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Cobweb Strange (USA) - Overall View


Preamble. Here is another Overall View, i.e. the material, the destination of which is the description of some progressive band or performer's creation as a whole. This time, it is dedicated to Cobweb Strange, the US band that came out from Atlanta, Georgia. The band was formed in the middle of the 1990s and, at the moment, has four full-length albums in its discography. One of them, "Seamless Selections" (2000), is a kind of "Best Of" nine-track compilation that features three songs from each of the following CDs.

- 1996 - "The Temptation of Successful Hours"
- 1998 - "Sounds From the Gathering"
- 2002 - "A Breath of October"

Cobweb Strange (USA) - 1996 - "The Temptation of Successful Hours"
(44 min, 'Cobweb Strange')


Track List:

1. Clarity's Advent 4:37

2. The Sand Reckoner 4:01

3. Gentle Darkness 5:21

4. Away From Truth 2:57

5. Solver 3:47

6. First 5:01

7. Edicius 4:21

8. Giant 4:01

9. Self Indulgence 2:51

10. Astral Projection 7:11

All music & lyrics by Summerlin, except

1: music by Summerlin & Burke, &

3: music & lyrics by Burke.


Wade Summerlin - bass guitar; vocals

Johanthan Burke - lead guitar (+ vocals on 3)

Derik Rinchart - drums & percussion

Produced & recorded by Summerlin & Rinchart.

Mixed by Ryan Broodie, Summerlin & Rinchart.

(Studios: "Counterpart", Gambina", & "Platinum City".)

Mastered by Chris Griffin. 

The Album. Overall, the music on "The Temptation of Successful Hours" is about that sort of Progressive Metal with elements of a guitar-based Art-Rock, which was modeled by Rush in 1975 and presented on both of the band's albums of the same year. (Of course, these are "Fly By Night" and "Caress of Steel".) However, while Rush's eponymous debut of 1974 was highly influenced by Led Zeppelin, the first Cobweb Strange album features only a few tracks where there are the traces of influences of Rush, so comparisons between these bands are mostly of a stylistic, and not a compositional character. Furthermore, all three of the last tracks on "The Temptation of Successful Hours" are free from any influences and sound absolutely original. Also, they're out of the album's predominant stylistics, about which I've mentioned in the very beginning of the review. Musically, both Giant (8) and Self- Indulgence (9, which is the only instrumental piece here) represent a real Prog-Metal without any other stylistic 'makeweights'. The instrumental arrangements that are present on the first of them are mostly slow and quite dark, though at the same time, they're full of some amazing mystery. The instrumental composition consists of diverse interplay between either the heavy riffs or harsh solos of electric guitar (there are only a few overdubs on this album) and those of bass, developing to the accompaniment of a powerful drumming. The frequent changes of tone and mood, complex stop-to-play movements done with the use of the odd meters, a truly masterful musicianship by each of the band members, etc, are typical for these, as well as most of the other tracks on the album. The album's closing track, Astral Projection (10), which is undoubtedly the most diverse, intricate, and interesting composition here, consists of the mixed musical textures - those that are typical for both of Prog-Metal and a guitar-based Art-Rock. Two more songs on "The Temptation of Successful Hours", Gentle Darkness and Away From Truth (3 & 4), are completely out of the album's predominant stylistics. The first of them, featuring various interplay between passages of semi-acoustic guitar, solos of electric guitar, and those of bass, all of which are simply wonderful here, represents nothing else but the Classic Art-Rock ballad of a dramatic character and quite a high level of complexity. Away From Truth is structurally of the same nature, but there aren't interesting instrumental parts on it. The latter words sound topical regarding The Sand Reckoner and First (2 & 6) as well. Although Clarity's Advent, Solver, and Edicius (1, 5, & 7) are of the same Progressive Metal with elements of a guitar-based Art-Rock, as well as both of the songs that I was just talking about, these three are the real representatives of the album's predominant style and are excellent at every aspect. So, in all, seven out of ten compositions on this album are interesting. In that way, "The Temptation of Successful Hours" can be regarded as a promising debut (no more, no less), which is a rather trivial, yet, topical conclusion. The main events are yet to come...

