Shadow Gallery - Legacy


Year of Release: 2001
Label: Magna Carta
Catalog Number: MA-9047-2
Format: CD
Total Time: 71:53:00

Shadow GalleryOkay, okay. What business do I have reviewing Shadow Gallery's latest release Legacy, when I keep holding them up as the poster boys for saccharine progressive metal. An opinion based upon merely one track on their Carved In Stone album, "Crystalline Dream." Well, it wasn't that I hated the band or anything, I just thought that particular track was a little...fluffy. "Buy this disc. I look forward to hearing more from this band," I said, though. And I did by their next one, Tyranny, and said overall good things about it: "This is considerably less saccharine than Carved In Stone [...] If you liked their previous disks, or their contemporaries', you'll like this. I do, but it isn't my favorite for the year," I said by way of conclusion. Okay, not a ringing endorsement, but I was still looking forward to their next outing. They have the chops, they have the voice, and if progressive metal were big, they'd be right up there with the other potential marquee names. Plus I owe the band some kudos, as my review of Carved album helped launch my little music review site, the precursor to this one.

Lest it look like this review is just going recycle comments from previous ones, let's dig right in to Legacy. I was quite excited when this came in the mail. I didn't want to read Larry Nai's review before I had had a chance to hear it myself (though of course I skimmed it in the editing process). I wanted this band to find that right balance, to do something great, something big. Well, they have and this is it.

One thought I had as this was playing, especially during the first half, was that this was the album that Queensryche didn't make. Another was that I love the vocal harmonies here, something that I've always liked about Shadow Gallery. The album opens with a tinkling piano, wind effects, keyboard washes, and guitar on "Cliffhanger 2." After a minute and half the rest of the band kicks in, and I mean kicks in with powerful percussion, booming bass, and some very nice choral "oh-ohs." Yes, the Dream Theater and Queensryche influences are still part of the sound, though I also detected some Emersonian influences in the keyboards. As you might expect (or already know from Nai's review) this truly is part 2 to "Cliffhanger" which opened Carved. This track is in two parts, "Hang On" and "The Crusher." "Hang On" picks up where we left our protagonist hanging, and forwards the story a little bit. But he doesn't quite get off the mountain yet, leaving the possibility for part three, as the other half of the track kicks in, a keyboard and guitar workout that will leave you exhausted. Rip roarin' with fleet-fingered guitar work from Messrs. Altman and Wehrkemp.

"Destination Unknown" is next, which is the power ballad. Folks, this is definitely not saccharine...it's warm, symphonic, epic, a little bittersweet, and really beautiful. Not in that pretty, precious kind of way, but in very natural way. It is far from a soft, however, as we are treated to more guitar pyrotechnics that just ooze with genuine feeling. And you know how I feel about emotive guitar playing. They could take it into a direction of excess, but instead the track throttles back to a gentle keyboard passage. Classy. Very classy.

Keyboards open "Colors" and it is here that I thought of Queensryche a bit, only in that there are vague hints at "Silent Lucidity"...but maybe it's just those "ah-ahs" that even Queensryche co-opted from Pink Floyd. I've been talking about guitars and keys, but let's not overlook Mike Baker's vocals. Not that one could, given what a powerful vocalist he is. His performance on this track is so perfect it makes we wanna cry from the beauty of it, and I rarely say that about anyone. I don't think I have yet in a review. But the harmony vocalists - the band but for Ingles and drummer Joe Nevolo - are no slouches either. This what makes this track so ... I can't even find the right word. Voices soar and are so uplifting that you'll soar, too. Again, the sweetness factor is totally absent, but I have to tell you that this would make any young gal forget about the Backstreet Boys and their ilk in a minute, without making the male contingent feel uncomfortable. Fantastic! Though none of the guys have that "oh, he's so dreamy" kinda look, they are all winners in the looks department -- as if that were an important criteria, of course. Not in this genre, baby. And yet, they aren't overweight, slouching, and unkempt either, so appearance isn't totally unimportant.

Anyway, I digress. The album's epic is "First Light" which closes the album. It starts with lots of atmosphere, slowly resolves itself into acoustic guitar (Altman), keyboards, and dreamy, spacey vocals. It slowly builds to include percussion and more keys. There were points during the first half of this overall 34-plus minute track that I thought of Pink Floyd. Yes, more so the latter period Floyd, once Waters had left. I don't use the word spacey lightly as the song's subject is finding a better world out there, out among the stars. I suppose one can overlay a religious context, given the hints of the same in "Legacy" which immediately precedes this track. Classical piano passages bridge the second and third movements (if you will), which leads into soaring keyboard washes backing strings... a rumbling bass signals the next phase when driving percussion and frenetic keyboard and guitar solos sends us shooting out among the stars. It is here where the track becomes pessimistic, but only briefly, because, sure enough, thoughts of the almighty appear. I'm sorry, but I still find it a rather pessimistic conclusion that our only future lies in going to heaven - that is, death. At least death of our corporeal self, that is, depending on your particular point of view. However, I agree that we will not find the solution to earth's problems out there among the stars. We might find another planet with earth like conditions, though it may take eons for such a discovery. Our species will have died out before then, and even when we reached our destination, would we still be the same species that left? No, our solutions lie here at the source. And my personal conclusion is that we're the only ones who make that happen. We made the message, it's our responsibility to clean it up.

Anyway, musically this is another powerhouse track, a blending of symphonics, prog metal, and atmospherics ... really a terrific track. All of which makes Shadow Gallery not your typical progressive metal band. The track fades out in what seems like the ending, but after a period of silence, the track returns with some insistent knocking and doorbell ringing, only to give way to more keyboard atmospheres. Shadow Gallery as Tangerine Dream, or actually I thought of Kevin Braheny, Jonn Serrie, and other space synthesists. It's a nice bit of symphonic keyboards...which appeals to the other side of my interests. You could put this alongside those mentioned plus others like David Lanz (as I said of a piece that appeared on Carved). I still think it would be fun for this to get played on, well the new age station here in LA has gone to smooth jazz, so perhaps a forward thinking classical station. Unbeknownst these classical listeners seek out this album and find that progressive metal is something they can get into. Probably wouldn't happen, of course.

Well, I'll leave some of the other nuggets for you to explore. Yes, this is getting high marks from me, and I think it surpasses anything they've done previously. It is simply a terrific album, one so overwhelmingly good that were I giving out points, this would get a 10 of 10. The production is great on it, too; quite clear.

[Of course, now we are giving out points, so there you go. -ed. Feb 2008]


Tracklisting:
Cliffhanger a) Hang On b) The Crusher (13:05) / Destination Unknown (7:01) / Colors (7:02) / Society Of The Mind (5:23) / Legacy (5:04) / First Light (34:18)

Musicians:
Brent Allman - guitar, acoustic guitar, vocals; keyboards (4)
Mike Baker - lead and backing vocals
Carl Cadden-James - bass, vocals, flute
Chris Ingles - keyboards
Joe Nevolo - drums
Gary Wehrkamp - guitars, keyboards, vocals, bass, sound effects

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: May 8th 2001
Reviewer: Stephanie Sollow
Score:
Artist website: www.facebook.com/OfficialShadowGallery
Hits: 1153
Language: english

  

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