Explorer's Club - Age Of Impact


Year of Release: 1998
Label: Magna Carta
Catalog Number: MA-9021-2
Format: CD
Total Time: 53:29:00

Just by virtue of who is in this band, I should be loving this disc to death. Unfortunately, I'm not, but I don't think it is the fault of the music, but rather a fault of the origin of the music coupled with the fact that it's a "supergroup" and seems to lacking an identity of its own. Read: you must love Magellan to love this disc. I'll keep saying that throughout the review to remind you of what I actually mean when I say certain things. Bear in mind, that I loved the first Magellan disc, Hour Of Restoration. The second disc, Impending Ascension, was too chock full of Yessian riffs and vocal lines for me to grasp onto as much. Their latest, Test Of Wills, is just too experimental for me. Certainly, I just carved out the definition of "progression," and Magellan surely signifies what most prog fans love about the genre; change. An avid supporter of change, but I do have a sticky foot when it comes to some changes, and this is one of those times. Read: you must love Magellan to love this disc. Being an avid fan of keyboards in my prog metal also qualifies me to have much love for Explorer's Club, but the long, drawn out instrumentals and "jam" sessions just overdo it for my liking. Throw in a host of names like Bozzio, Petrucci, Cooper, Howe, Sheehan and on and on and one would almost instantly think "masterpiece." To some ears, it may be. To these ears, it's a bit on the repetitious side.

THE STYLE:

Well, take Magellan, and throw in the influences of the above mentioned musicians, add in just a touch of darkness, and you have Explorer's Club. However, take into consideration that the disc is 53:00 long, and divided into 5 "impacts" or passages, clocking in from 8:45 up to 16:00. Still sounds great, but most of that time is taken up by long, drawn out jam sessions and guitar solos that quickly lose the excitement, and that's saying a lot given the talent of the players. There are lots of keyboards, tons of guitars, and a short book of lyrics to go with it, just like Magellan, but to be honest, a Magellan disc might do a bit better for me than this one is. The music ends up sounding like a smorgasbord of the influences of the many players in the band, and after awhile I start to lose track of the identity inside the music. At times I'm hearing Dream Theater, others I'm hearing Magellan, mixed in with a ton of different styles. It all becomes to overwhelming in the end. The music is totally progressive, never stopping to let you breathe for one moment, with as many guitar solos and tempo changes as one can handle. I will admit that the constant barrage of changing tempos did start to wear upon my senstitive ears, but overall I found that the lack of identity of the music was harder to handle than the tempos. I'm all for the tempo changes, as long as I know who is playing them, and with this disc, it's virtually impossible to tell where it's going next. I really don't see prog metal fans going crazy over this one as much as prog rock fans. There is nowhere near the "metal" sound that everyone might think considering the player caliber here. Yes fans will probably get a jolt out of this as well.

THE BAND:

Rather than try to dissect who is playing what in this band, here is a list of who actually plays on the disc, and you can decide from there what the talent level of this project is like.

Terry Bozzio / Billy Sheehan / Trent Gardner / Wayne Gardner / Bret Douglas / Matt Bradley / James LaBrie / DC Cooper / John Petrucci / Derek Sherinian / Matt Guillory / James Murphy / Frederick Clarke / Brad Kaiser / Michael Bemesderfer

A true who's who of incredible talent, but please bear in mind: you must love Magellan to love this disc.

THE PRODUCTION::

I immediately thought that this would bear an incredible performance in the sound area, given the players and the label. However, I did find the sound to be a bit on the muddled side. Maybe due to the amount of instruments being jammed into one session, I'm not sure, but the sound is just a bit on the muddy side. Sure, you can hear every instrument and every word being sung, but the quality of the sound is just not there. I could take a guess at any combinations of problems, but I hear that one might be the lack of drum punch needed to drive this style of music. The drums seem to take a back seat to either the bass or keyboards, which give off a constant drone throughout the music. The keyboards don't shine through like they should, and again, I surmise that too many boards are being used at once? I don't know, but whatever it is, it's there. I'd like to have heard cleaner keys, and heavier guitars given the amount of solo time they're given. The vocals are clean and clear, and just a bit back in the mix. When you have LaBrie and Cooper singing on the same disc, I'd like to hear just a bit more of their vocal cords, ala Royal Hunt's Paradox or Dream Theater's Awake. Muddled is the word that keeps coming to mind, and yes, you need to love Magellan to love this disc.

THE VOCALS:

When you have singers of the caliber of DC Cooper and James LaBrie singing on your disc, you really don't worry if they're going to sound good or not, it's the level of greatness that you measure. Add in Bret Douglas (Cairo, I think?) [Yes, that's correct - ed.] and Trent Gardner and you have a vocal supergroup all on its own. This crew can sing me church songs all day and I'd enjoy it. Don't forget, you need to love Magellan vocals in order to love this disc.

THE COMMENTS:

While there is no denying the quality of musicians on this disc, it's the quality of the music that seems ot be lacking, for me at least. The long, drawn out, musical passages quickly become irritating and repetetive, and the guitar solos become emotionless and hollow. I would not recommend this disc to metal fans, as you will be highly disappointed in the lack of guitar sounds, again, given the players. I do recommend this disc to all prog rock fans and Yes fans that love anywhere from 9-17 minutes of long, drawn out, instrumental passages. If you are a lover of this style of music, then you've found a home. If you are looking for any type of music that any of these players have created in the past, you will be disappointed. They are merely a substitute for Magellan style riffings and song structures. Not a bad thing, if you love Magellan. The disc really takes the word "progression" to a new level, and you're looking for what the genre itself is all about, look no further. However, if you're looking for emotional, catchy, easy to follow music, look elsewhere. It's a very good disc despite my attempt to pull out the carpet of victory out from under the band's feet, but from my perspective, you need to love Magellan to love this disc, and I only like the first disc, [track? ed.] so I'm certainly biased here. Otherwise, it's a very competant, well played disc, with some of the best players in the business.


Tracklisting:
Impact 1 - Fate Speaks (16:00) / Impact 2 - Fading Fast (8:45) / Impact 3 - No Returning (8:20) / Impact 4 - Time Enough (9:15) / Impact 5 - Last Call (11:10)

Musicians:
Terry Bozzio - drums
Billy Sheehan - bass
Trent Gardner - keyboards, trombone
Wayne Gardner - electric and acoustic guitars, additional bass
Bret Douglas, Matt Bradley, James LaBrie, D.C. Cooper, Trent Gardner - vocals
John Petrucci, James Murphy, Frederick Clarke, Steve Howe - guitars
Derek Sherinian, Matt Guillory - keyboards
Michael Bemesderfer - flute and wind controller
Brad Kaiser - additional midi programming

Discography:
Age of Impact (1998)
Raising The Mammoth (2002)

Genre: Progressive-Power Metal

Origin VA

Added: July 25th 1999
Reviewer: Larry "LarryD" Daglieri

Hits: 763
Language: english

  

[ Back to Reviews Index | Post Comment ]