach is limited and strains when at its higher region, Hoover II does have a pleasant timbre when in a more comfortable zone and can come up with some pretty catchy vocal melodies at times. Laconically put, his style is better suited to the more laidback material of Dimension X, which unfortunately is little when compared to the more metallic-minded one.

Rule number three: One quarter check. Three quarters X.

4) This, along with number two, might be the greatest issue with So ?This Is Earth?. Jeff Konkol's more "classical" piano interludes, especially "Introspection," sound like they should have been on Shadow Gallery's Carved In Stone, and there are a couple of other moments on the album where Dimension X hovers too close to Tyranny territory. The Dream Theater influence is even stronger, however. "Open Letter" is clearly based on Awake, with Herman and Konkol recalling the now-classic Petrucci/Moore synergy on Dream Theater songs like "Caught In A Web" and "Lie," and the rhythmic introduction of "Under A Glass Moon" from milestone Images And Words is identically reprised near the end of "Xeno's Paradox." Indeed, there are quite a lot of parallels to be drawn between Dimension X's debut and Dream Theater's sophomore legend. Moreover, such parallels are close. Too close ? yet lacking the absolute songwriting quality of, say, a Vanden Plas.

Rule number four: X.

Now, now, breaking it down in such a manner makes it all too wishy-washy, doesn't it? Well, even if you hadn't realized it, it does. Let us begin by making it clear that Dimension X is not an amateurish band by any means, to which its respective members' abilities can easily attest. Furthermore, this Milwaukee unit does show that it can come up with its very own style, as evidenced on "Corporate Ladder," easily the best song on the album and one that even features a reference, whether intended or not, to Faith No More. What is impossible to understand, however, is why its members didn't choose to highlight Burkowitz's Chapman Stick work more often, since it seems to make the band switch into a more unique sound whenever it comes to the forefront. Moreover, this is a band that seems more at home when producing more lighthearted music, instead of overtly metallic stuff. Whether or not Dimension X changes its perspective regarding those elements in the future remains to be seen, but for now, So?This Is Earth? lands it in the already saturated field of progressive metal with a sound that, while not bad, isn't anything to write home about either.

Similar artists: Shadow Gallery, Dream Theater, Symphony X

Why (6:02) / Open Letter (3:37) / Corporate Ladder (5:16) / Introspection (1:37) / Train Wreck (5:48) / Xeno's Paradox (16:51) . Intrigue (6:06) / Nothing's Changed (6:43)

David Hoover II - vocals
Kent Herman - guitar
D.R. Burkowitz - bass, Chapman Stick
Jeff Konkol - keyboards
Andy Jimenez - drums

So...This Is Earth? (2005)

Genre: Progressive-Power Metal

Origin US

Added: September 14th 2005
Reviewer: Marcelo Silveyra
Artist website: www.dimensionxproject.com
Hits: 1047
Language: english


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