Panopticum - Reflection

Year of Release: 2004
Label: Self-released
Catalog Number: n/a
Format: CD
Total Time: 58:11:00

With two guitars in the line-up, this new Belgian band mentions Dream Theater as their major inspiration. But upon listening to their debut album (still a demo as I write this piece) their musical scope goes a lot further than that. Although having a female lead singer, Panopticum nevertheless chooses to open this album with an instrumental track. Not directly the best marketing strategy, as obviously you need an "in-your-face" opening track containigg all the band members; however, most certainly a perfect illustration that the technical abilities are strongly available, whilst the band also is interested to lay down true "atmospheres." For sure, the sound of the guitars gets the upper hand, but the synths are equally present in the mix. This is not the only instrumental track on this album as the two closing pieces are also non-vocal. So it's as if these instrumental compositions act like bookends in between which all of the vocal tracks are trapped.

"Where Does It Lead To" most certainly begins very promisingly with great melodies and ace playing from everyone involved. The vocals however don't really deliver the kind of approach that I was expecting to hear, as the vocal melody is a tad difficult within the entire concept. On top of that, the female vocals are backed by male backing vocals that personally I would only have used during the chorus. Dieter's intervention on piano suddenly steers the song in a slightly different direction, containing some Rhapsody references. Dieter, who is a huge fan of Jordan Rudess and also a member of Karma Depth, is a great asset to this band as his parts blend ever so well with the rest of the band's original compositions. The multi-layers of synths in "The Angel And It's Drawing" extra underline the dramatics here, whilst I invite everyone to closely listen to the inventive drumming as well. This composition most certainly contains loads of authentic Dream Theater elements, resulting in a most interesting and professional song. During "The Chaos In Between" both guitars play the scales together, kind of what Wishbone Ash used to do at times, but it's once again Dieter's piano section that opens other possibilities for this song, introducing fusion-like guitarsolos.

"Between Us" tries to combine two different sides of Panopticum, as on one side you get a more accessible, more rocky side, as opposed to the pure progressive direction. Again it strikes me how the vocals are rather bland here, as I'm convinced Shari is capable of doing much more with her voice. I really don't know how the compositions come to be, but surely her range should be much wider in order to fully fit within the musical concept of the band. I mainly miss emotions in her singing that are a very important part of the whole idea. I'm not saying she doesn't sing well, all I want to say is that this band is capable of much more, but then again, Dream Theater didn't start out with their best line-up either! Just listen to the intro for "Say No More," which could sound exactly like Yes if only the harmonies could be arranged properly. Once again Dieter's Rudess impersonation puts a very important mark on the music, whilst a lot of rhythm changes put a decent amount of spice into this one. One of my favourites on this debut album most certainly has to be "Restless," as it's as if Jordan Rudess and John Petrucci have stepped in to guest!

As said before, the album closes with two instrumentals. The first, "Delirium" contains bits of dialogue from a movie in order to enhance the drama within the piece. Again it contains all the elements to keep it interesting throughout, ranging from accessability to fluent improvisation with the technically high standards as a constant factor. Sadly the end becomes a bit of a hickup as it sounds like there was no real end. With "The Day After," Panopticum ends with the absolute highlight of this album. Again this piece could well be pulled from one of the two Liquid Tension Experiment albums as it's that good. Dieter mainly continues to play the same loop on piano whilst the guitar adds that very memorable melody. Thumbs up for this superb release, with as a small criticism the fact that more work has to be done regarding the vocals. Maybe the addition of an external producer could do wonders here as most certainly the potential is there to deliver world class music with their follow up. With Panopticum, Belgium adds yet another important name to its ever growing roster of prog bands. How good it feels to be Belgian these days!

Backstage (4:55) / Where Does It Lead To (6:04) / The Angel And It's Drawing (6:32) / The Chaos In Between (4:54) / Between Us (5:33) / Goodbye (4:54) / Say No More (7:13) / Restless (7:13) / Delirium (6:42) / The Day After (2:08)

Shari Platteuw ? voice
Mattie Archie ? guitar
Tim Coulembier?? bass
Dieter Cailliau?? synth
Bjorn Dekock?? drums
Isaac Delahaye?? guitar

Reflection (2004)

Genre: Progressive-Power Metal

Origin BE

Added: April 4th 2004
Reviewer: John "Bobo" Bollenberg

Artist website:
Hits: 1366
Language: english


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