Ice Age - The Great Divide

Year of Release: 1999
Label: Magna Carta
Catalog Number: MA 9028-2
Format: CD
Total Time: 74:26:00

I have been looking forward to writing this review almost from the moment I first listened to this disk - I am so excited by this release. Of those lying about here, this is one of the few that I keep wanting to put on and that keeps going through my head.

Now, I knew nothing about Ice Age before picking this disk up, just that it was a Magna Carta release (which, as anyone can tell, seems to be where most of my CD money is going to). To me, that already gave me a small clue of what to expect. And yet ... something told me that I might not like this. I'm very much the melodic prog metal fan, and not very much the screechy vocals, speed metal fan.

Well, my fears were in vain because this is a melodic prog lover's dream - great vocals, great playing, and great songs, too. No saccharine love songs (a la Shadow Gallery), thankfully.

The obvious starting point in this case is the vocals - the reason soon apparant. My first thought upon hearing this was "Dennis DeYoung (Styx) fronting Dream Theater" - I see now I am not the only one hearing it. Josh Pincus sounds a great deal like DeYoung, and, as other reviewers have mentioned, Michael Sadler of Saga. Which tells you this - Pincus has a great set of pipes. Dramatic with a good range without reaching cringe-worth highs (unlike Larry D., I'm okay with growly).

In fact, in rereading Larry's review of the "Join" demo, I see that Pincus isn't agreeable to the DeYoung comparion - like Larry I mean it as a compliment because I, too, like DeYoung's voice.

What's great about Pincus' voice -- not to belabor the point, but -- it is very theatrical, emotional ... drenched in feeling without overdoing it. "One Look Away" is one of those that'll hit you right in the gut if you've ever felt something more for someone who didn't seem to know or want to know. Now, not in that overdone, pompous kind of way - but more in that he can easily project, like many singers on the stage - the theater, that is. You know, belting out Gilbert and Sullivan, Andrew Lloyd Weber, Rogers and Hammerstein ... etc. And that's the kind of voice this kind of music needs, given it's theatrical quality.

"Because Of You" has a soaring vocals and a very romantic (that would be Romantic and romantic) feel to it without being light or saccharine. There are some beautiful and lyrical keyboard passages here in a more neo-progressive style, the drums keeping it just this side of metal (being a fan of both genres, this is the best of both worlds for me).

The track that sticks with me is "The Bottom Line" - there is a quality here to the grinding guitars that give this track the grittiness it needs. Here Pincus gets a little growly and it is totally perfect for this track - too light a touch and it doesn't convince, too growly and it becomes affectation.

Leaving Pincus the vocalist for a moment, Jimmy Pappas and Arron DiCesare handle the guitars and bass here and, let me tell you, handle them well. Pappas really knows his way around a fretboard, creating great melodies and impressive runs. Pincus, as keyboardist, creates just the right balance and his talents tickling the "ivories" shouldn't be overlooked. His moment to really shine comes on "Part I: Worthless Words" the instrumental intro to "To Say Goodbye."

"Ice Age" begins with some chilling keyboard atmospherics, guitars glide and shimmer like sunlight on ... um ... ice. The scene is set, with Pappas playing notes like a melding of Marillion's Steve Rothery and Dream Theater's John Petrucci without repeating their past accomplishments. This song takes on the qualities of all epic, centerpiece tracks.

And you want tour-de-force playing? Give the instrumental "Spare Chicken Parts" a spin or two; this'll show you this metal's mettle alright.

A word about the lyrics in general - Josh has a very poetic and yet not flowery way of writing - I guess it's better to say that he has a way with words, conveying many meanings in a simple phrase. It is rich and interesting enough, that I'm tempted to delve deeper into the lyrics. There's a balance between songs on a personal level (meaning person to person) and songs about larger issues (society, environment, etc.)

Can you tell I'm excited by this album? So much so, I could write forever, give you a song by song impression, delve into the lyrics and my interpretation of them, but then what would that leave you to discover?

Would you be surprised if I told you that The Great Divide may edge some others down on the top picks for 1999?

Highly recommended!

Perpetual Child (10:29) / Sleepwalker (5:34) / Join (5:55) / Spare Chicken Parts (inst.) (8:50) / Because of You (5:32) / The Bottom Line (4:44) / Ice Age (11:08) / One Look Away (5:40) / Miles To Go (5:01) / To Say Goodbye (11:31) - Part I: Worthless Words - Part II: On Our Way

Jimmy Pappas - guitars
Arron DiCesare - bass
Josh Pincus - vocals and keyboards
Hal Aponte - drums and percussion

'Join' (1998?) (demo)
The Great Divide (1999)
Liberation (2001)
Little Bird (ep) (2004)

Genre: Progressive/Power Metal

Origin US

Added: July 25th 1999
Reviewer: Stephanie Sollow
Artist website:
Hits: 1119
Language: english


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