VM: December 3, 2002

Cobweb Strange (USA) - 1998 - "Sounds From the Gathering"
(49 min, 'CS')


Track List:                    

1. Taste of Ash 2:44

2. Sometimes the Shine Just Fades Away 10:35

3. I'd Give Everything 4:25

4. Thirteen 6:45

5. The Color of 6:17

6. As the Sky Crumbles 3:57

7. Solitude & the Hollow Promise 7:38

8. A Cup to Catch the Silence 6:57

All music: by Summerlin, except that on tracks

2, 4, & 6: by Summerlin, D., & K. Rineharts.

All lyrics: by Summerlin.


Wade Summerlin - bass & acoustic guitar; vocals

Derik Rinehart - drums; backing vocals

Keith Rinehart - electric guitar


Trevon Broad - keyboards & cello (on 5)

Produced by W. Summerlin.

Recorded by Cobweb Strange at "Genterine" studios.

Mixed by W. Summerlin & Randy Huyett at "Getherine".

Mastered by Chris Griffin.

The Album. In comparison with the Cobweb Strange debut (depicted above), "Sounds From the Gathering", which, stylistically, is a very diverse album, shows a major improvement in everything. There are only two tracks on the band's second album, the contents of which aren't completely original. These are I'd Give Everything and The Color of (3 & 5); both of them are stylistically about a guitar-based Art-Rock. The first of them, though, is marked with only slight traces of influences - those of early Rush. Whereas another sounds much in the vein of those progressive ballads that are featured on any of Voivod's three albums released from 1989 to 1993. Nevertheless, both of these are very good songs. Each of the remaining six songs on the album is not only distinctly original (i.e. free of any influences), but also features some truly innovative ideas that are especially notable in the interplay between passages of semi-acoustic guitar and solos of bass. There are no instrumental pieces on "Sounds From the Gathering", but then, purely instrumental arrangements, most of which are highly diverse, inventive, and complex here, cover about two thirds of the CD's 'playing' space. The following four tracks: Taste of Ash, As the Sky Crumbles, Solitude & the Hollow Promise, and A Cup to Catch the Silence (1, 6, 7, & 8), are excellent and that at all points. The music that is featured on the first two of them represents nothing else but Prog-Metal, which, though, is marvelously both classic and original. On Solitude & the Hollow Promise, as well as on both of the songs that I'll tell about a bit later, is presented a blend of Prog-Metal and a guitar-based Art-Rock. Finally, the album's closing track is about a pure Art-Rock, which, though, is here supported by sounds of various natural phenomenon (thunder, rain, falling drops, etc). While musically quite different among themselves, all of these songs, nevertheless, are filled with a dark and mysterious atmosphere and contain everything that is necessary to keep a listener's attention from the first to the last note of each of them. Quite a much time passed since I for the last time listed so-called essential progressive ingredients. In my view, "Sounds From the Gathering" is quite an appropriate album to repeat them here, in the review of it. Unexpected 'jumps' from one musical dimension to another, frequent changes of tempo and tone, complex stop-to-play movements performed with the use of unusual meters, masterful, diverse, and, mostly, contrasting interplay between all of the band members, etc. All of this is typical for any of the previously depicted four songs, but especially for both of the remaining ones. Sometimes the Shine Just Fades Away and Thirteen (2 & 4) consist of the mixed, Prog-Metal and a guitar-based Art-Rock-related, musical textures that are interwoven with each other one of the most wonderful ways I've ever heard. Highly intricate musical events, full of mystery and magic, almost kaleidoscopically change each other throughout each of these two songs. And while Thirteen is more than a mere masterwork, Sometimes the Shine Just Fades Away is just a super masterpiece. Back to the album as a whole, being much pleased with almost all of the "Sounds From the Gathering", I recommend this honest and strong album in all sincerity.

