Ice Age - The Great Divide


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

It all started at Powermad 97...... as the PA system belted out the Powermad CD sampler over and over for 3 days, I kept hearing this one song - it stuck in my mind and it haunted me for the 3 days I spent at Powermad and drove me to find out who this band was. It was the beautiful melodies - and the super emotional voice that stuck in my head and I was determined to find out who this band was. Hours and hours of asking people who had no idea finally turned me to someone who told me that it was Ice Age, and that they had been scheduled to play but had to leave suddenly. Ken Golden had finally seen enough of me running around the place like a little kid begging for some information on this band, and towards the end of the day handed me a demo tape with 4 Ice Age songs because he couldn't watch me suffer any longer...... [which Larry has also reviewed -ed.]

Almost 2 years later I've watched the band grow from an obscure name to what I believe will amount to becoming a household name for both prog metal and prog rock fans. Their music touches the best of both worlds, but especially in the melodic dept., which lots of progressive fans seem to favor, and this blend of melody and emotion will propel this band into every prog fan's living room stereo system for many years to come.

THE STYLE

I won?t be able to name a single band that I compare Ice Age's music to, but I will name some of the best prog metal bands ever when I compare. I?ve tried to come up with a simple answer for this, but I?ve given in to the fact that the band is too diverse to pinpoint the origin of their influences.

If you take the progressive guitar work of some Dream Theater, Lemur Voice, and throw in the melodic beauty of Shadow Gallery, Lemur Voice, (and equal parts of Lemur Voice crunch), add in the melodic rock sounds of Styx and add a dose of dramatic progressive rock, you should almost be in the ballpark of what Ice Age sounds like. Still not convinced? Well, to this, throw in some melodic hard rock guitar sounds, maybe a mixture of Kansas-type keyboards added to a dose of 90s prog key work and you are just about there. Confused? Well then, just add in some of the best vocals to come along in progressive music in years and now we've just put together the influential sound and style of Ice Age.

Of course, it doesn?t stop there, but that is a start. The band describes itself as "dramatic, progressive rock," a description that I agree with because I know the music, but for the unknowing, this might sound like they are describing King Crimson. Dramatic is an understatement with this band - it's the drama that drives this band. As beauty and melody drive Shadow Gallery, it's melody and drama that drive Ice Age. The rock descriptor is valid to a point, because of some of the laid back songs, but the band definitely is a prog metal band and likes to go full force as well as tone it down. In summary, there is something here for everyone, which is why I believe that Ice Age will appeal to a larger fan base than just your average prog metal or rock band. The diversity of the band will allow them to achieve this. The songs range from full prog metal tunes like the title track, to melodic anthem tunes like "Join," to progressive epics like the 11:00 tune "Ice Age" to the beautiful ballad "One Look Away" that might scare off pure metal heads, but again it's the diversity that this band thrives on; they are not just content to put out song after song that sound the same and they really mix it up along the way. For those interested in what they can do musically, all you have to do is check out the 9:00 instrumental called "Chicken Parts" which showcases all of the members? talents in one take.

The disc is just about 75:00 long, a time that eludes most bands who put out debut discs. This shows the attitude and confidence of the band to release a disc that long and it's a treat to have this much Ice Age music coming at you all at once.

THE BAND:

Josh Pincus / Vocals, Keyboards
Jimmy Pappas / Guitars
Arron DiCesare / Bass
Hal Aponte / Drums and Percussion

This is definitely a band effort here - everyone stands out on their own merits, and it's the quality of the music that you'll hear before you hear a single force within the music, although I do consider Josh Pincus' vocals one of the highlights of this disc. When was the last time you owned a vocally driven disc? Everyone will always find that one particular force within a band?s music that compels them to listen to it time and time again, and again, with Ice Age, there is something here for everyone........

JOSH PINCUS is the man behind the great wall of keyboarded sound that complements the guitar sound which does drive the underlying tones. His playing reminds me of a mixture of a Kansas, Styx, Genesis and a shot of 90?s modern prog sound to produce quite an array of sounds and styles. Again, his ear for melody is the secret here, and he never forgets that melody and warmth sit beneath the superb musicianship of this band. Whether playing a heavier tune, a lighter tune, or a progressive tune, it's this melody that Josh maintains throughout to keep the listener enthralled and attached to the music. His vocal performance, which I will address below (as always) is simply incredible and only adds more beauty and passion to the music than one could ask for.

JIMMY PAPPAS is a gifted guitarist - at his last Powermad performance I could hear people whispering "new guitar god" and "another Petrucci." Yes he is that good. What separates Jimmy from the pack, like Josh, is his diverse style. He obviously listens to all kinds of music from older progressive rock, to 80's style hard rock, to 90's melodic / prog metal. He uses so many different styles throughout and within each song it's a treat as well as difficult to follow exactly what he is doing next and makes his playing totally unpredictable, a quality that I know prog fans cling to. He lays down some interesting rhythm tracks on every song and injects melody and emotion into every solo.

ARRON DICESARE has the uncanny task of having to lay down the bass tracks for this ever-changing direction and style that the rest of the band insists on taking. I've seen him play live and I know that he can easily keep up with the rest of the band, and some of the tempo changes along the way are difficult for a bass player to handle, but he appears to do it with ease, and his performance on this disc shows this.

