Year of Release: 2000
Label: Magna Carta
Catalog Number: MA 9041-2
Total Time: 66:06:00
While this isn't a perfect album, I like everything about it despite some imperfections. No, I love this album. I don't care if it's prog or not. If you care anything about melody, about harmony, about music that gets you energized even when it's low key, then you gotta go get this album! Under The Sun are full of beautiful melodies, soaring harmonies, and lush instrumentation. Vocalist Chris Shryrack has a voice that is smooth, warm, and not exactly like any one person. Dashes of Steve Walsh, Jon Anderson, Dan Fogelberg, Steve Hogarth, Neal Morse ... oh, any maybe people I haven't even thought of ... and yet, his voice is also uniquely his own. The harmonies aren't perfect and I think they could be a little tighter in places.
Not only am I impressed with Shryack as a vocalist, but also as guitarist and composer. Beautiful guitar leads, sometimes searing sometimes soaring ... they can both be subtle and cut with a sharp metal edge. Kurt Barabas is no slouch on the bass either as he adds a nice, round tone to the music, a pulse that keeps everything moving forward. Matt Evidon is simply stunning on the keys. Paul Shkut is quite a dynamic drummer; like Barabas he keeps everything moving. And I think the production is just great on this ... mixed by Terry Brown so we could hardly expect anything less.
There is the same kind of epic scope like Kansas and Spock's Beard, an occasional edge "popularized" by Dream Theater - but Under The Sun are closer to prog rock or even AOR than progressive metal, which isn't a bad thing. Of course, saying so is quite ironic, given that many of Magna Carta's bands are progressive metal (at least billed that way). There was a moment during "Tracer" when I thought of Journey -- if Journey had been closer to prog. But, even that's only a vague comparison.
"Seeing Eye God" is the track that comes closest to pop-rock. Groovy modern rock that is quite radio friendly. In fact, it sounds quite a bit like an 80s pop track that I know I know but I can't recall the name. Which helps you not a whit, now does it? But yes, I like this track, too.
There is so very much I could say about this album as every track is worth saying something about. The album does get stronger as it progresses, thought it does start out strong to begin with. The first sound you hear (on "This Golden Voyage") is Shyrack's acoustic guitar, to which drums, electric guitar, keys, and voice are slowly added. If you want a hint at what else they sound like, these are the bands that came to mind at different points: Kansas, Rush, America, Spock's Beard, Dream Theater, Yes and the Eagles. Quite a diverse list of names, I think. And yet, as soon as you think "this sounds like...," you find yourself adding, "...well, not really." "Garden Of Dreams" sounds most like Rush, mainly down to the bass lines of Evidon ... well, that's really the only Rush thing about it.
Other songs I want to mention as being particularly special are "Breakwater," the mostly instrumental track that features some cool, classic tinkling keyboards by Matt Evidon. I almost want to shout "Yeh baby!! Bring it on home!!" Okay, more than wanna, I did. Great guitar leads, great bass, percussion. This will get the crowd all fired up when played live I'm sure ... it's funny, though, because where it starts out with bagpipes isn't where it ends up as blues-rocker. This has that closing encore feel about it ... getting the audience involved as the band just continues to jam. Yeh baby!!
The epic "The Time Being," which is the kind of play on words I like, is also a great track! Somewhat Yes-like ... gosh, how to describe what I mean by that? Sure Shryack croons in a manner similar to Jon Anderson, though his voice is a bit deeper ... and Barabas's bass has that same tone that Chris Squire's has. It does go into harder territory than Yes did, in their classic period, which this most resembles. I'd venture to say, this might be what we'd hope Yes were making these days. Taking their classic sound and bringing into the new millennium (a few months off yet, I know). And yet ... the Yes-ness of it is rather fleeting ... something that reappears on "Dream Catcher" later, which might also be said to take a page from Kansas, ... a fragment of a page, actually.
The track that just takes me away is "Reflections" - it is understated for the first part, until that first chorus, where Shryack's voice just glides and carries you away. If you think about some of Dan Fogelberg's most emotive work, even his hits like "Longer" or "Heart Hotels"...and then Shryack's also responsible for the guitar solos here (and everywhere). The sound is so evocative of that classic 70's AOR sound, and that is meant as compliment.
I'm never going to be satisfied with this review, as I haven't said nearly as much as I wanted to. Which might be hard to believe given the number of words in it. And my words haven't even delved into the lyrics, which are also worth noting - quite poetic... Killer debut! Highly recommended, in case you couldn't guess.
The Golden Voyage (7:13) / Tracer (5:41) / Seeing Eye God (3:37) / Gardens Of Autumn (5:02) / Perfect World (5:21) / Reflections (5:45) / Breakwater (7:34) / The Time Being (10:01) a. In The Valley Of The Shadow of b. Passage Angel c. Scream For Redemption / Dream Catcher (7:56) / From Henceforth Now And Forever (PS 124) (9:16)
Chris Shryack - lead and harmony vocals, acoustic and electric guitars, sound effects, ebow, chimes, shakers and rattles
Kurt Barabas - bass guitars, bass pedals, harmony vocals, tamborine, additional distorto-acoustic guitar
Matt Evidon - harmony vocals and keyboards
Paul Shkut - drums and percussion
John Massey - bagpipes (7)
Terry Brown and David Townson - drum loops (3)
Chief Running Bear - Cherokee narration (9)
Under The Sun (2000)
Schematism - On Stage With Under The Sun (2005)
Genre: Progressive Rock