Visionary - Strange But Familiar Shores

Year of Release: 2002
Label: Nightmare Records
Catalog Number: NMR-99802
Format: CD
Total Time: 41:15:00

After some internal turmoil result in a line up change, Utah's Visionary finally released their follow up to 1997's Visionary. Still in place are vocalist Tony Horstmanshoff, lead guitarist Dawayne King, and rhythm guitarist Steve Yeates. New to the line up are bassist Brett Meyer and drummer/percussionist Ken Fitzgerald. Keyboards are handled by guest Merrit Millsap.

Strange But Familiar Shores, isn't very "strange" at all, but the band do swim along "familiar shores." You don't have to wade too far into their musical mix to find elements of Queensryche swimming by - the digitized sounding, bass heavy, throbbing, strutting "Media," for example; a piece that takes aim at the all-too-easy target of, well, the media. You'll sense also a few straggling Dream Theater elements of the Images and Words variety. "Seasons," for example, brings in ethnic elements like flute-like tones (likely the keyboards of Millsap) and percussion, wind and bird effects, and acoustic guitar in a piece that slowly builds itself layer by layer in a piece that has mixes southwest feel with a mellow, balladic Dream Theater element along with some very nice but nearly buried piano-like runs from Millsap. The sound of strings, plus piano and acoustic guitar, returns in the mellower, reflective, wistful, and balladic piece "Deserae." Horstmanshoff's voice echoes James LaBrie's at times (along with a hint of Jon Bon Jovi and Steve Hogarth, though the latter of these two makes up less than 1 percent). Resting in the sediment (that is, in the guitar playing of King), you'll find a little bit of Steve Rothery - as if he left behind a few aching guitar notes that King picked up, liked, and utilized, though sparingly throughout the album.

The track that will be of most interest, perhaps, for progressive rock fans is "Words Of The Frenchman." I'm not getting the reference in the title, but the lyrics seem to be about the end of Sodom and Gomorrah, or some other catastrophic event assigned some divine purpose and direction. Not that the lyrics here on Strange But Familiar Shores are preachy or even, necessarily Christian-centric. I mean, humans of 2000, 3000 years ago saw ominous signs in natural occurrences like eclipses and earthquakes (each suggested here) that were part of a pre-Christian faith. As you might expect of a piece with a grim topic, the music itself is dark - rhythm guitar and bass grind beneath sometimes pummeling percussion, while keyboards provide accents and the swelling string sounds. I said there was nothing "strange" about this release, but that isn't entirely true as the guitar crunch on this piece, which keeps things on edge, is somewhat strange. The follow through on each phrase is truncated - the best way I can describe it.

Prog metal fans will zero in on "God Sleeps" with its chugging guitars, soaring vocals and big sound though the first few seconds might be called spacey. This is another piece in a Dream Theater/Queensryche/Fates Warning mold with more piano-like keyboard from Millsap (whom they should make a full member).

Otherwise, the music on this album is mostly melodic hard rock verging on metal. "Care Of Angels" which opens the album is a catchy, radio-friendly piece - well, if this were the late 80s -- that in some ways could be a Bon Jovi tune, were Bon Jovi less about sex and romance lyrically, that is. "The Void" is another bass heavy track like "Media," though with a different throb to it. Along with the Queensryche element, one can detect bits of Rush floating by.

Strange But Familiar Shores might be a little too AOR for most progressive metal and progressive rock fans, but they do create some nice melodies, and play well. But there's something missing, some?follow through. It falls short of something, but I can quite put it into words. Pieces seem to end abruptly, but they don't really? it can leave you hanging, waiting for that final note or something to signal conclusion. It all played, performed, very well and, except for a moment or two in "Frenchman" is fairly well balanced. Recommended.

Care Of Angels (5:02) / The Void (4:16) / A Part Of Me (5:16) / Media (4:23) / God Sleeps (5:46) / Seasons (4:37) / Words Of The Frenchman (5:58) / Deserae (5:54)

Tony Horstmanshoff - vocals
Dawayne King - lead guitar
Steve Yeates - rhythm guitar
Ken Fitzpatrick - drums and percussion
Brett Meyer - bass, backing vocals

Guest: Merrit Millsap - keyboards

Visionary (1997)
Strange But Familiar Shores (2002)

Genre: Progressive-Power Metal

Origin US

Added: June 1st 2003
Reviewer: Stephanie Sollow
Artist website:
Hits: 936
Language: english


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