VM: December 10, 2002

Cobweb Strange (USA) - 2002 - "A Breath of October"
(49 min, 'CS')


Track List:

1. The Drowning Pulse of the Cold Green Sea 9:02

2. Giant 5:14

3. The Empty Shell 5:08

4. Tea For the Sleepless 6:34

5. Pure 11:50

6. Currents of Nightshade 4:00

7. On With the Show 6:43

8. With Evening Falling 1:17

All music & lyrics: by Summerlin, except:

7 - lyrics: by T. Luke.


Wade Summerlin - bass & acoustic guitars; lead vocals

Holly Williams - electric guitar

Brandi Byrum - keyboards; backing vocals

Soumen Talukder - drums

Additional musicians:

Kevin Andrews - Stick

Trevon Broad - percussion

Paul Jorgensen - percussion

Sean McNalley - percussion

Chris Griffin - additional guitars

Produced by Summerlin & Griffin.

Engineered by Griffin at "Woodland Hills Recordings".

Mastered at "Griffin Mastering", Atlanta, GA.

The Album. As you can see above, there is only one original Cobweb Strange member in the line-up for this album: the founder of the band and the main mastermind behind it, Wade Summerlin. Unlike both of the previous albums by the band, and especially their debut, "A Breath of October" is free from any obvious influences at all. Furthermore, even the sound of this album differs from that on any of its predecessors and that quite radically. Although the new Cobweb Strange ProGduction is not of a unified stylistic concept, there is a unique feature that unites almost all of the songs that are present here (the only exception being track 3, to which I'll return a bit later). And the name of a feature that "October" just breathes with, is a mysterious atmosphere. There are no instrumentals on this album, while two out of the eight songs that are presented here are ballads: The Empty Shell (3) and With Evening Falling (8). The first of them is the only simple song on the album. It features only the rhythms of acoustic guitars and the vocals that, while being tasteful and of a dramatic character, represent just the alternation of couplets and refrains. Another ballad (8) is a little masterpiece. Instead of rhythms, it consists of passages of acoustic guitar and has that mysterious feel to it, which is one of the central hallmarks of this album, even though the vocal part is very brief here. Also, it's really hard to imagine any other song on track 8, and not With Evening Falling, which, IMHO, is a really great ending for this album. It needs to be said that the parts of vocals are excellent and highly original (mysterious!) on most of the songs here. Though, on average, they cover no more than about one third of the CD's playing space. Which, above all, is because there are only a few of the vocal parts on the longest track on the album, Pure. Giant and Tea For the Sleepless (2 & 4) are excellent songs of the Classic Art-Rock genre and feature all the possible progressive ingredients. However, the winners on this album are The Drowning Pulse of the Cold Green Sea, Pure, Currents of Nightshade, and On With the Show (1, 5, 6, & 7). (Though With Evening Falling (8), described above, I like very much as well.) Three of them (1, 5, 7) are the most complex, diverse, and intriguing compositions on "A Breath of October". But while the arrangements on Currents of Nightshade aren't as intricate as those that are featured on the songs that I've just talked about, it is just filled with wonderful flavors of the music of the East and is marked with signs of a real musical magic. As well as the album's opening track, Giant, and Tea For the Sleepless, Currents of Nightshade is the work of the Art-Rock genre. While Pure and On With the Show are about a blend of Symphonic Art-Rock and Prog-Metal. Well, finally, on keyboards: Although the parts of synthesizer, organ, and piano play mainly a supporting role on the new Cobweb Strange album, their presence is more than merely justified: new CD - new sound! You will be amazed with that highly specific atmosphere, which reigns over this album.

Summary. First: I'd like to note that the second half of the album is overall much stronger than the first one where only The Drowning Pulse of the Cold Green Sea is a real masterwork. Second: although "A Breath of October" is overall more than merely an excellent album, I can't rate it as a complete masterpiece. Third: on the other hand, it's clear to me that the new Cobweb Strange album is in some ways (at least) better than its predecessor. In that way, I am forced to deprive the "Sounds From the Gathering" album of a half of the rating star. Which, though, shouldn't confuse you dear readers. I recommend you both of the band's latest albums. From any of them, you'll get positive, yet, different impressions. Please note this.

VM: December 22, 2002

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