HAL APONTE also has the distinction of being compared to the best - I heard whispers of "Neil Peart" during and after his Powermad performance, and I couldn't agree more. Not being one to know or pretend to know how a progressive metal drummer keeps up with the constantly changing tempos in progressive music, I did notice that Hal played with power, passion and almost effortlessly throughout the set and does the same on this disc. Whether it be a more straight ahead tune or the most progressive tune on the disc, Hal is pounding out the notes with ease and brings emotion to the drum kit, which up until this point, I don?t think I've either noticed or heard from anyone else. There is power and there is passion - and Hal plays with both.

THE VOCALS:

Josh has not enjoyed [it] when I mention a certain name when comparing his voice for others - but I still have an obligation to describe the most accurate sound of his voice for those not in the know (tongue placed firmly in cheek and inhaling). Josh sounds uncannily like Dennis DeYoung of Styx fame. For the record, I consider Styx to be one of the best melodic rock bands of all time, and Dennis DeYoung to have one of the most emotional voices in rock history. The same can now be said for Josh. He has that similar tone and passion that Dennis has, and also has the ability to either use his power or passion separately or together and still have the same affect on the song, and that is to bring out the best in the lyrics. Ice Age is built on strong lyrics, and having a voice as dominant and beautiful as Josh does only serves to add to the beauty and emotion to the music. It can be said that his voice is the fifth instrument in the band - it is a formidable weapon that Ice Age can be proud of, and his voice is one of envy. Go right to track #3 called "Join" and listen to the power and passion in his voice; it is on this song that you get to hear his power, passion and range all at once. From a softer tone, to a forceful delivery, to a much higher range than you might expect from a voice with his tone, he rides the vocal spectrum with ease and I go on record to say that it's his vocal performance that actually brings me back time and time again - just to hear his incredible delivery. This band has the great distinction of being well schooled and talented in every aspect of their music, and having a voice like Josh Pincus seals the success of a band. If you have a godly singer list, have no fear of putting Josh way up near the front; the man is amazing.

THE PRODUCTION:

Amazingly, Jimmy Pappas recorded the entire disc with assistance from Josh Pincus. Again, from a debut band that just recently got signed you'd never expect such quality, but be it far from a band this talented to wimp out in the sound dept. Of course, as is standard, I have my "wish list" and little complaints here and there with just about every production that I've ever heard, and I will find some here..... but for the most part, this is an extremely well produced disc.

Right away, I hear a great drum production. From the opening notes of "The Great Divide" I hear the clean, crisp beats of the drums - and the use of panning is apparent and welcome here as I can clearly hear the tom-toms panning from right stereo to left and back as Hal flails away. In addition, those toms are clean, deep and precise. The kick drums are deep and booming, and my subwoofer loves the kicks as they are wall rattling much to my delight. The snare drum, which I always have a complaint about, is better than average - on track #4, the instrumental, the snare drum is prominent in the mix and sounds clean and nowhere near as "cardboard-like" as I hear lots of prog discs to sound like. Check out Hal's drum solo during the song to see what I mean (yes, a drum solo on the disc). The guitars are crunching, clean and nicely laid up in the mix. Jimmy uses some neat effects, even the long forgotten wah-wah sound is shows up on a song or two.....the guitar never overpowers the other instruments or vocals either.

The bass is not as deep as I would like or have it, but then it is still easily heard and clear in the mix. I'd have brought it up just a bit - although on some songs it appears that it does shift upwards in force moreso than others. Clean seems to be the goal here, and there can?t be any arguments that this was achieved.

The keyboards are on an even par with the guitars, and neither outshine the other in the sound dept. and fans of both won't have anything to complain about in that area. Vocally, and it may be my love of Josh's voice, but I would like the vocals to be turned up just a notch. A voice that emotional and passionate should just stick out a bit above the rest of the music, and it sounds like he got even levels with the rest of the instruments instead of being more out from than he is. He is out front, don't get me wrong, but I'd have given it just one more turn to the right for my particular taste......other than my "wish list," it's very hard to argue about this production, it is well done and way above average.

THE COMMENTS

I've been waiting for this disc for almost 2 years, and it was well worth the wait. I?ve had their 4-song demo for many months, and they?ve even re-recorded all of that material and put it all on the disc. It sounds like brand new music to me even though I've had it for almost 2 years. I predict that this disc will be one of the contenders for disc of the year, and I also predict that Ice Age will become one of those bands you always recommend to fans looking for melodic prog metal. If you have a chance to see this band play live - do not miss it; they put on a performance as emotional and powerful as they do on disc. If you like that Magna Carta signature sound like Lemur Voice, Shadow Gallery, and filled with warm melodies and tons of keyboards mixed with heavy guitars, you can?t help but love this band. I will venture to say to the pure metal heads that this probably won?t float your boat - I know lots of metal heads at least tried to get into Shadow Gallery but couldn't handle the laid back sounds; Ice Age is a lot like that so I do not recommend this to those looking for a "metal" sound. I DO recommend this to any progressive music fan, whether it be rock or metal, as Ice Age definitely has something for everyone. The band will be playing NearFest in June [99], which is a progressive rock festival, and then playing Powermad in August [99], a progressive metal festival. This tells you how this band fits into both categories and will please fans of both genres.......Being a fan of both, this disc is pure progressive, melodic bliss for me any way I look at it. Throw in one of the better singers I've heard, and I've got myself one hell of a well rounded disc that I know will get CD play for years to come.......this one is essential folks.


Tracklisting:
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

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

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

Genre: Progressive-Power Metal

Origin US

Added: August 1st 1999
Reviewer: Larry "LarryD" Daglieri
Score:
Artist website: www.ice-age.com
Hits: 1104
Language: english

  

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