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(59:32, Progrock Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. Love Is a Dream 7:17 2. Nickels & Dimes, Marbles & Stones 4:52 3. Not Man 6:43 4. Abstract Malady 6:44 5. Lullaby of Bedlam 8:40 6. Redemption 19:06 7. This Good Place 6:10 LINEUP: Randy George guitars, bass; keyboards; bodhran Wil Henderson vocals Dan Lile drums With: Robyn Dawn vocals (1) Rick Altizer vocals (3) Alan Genatossio guitars (6) Paul Bielatowicz guitars (4, 6) Jonathan Sindleman organ (6, 7) Fred Schndal organ, Moog (4)
Prolusion. The US outfit AJALON was formed back in 1994. Their aim then as now was to make progressive rock with lyrical contents appropriate to their Christian beliefs. Their first effort saw the light in 1996, with a sophomore effort surfacing eight years later, in 2004. Since then the band has been signed by Progrock Records, which issued their third effort "This Good Place" in the autumn of 2009.
Analysis. Lyrics with themes and messages of a spiritual nature aren't unheard of by far in progressive rock, but for some reason one of a Christian nature tend to be regarded as a negative asset by many fans of the genre. For some reason alternate beliefs, and in particular those with a foundation in new age centered systems, have always been more acceptable. It is a fact that many artists defining themselves as Christians tend to create lyrics which contain preaching or trying to convert the listeners to a particular point of view, which arguably may be the most off-putting element in these cases. I presume many will find it positive that Ajalon on this latest venture isn't as forward by far in terms of lyrical contents. True enough, there is a message here and they do try to create an atmosphere where the listeners are more or less forced to come to some conclusions, but it is done in a much more subtle manner than most other acts I've encountered from this particular subcategory of artists. Musically they are most fond of the lighter side of the art rock genre, with strong leanings towards a symphonic expression. Light, wandering guitar patterns and licks of an acoustic or undistorted nature above a solid and at times insistent bass line with subtle layered synths and keys in the back is pretty much the name of the game for this venture at least this particular expression is the one the band seems to be most fond of exploring. Often the instrumental backdrop is subdued, and as good as always in the vocal passages of the songs. Lyrics and vocals are important for this band, and the voice of the lead singer at any given time dominates a particular passage. Keys and synths are given a more prominent role in the instrumental sequences of course, and take on a more energetic expression whenever there's some soloing to be done, while the guitars have more of a subservient role. Ajalon is good at exploring this territory, but it's in the instances where they add darker elements to their compositions that they venture into the realms of true brilliance. When darker moods are provided by keys and synths, the bass gets heavier and more distorted and we're served the odd riff pattern or drawn out riff to underscore the mood it's when these contrasts with the lighter and gentle expressions used elsewhere occur that the spellbinding moments on this album are created. The stylistic expression becomes more energetic is these cases as well, adding more drive in addition to the intriguing atmosphere which tends to be the result of a soundscape with contrasting elements. On this album, the songs Not Man, Abstract Malady and Lullaby of Bedlam cover this territory, and while the other compositions are good these three are superb - and arguably to the extent of making this album one worth getting even if the rest of the material isn't considered to be very interesting.
Conclusion. This Good Place is a solid effort from Ajalon, and as far as Christian progressive rock goes it is a creation with much less of an emphasis on preaching and missionary antics than what most will be used to by artists defining themselves as belonging to that belief system. The expression of choice belongs to the lighter side of the symphonic art rock universe, with a few superb ventures into slightly darker sounding territories. All in all a production well worth investigating by those who generally enjoy symphonic progressive rock, especially if fond of songs with a light and generally positive atmosphere.
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