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(78:56 / Progrock Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. Room 316 1:33 2. Friends Forever 2:56 3. Coming of Age 4:58 4. Incident at Haldemans Lake 11:34 5. Reflections 3:21 6. I Promise You 2:57 7. Consummation Opus 4:24 8. Truth & Tragedy 2:57 9. Shattered Dreams 13:29 10. Viper 5:36 11. Betrayed by Love 7:16 12. Turning Point 4:48 13. Revelation 13:06 LINEUP: Gary Wehrkamp - guitars; keyboards; vocals DC Cooper - vocals Kurt Barabas - bass Nick D'Virgilio - drums With: Shawn Gordon - keyboards (10)
Prolusion. "Voice in the Light" is the first release by AMARAN'S PLIGHT, a new American supergroup which includes Gary Wehrkamp (Shadow Gallery), DC Cooper (Royal Hunt), Nick D'Virgilio (Spock's Beard) and Kurt Barabas (Under the Sun). "Voice in the Light" is a concept album based on John W. Crawford's novel of the same name.
Analysis. I'd say this is entirely a concept album whose integrity is obvious on all levels, not only in its lyrics. The thirteen tracks here, while ranging in duration, progressiveness and style all alike, all work as parts of the same creation with a genuinely epic magnitude. Besides, the pieces are so well intermixed that none seems to be superfluous, although admittedly one of them is a mediocrity. It would be wrong to assert that Amaran's Plight are strongly influenced by Shadow Gallery, but since Gary Wehrkamp not only serves as the group's principal songwriter, but is also the main driving force in the recording's soloing department, playing all guitars and keyboards, the comparisons with his primary band are often inevitable (which in this particular case just gladdens me, as I like Shadow Gallery better than any of the other outfits represented). The most neutrally-sounding tune, I Promise You, is at the same time the least interesting one, a straight romantic ballad, in all senses overloaded with singing, and not just because it features a contribution from a guest female singer in addition to DC Cooper and Gary's vocals. Friends Forever and Reflections are both ballads as well, but are much tastier, on their instrumental levels each bearing some resemblance to Queen and Savatage respectively, even though the second is only made up of acoustic guitar, piano and vocals. Singing isn't something the art-rock-like piece Betrayed by Love is lacking in either, but the matter is well compensated for by the diversity of the vocal lines themselves, besides which the song is notable for its clever instrumental arrangements, those with the acoustic guitar brought to the fore being just irresistible. All the same words are also relevant with regard to Coming of Age, Turning Point and Truth & Tragedy, although stylistically these three for the most part suggest a hard rock / prog-metal hybrid which might equally appeal to fans of Savatage and Queensryche. Of the two instrumental cuts, Room 316 and Consummation Opus, the former is heavy throughout, whilst the latter is predominantly a keyboards-based piece. Despite its shortness, the opening track is also a complete composition and represents genuine Prog-Metal with ever-changing, yet totally cohesive arrangements. There are NWBHM and techno-thrash sensibilities throughout Viper, akin to Iron Maiden, Skyclad or even Testament in places. While consisting exclusively of hard textures, this is one of the most progressively saturated pieces, not very much inferior to the winners, Incident at Haldemans Lake, Shattered Dreams and Revelation. The recording's longest tracks, these three run for about 39 minutes (half the length of the entire CD), thus forming a kind of album within an album. Apart from some ear-friendly vocal harmonies, each of the epics stands out for its mixture of electric and acoustic guitar patterns that create at once a unique and highly-evolved sound, as well as extended instrumental arrangements sure to please anyone with a taste for symphonic Prog-Metal and beyond. Shadow Gallery is definitely a reference point, though elements of Savatage's Rock Operas can also be found, as well as some grooves reminiscent of Queensryche and Queen. DC Cooper and Gary Wehrkamp are both truly blessed with a gift for vocals and harmony singing; bassist Kurt Barabas and drummer Nick D'Virgilio provide power and finesse in equal measures, and still Gary proves the band is in fine form without a free keyboardist (at least in the studio), besides his more than merely praiseworthy contributions on guitars and production.
Conclusion. To my personal taste, "Voice in the Light" is an excessively long CD, of which however I can easily compile a 45-minute masterpiece. If you're a fan of Shadow Gallery, Savatage and Queensryche, be sure, you'll find very much here to enjoy.
VM: Agst 6, 2007
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