Shadow Gallery - Tyranny


Year of Release: 1998
Label: Magna Carta
Catalog Number: MA-9016-2
Format: CD
Total Time: 73:52:00

Where to begin with this disc. Well, let me first warn about a few things before I get into the review:

  1. If you don't like my long winded reviews, better skip this one because it's going to a long day.
  2. If you don't like Shadow Gallery, you will not like this disc, so turn back now.
  3. If you love Carved in Stone, you will forever be addicted to Tyranny

These are the facts, plain and simple. Also, I am deeming Tyranny a masterpiece of prog metal; this can be debated forever I suppose, but I do not use the masterpiece term very freely, so this will give you an idea of how I feel about the disc.

Prog Metal fans and music seem to fall into several categories; an interesting aspect of the genre considering its non-existence across America. Usually, metal is metal, and we always either loved the power, or hated the different genres within metal, like Death Metal, Christian Metal, Industrial Metal, etc etc ... yet, the one genre that makes up the smallest group of fans and musicians, prog metal, actually gets divided up more and more as new bands arise. You'll see people liking guitar driven, keyboard driven, no keyboards, aggressive singers, no "cheese" (whatever that is), technical, speed, crunch, complexity, neo-classical, Gothic, and the list just continues to grow and grow as bands try to make their mark in the ever growing popularity of prog metal.

The reason that I bring this up is because I will freely admit that my main taste and preference in prog metal lies within the beauty aspect of the genre. Not many people listen to prog "metal" to achieve this, and most will turn to AOR, or Neo-Progressive music to find that beauty. To me, beauty is one of the key ingredients in making a disc that totally appeals to me, but I do enjoy the heavier side of prog metal as long as it can move me in some way, emotionally or otherwise. I like to bang my head like the next person, and not have to pick up a lyric sheet and worry about a "message," or a "meaning" behind a disc. However, given the choice, give me an Ayreon, Eternity-X, Digital Ruin, Shadow Gallery, and many others that require me to sit back with the lyric sheets, close the door, clear my mind of reality, and get totally absorbed into75 minutes of artistry in motion. Enter Tyranny.

THE STYLE:

It feels good to be able to describe a disc to someone in one word or less: awesome. Don't we always find ourselves saying this about our favorite prog metal discs? It's so much easier than trying to describe the feelings that music brings to us in a text format. What do you say about a disc that you listen to at least 5 times a day, pick up the lyric sheets and get totally immersed in an incredible story line, and still get goosebumps each time a certain part of a song comes on knowing that it's coming after hundreds of listens. Shadow Gallery has reached this particular nerve in me that forcesme to listen to it each and every day, and still be able to discover something different with each listen. Now, if you take Carved in Stone, and take all of the aspects of that disc, and just multiply it to the 10th power, you will have a pretty good idea of what Tyranny is all about.

The opening tunes start out pretty heavy and speedy, and I know lots of people were hoping that the rest of the disc would pan out in the same direction as the blistering intro, but the remainder of the disc, at a good 70 minutes more worth, slow down to "story telling" speed, and the emphasis on the vocals and the story quickly take over. This is not about heavy, crunching pounding guitars, blazing solos, double bass-led speedsters folks. This is a story, a feeling , an inspiration that 6 musicians had inside them, and put that particular vision down on disc in a musical format. It's a disc laced with tons of keyboards, excellent complementary guitar playing, superb vocals, and a story line that will make you feel sad at one minute, and then feeling vindicated the next. If you can recall your basic Shadow Gallery 101, and think back to Carved In Stone, to the beautiful song called "Don't Ever Cry, Just Remember," then you now have a great idea of the style of this disc, only with more emotion and passion than anything on Carved In Stone, and that's saying a lot folks, considering that CIS is one of my all time favorite prog metal discs. I've seen reviews and thoughts that Tyranny is laced with all kinds of influences like Kansas, Styx, Queen, and others. Well, that's a compliment indeed, and I'll have to agree that there are some of those mentioned styles flying around inside the music, but if you can imagine the musical genius of Kansas, mixed in with some of the vocal styles of Styx, along with some guitar harmonies and keyboard styles of Queen, then you can imagine what this disc must sound like laced with the brilliance of Shadow Gallery. Bottom line, they've pulled out all of the stops on this one folks. With a top notch production, superb vocals, tons and tons of keyboards, great guitars, acoustic guitars, sound effects, a barrage of different singers to aid Mr. Baker in telling this terrific story, this one screams masterpiece hands down.

