Hourglass - The Journey Into

Year of Release: 2002
Label: Fast Forward
Catalog Number: n/a
Format: CD
Total Time: 75:14:00

Hourglass are an American band, of that there's no question. Not only because they are based in Utah, but because there is something quintessentially ?American? about their sound. It is that same ?Americaness? about their sound that we find in bands such as Echolyn, Tristan Park, some of Spock's Beard, and Kansas. Perhaps we can say any American prog band that hasn't taken its cues from bands across the pond, or at least all of their cues. It is something that is rooted in middle-America, with a touch of the southwest. It isn't country, as it doesn't have that twang or swing, but it is of the earth - country in terms of wide open spaces (prairies, farmland, deserts). This isn't to say, by the way, that all American bands sound this way, only those that draw upon this essence I'll call ?Americana.? I've commented on this before with other bands, so I won't talk about it too much here. But, if you think of the bands I mentioned, then you'll already have a good idea of what Hourglass sounds like - assuming you have any familiarity (beyond name recognition) of any of the bands I mentioned.

However, I want you to take that impression and add this to it - a hint of Metallica. "Huh?" you may be saying, but it's there. Just a hint, something in the chugging guitars of Brick Williams -- who also plays acoustic guitars on this album that are far from this metallic sound. I noticed it especially in the album's bravado-filled opener, ?Pawn.? Drummer John Dunston does not, however, sound like Lars Ulrich. Usually I complain about a drummer not having enough dynamics in his playing, not using enough of the kit. Dunston uses maybe too much of it at any one time. But, this also has something to do with the mixing of the album as well, as I think this element (drums and percussion both) are placed higher in the mix. Not at the expense of the other instruments, but such that elements that would be a subtle part of the mix are heard loud and clear and can be somewhat distracting. Lots of but not overuse of double-bass drumming is also a characteristic of Dunston's playing.

At their mellowest their sound is strongly reminiscent of Desperado to One Of These Nights period Eagles, as on some of that band's more extended pieces (?Journey Of The Sorcerer? comes to mind). There isn't anything here that sounds like any particular Eagles song, but the similarity in the use of acoustic guitar to create a certain feel, and the vocal harmonies in a majority of the tracks can be said to be Eagles like. Vocalist Chad Neth does briefly sound like Don Henley on ?The Circle Breaks," however. On the other hand, they also play with that metallic crunch I mentioned, heard again on ?Not My Time.? They play this with the addition of swirling keys (Jerry Stenquist). Speaking of those keys, this is where the prog element of their sound is strongest, as Stenquist can play those broad parpy sounds we've come to associate with certain ?neo-prog? bands. But other times they are warm piano like notes. They weave both the mellow and heavy elements into every piece, making for a very diverse kind of sound (and one of the things I love about Echolyn, for example).

All this combines to give Hourglass a very nice sound, the metal elements giving them a uniqueness - that is they are not clones of any of their contemporaries - but they are the closest to sounding like Echolyn.

The centerpiece of the album is the 26-plus minute title track, broken into 6 segments, which mixes lighter elements of acoustic guitar and tinkling piano with the heavier elements of drums and bass at once. The third segment, ?The Road Down? sometimes faintly echoes ELP's ?Still?You Turn Me On? (sans the distinctive bass line) and Free's ?Ready For Love.? ?Where I Stand In The Light? kicks things up a notch with a nice mix of electric and acoustic, but turning things up even more with chugging guitars and throbbing bass and drums. Again I thought of a looser, freer Metallica - same power, less aggro. This becomes more turbulent as it leads into the instrumental ?The Raging Storm.? The second longest track is the 15-plus minute ?Plains Of Remembrance? which has more of a European prog flavor to it (I'd say a little bit of Marillion, IQ, etc.) before the metal guitars of Williams and double-bass lead drumming of Dunston kicks in. The bombastic (in a good way) intro leading into a mellow section is very reminiscent of Spock's Beard.

All in all, it is a very good album (their second) with some nice performances ? I like a lot with Williams does with guitar, but then I'm biased towards guitar anyway. It's been a year or so since this album was first released, and in that time, vocalist Chad Neth has left, replaced by Cody Walker, keyboardist Jerry Stenquist has left, as has bassist Jon Berrett (each to go on separate LDS ? Latter Day Saints ? missions) and, as of this writing, are still looking for replacements. But this turbulence is nothing new for the band, as the only original member is Williams (who did leave once during the band's formulative years), and they have gone through no fewer than four vocalists in just about as many years, plus three drummers, and two keyboardists (going on three), so it will be interesting to see what the future holds for this band.

Pawn (8:23) / Vantage Point (12:06) / Plains Of Remembrance: I. Onto The Plains - II. Change Beginning - III. For You (15:40) / The Circle Breaks (6:15) / Not My Time (5:49) / The Journey Into: I. The Barrier Falls - II. Recklessness - III. The Road Down - IV. Where I Stand In The Light - V. The Raging Storm (instrumental) - VI. Deliverance (26:53)

Jonathan Berrett - electric bass
John Dunston - drums and percussion
Chad Neth - the voice
Jerry Stenquist - keys
Brick Williams ? guitars

This Lonely Time and Place (2000)
The Journey Into (2002)
Subsconcious (2004)
Oblivious To The Obvious (2009)

Genre: Progressive Rock

Origin US

Added: June 23rd 2003
Reviewer: Stephanie Sollow
Artist website: www.hourglassband.com
Hits: 588
Language: english


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