Visual Cliff - Freedom Within

Year of Release: 2005
Label: Trinity Records
Catalog Number: n/a
Format: CD
Total Time: 34:25:00

Visual Cliff plays elegant, complex, melodic all-instrumental progressive fusion. Usually. But with Freedom Within the band has done almost a complete U-turn. This is hard-rock, it has few progressive passages, and in a first for the band, there are vocals.

The only elements this record has in common with the band's 2 previous CDs and its recent EP are the high standard of musicianship and the band's unabashed Christian position. This isn't overtly religious music in the style of a Neal Morse, a Revelation Project or an Ajalon. But the spiritual overtones permeate every aspects of the music, giving it a positive, strong, major-key tone that is upbeat and inspirational - and in that sense they could be compared with Farpoint or the new singer's home band, Orphan Project.

Shane Lankford joined the band as a guest vocalist, and his singing dominates 3 of the 8 songs. Lankford has a strong voice that is well suited to hard rock, and to the ballsy tones of Freedom Within. He provides his own backing vocals, and "Beneath The Sand" and "Let It Ring" feature big 2- and 3-part vocal harmonies of Lankford's overdubbed singing. Visual Cliff's style of music obviously had to change to accommodate vocals, and in some measure Shane's voice dictated that direction. His delivery is in the mid-ranges, gruff and ballsy, a gutsy style with no hint of metal-esque falsetto wailing. So Visual Cliff applied the hard-edged approach to the whole record - including all 5 instrumental tracks. A very strong rhythm section provides a rock-solid bottom end with a groove that often hints at the band's fusion roots. The music is predominantly guitar-led, though, and band leader and founder Rob Perez demonstrates a wonderful chameleon-like flexibility. He conjures up a good variety of guitar voices, and in one section he's playing slow and soulful solos in the style of a Steve Hackett, and in the next he's shredding like a heavy metal speed king. Then in "Spirit Rain" he's channeling Hendrix, and through almost every track he's contributing to the rhythm section with Iommi-like riffs - deep and distorted, heavy and consistent. There are sparse inserts of keyboards passages which add an important texture to the music and help to avoid a "samey" quality - but in this case, more might have been better.

Of the vocal tracks, opener "Sacred" is the standout with excellent instrumentation, a pleasing vocal melody, interesting whispered inserts that pique the interest, and more complexity than Shane's other two songs. "Spirit Rain" was the standout among the instrumental tracks. With a simple Woodstock-era jam-band groove, it is based on a simple riff with Hammond-styled backing - then it breaks into a long, appealing solo while the bass guitar keeps the basic riff alive in the background, then it returns to the groove - a head-nodding, deep, distorted, staccato that ought to last far longer than its 3-odd-minutes.

Visual Cliff's future will be interesting. Perez and Lankford have formed a new band called Fall Of Echoes, and the 7 songs already in development will probably sound suspiciously like Freedom Within. Band members will include Visual Cliff's Berklee-educated Rick Mals, a long-time friend and collaborator of Perez - as well as Orphan Project's Toni Corelli and Bill Yost. So will Visual Cliff now leave the hard-rock up to Fall Of Echoes and return to its prior style progressive fusion, or is that style firmly in their past?

In the interests of full disclosure I should confess that I've socialized with both Rob and Shane, and Rob Perez and I have a rapport going back several years and I consider him a friend. But that did not taint this review. Try it yourself - go to the band's web site and order this record. It will be the best $9.95 you spend this year - and that includes shipping.

Sacred (4:28) / Electric Soul (4:29) / Future Impact (4:36) / Let It Ring (4:31) / Beneath The Sand (5:04) / Radiant Departure (4:05) / Torn From Expression (3:58) / Spirit Rain (3:10)

Rob Perez - guitars
Rick Mals - drums
Rob Klan - keyboards
Eric Fuller - bass, Chapman Stick
Shane Lankford - vocals

Lyrics For The Living (2003)
Key To Eternity (2004)
Limited Edition EP (2005)
Freedom Within (2005)

Genre: Progressive Rock

Origin US

Added: November 13th 2005
Reviewer: Duncan N Glenday
Artist website:
Hits: 1532
Language: english


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