THE BAND:

I really wanted to leave this section out, as I felt it was an insult to even try to describe the playing talent, or try to pick apart the styles of those I feel are some of the greatest musicians in the genre. However, I did include the section just to give an idea of the vast array of sounds and instruments being used in the music. You already know from your Shadow Gallery history that there are 2 keyboardists in the band; Chris Ingles and Gary Wehrkamp. My love for keyboarded prog metal is well documented, so you can imagine what a keyboard duo means to me. I can't and won't even begin to guess which parts each of them play in the music, but that wall of sound is characteristic and a welcome part of Shadow Gallery's sound. The quiet, atmospheric piano passages in between songs on Carved In Stone are still present. The flutes are still present as well, the strings galore, and everything else these guys can think of are thrown in for good measure. You want fullness in the sound? This is some of the best. The use of acoustic guitars adds even more of a pleasant sound to the music, and Brendt Allman's use of this along with the electric sound is simply riveting. Carl-Cadden James is adding a nice punch to the music, and even though some think that SG is bass shy, just one listen to this disc tells me that it's a production issue, not a musical one. The bass is heavy, boomy, and throw in a subwoofer (which I use) to really hear what is happening with the bass lines. Not that you can't hear it through the fronts, but I like to accenuate the bass with a subwoofer anyway to really "feel" the punch of the bass. The drummer, Joe Nevolo, seems to have always been in the band, as you'd never know he wasn't. As I said, there aren't many aspects of the music that require a particular style of playing, like soaring solos, or double bass runs, but what Nevolo is doing here is absolutely perfect for this music.

THE VOCALS:

Anyone who ever picked apart Shadow Gallery in the past, has shied away from attacking the musicianship, because I think that would be virtually impossible. So, what I read from non-Shadow Gallery fans is the "lack of punch" in the music, or the "lack of emotion" in the vocal department. From my point of view, and it's biased, as I said, I may have heard the lack of "punchy" sound in previous discs, but again, I believe it was a production issue. However, I believe that Mike Baker has read those very reviews and complaints from the past, and seems to have gone on a mission to prove all of those doubters wrong. The vocals are driving this music and story, and I can't tell you how much emotion has gone into Mike's singing since his last appearance on Carved In Stone. Just one quick pass through songs like "Hope For Us," "Victims," "Broken," and "I Believe" prove that Mike Baker can not only sing with more emotion than many singers alive, but it sounds like he actually believes in what he is singing. Those signature harmonies of his are here in full bloom, even moreso I think than in the past. Any fan of vocal harmonies (I'm one of the biggest), will jump with delight when Mike, himself, and the rest of the band kick into some of the most inspiring background harmonies this side of Queen. If there was ever a singer that "fit" a band's sound, Mike Baker is it.

For those who don't know what Mike sounds like, he's got a unique vocal style. He is not your typical high pitched singer, nor he is in the lower range. To say that he is completely within a mid-range is not entirely accurate either, but for argument's sake, he has a pleasant tone, and it sounds like you can almost hear what he sounds like when he speaks, unlike most high pitched singers. Anyone who disputes his "emotional" ability only needs to hear a pass through "Victims" or "Broken." This is what "singing" is all about folks. Not the range, not the aggression, but the passion, the emotion. If Mike's performance is not enough (and I guarentee that it is), the band treats us to some songs with performances by none other than James Labrie, DC Cooper, and Laura Yeager. The ballad between Mike and Laura is awe-inspiring. The passage that DC Cooper sings on will surely bring you back to the Pink Floyd days of The Wall, if you remember the judge condemning Pink? Hint, hint. total vocal domination here people.

THE PRODUCTION:

OK, I will agree that Carved In Stone was lacking in the production somewhat. It didn't stop it from becoming a great disc, but I can tell you that Tyranny is worlds apart from that particular sound. The disc is full, rich, clean, crisp and precise. Put some headphones on and try to hear how many instruments these guys have going at once. It's a feat in itself. The guitars are clean, the keyboards are some of the cleanest I've heard, the bass is punchy, the drums are right up in the mix, which was one of the problems in the past. The vocals are where someone has excelled here since CIS. The band uses slight vocal effects on Mike's voice on certain passages on CIS, and it was very difficult to hear what he was singing at times when processed. This time, no matter what they do to his voice, and it's very little, you can hear him with no problem at all. Actually, the vocals stand out moreso than the instruments, thus enhancing the story line even more. Forget what you know of previous sounds, this one is just about perfect in every aspect, as I would expect it to be with music of grandeur such as this.

THE LYRICS:

As is customary with concept discs like this one, people tend to try to decipher what the lyrics actually mean. I, along with most musicians, feel that the lyrics are better left to the listener, as each of us interprets music as different from each other as we interpret sight and smell and feel. However, the band has written a small book here, and it wouldn't be fair to bring some attention to this. As I said, the disc is 74 minutes of gorgeous music, and a seriously thought provoking story. The disc is broken into 2 Acts, Act 1 & Act 2. From my vantage point, the first half of the disc wreaks of despair, futility, and hopelessness. The lyrics of a government run, dying race, emotionless race of human beings that are bent on torturing their brothers, and enticing each other into war is nothing short of depressing and true. What the person in the story certainly would qualify for a quick and painless suicide. However, Act 2 suddenly bursts into a hopeful, although not perfect, outlook on what is to come. As I said, I haven't got a handle on what exactly is happening, but I can tell you that the lyrical content is bleak and filled with futility. Try to hold back a tear or two while reading this story while listening to the music, it's not easy.

THE COMMENTS:

As you can tell, I have very deep feelings for this disc. I probably could go on and on, without even addressing the performance of the players, and keep on talking about how this disc has affected me personally. As far as a concept disc goes, it's right up with the best of the best: Ayreon, Eternity-X, Savatage, and the like of those who write magnificent concept discs. This is about as perfect as it gets in a concept disc. Two years in the making, almost tearing the band apart, with countless hours of equipment breakdown, you can hear the passion and determination that the band has poured into this disc. It's almost as if you can hear the band beating the odds, and not wanting to be defeated, much like the story in the disc itself. It's a fact that this has become one of my all time favorite discs, one which measures my particular taste perfectly. The band has managed to pass the boundaries of beauty, and come up with a disc that touches that nerve inside us that screams passion, emotion and thought. To be truthful, I never thought that the band would be able to write something more powerful than CIS, and I wondered if the band would go the way of many others who have decided to veer off into the land of "different styles," and try to jump off the prog metal bandwagon in search of something easier and more mainstream. Sorry, not this band. True to the word "progression," the band has continued on their path of integrity, and has brought us some of the best music that prog metal has to offer. With beauty (my personal opinion) as the main objective, the band has reached that goal and more. It doesn't get any more beautiful than this disc does, and this is essential and required listening for anyone who wants to experience what brilliance and sheer artistry means in the musical world.


Tracklisting:
Stiletto In The Sand (1:57) / War For Sale (5:35) / Out Of Nowhere (4:20) / Mystery (5:42) / Hope For Us? (6:00) / Victims (5:13) / Broken (1:54) / I Believe (8:41) / Roads Of Thunder (6:06) / Spoken Words (4:38) / New World Order (8:11) / Chased (4:36) / Ghost Of A Chance (5:19) / Christmas Day (5:40)

Musicians:
Carl Cadden-James - bass, vocals, and flute
Brent Allman - guitars and vocals
Chris Ingles - piano and synthesizer
Gary Wehrkamp - guitar, piano, synthesizer and vocals
Joe Nevolo - drums
Mike Baker - lead vocals

Discography:
Shadow Gallery (1992)
Carved In Stone (1995)
Tyranny (1998)
Room V (2005)
Prime Cuts (2007)
Digital Ghosts (2009)

Genre: Progressive-Power Metal

Origin US

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

Artist website: www.facebook.com/OfficialShadowGallery
Hits: 840
Language: english

  

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