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(66 min, 'Split Difference')
TRACK LIST: 1. All Sales Final 2:02 2. Valid for a Week 11:48 3. Stagnant 4:54 4. Code of Tripe 12:04 5. Slate Clean 7:17 6. Groove Seven 5:46 7. Lifelines 20:00 LINEUP: Ryan Parmenter - vocals; Rhodes, keyboards Matthew Kennedy - bass; Moog; Theremin Alan Rutter - electric & acoustic guitars Bob Young - drums & percussion
Prolusion. "Consumption" is the second album by America's EYESTRINGS, following their highly acclaimed debut CD, "Burdened Hands", which was released at the very beginning of 2004.
Analysis. Although running 66 minutes just like the debut Eyestrings outing, "Consumption" musically has not that much in common with its predecessor. Gone is Jazz-Fusion, which was one of the essential components of the music on "Burdened Hands", and generally, the band has made a noticeable turn towards a more accessible sound, which does not become obvious right from the beginning of the album. Quite the contrary, the semi-epic suite Valid for a Week, following the short acoustic guitar intro All Sales Final, is the band's most diverse and profound work to date. The music is complex and gorgeous simultaneously, structurally multi-layered, stylistically polymorphous - really unique symphonic Art-Rock with elements of Prog-Metal, occasional RIO-like angular maneuvers, some piano and acoustic guitar interludes, excellent theatric vocals and a distinct Gothic sense in places. Plenty of quaint arcs tie together the seemingly endless number of different components, forming an amazing construction, both ornate and eclectic, reminding me of Gaudi's bravest architectural designs. The keyboard palette is painted mainly with colors of piano, Mellotron and the Moog synthesizer, as is everywhere on the album, save the only instrumental composition, the organ-driven Groove Seven, which would be the second best track on the recording. The overall style is by far not unrecognizable, sliding between '70s symphonic Hard Rock and progressive Cathedral/Doom Metal, but the music shifts very frequently, being abundant in unexpected twists and turns. The first two thirds of another semi-epic composition, the 12-minute Code of Tripe, contain rather predictable, but very beautiful arrangements somewhere in the vein of Genesis's Ripples or even Firth of Fifth, while the Prog-Metal finale is outstanding in all respects. Together, the remarkable compositions form almost half the album. Unfortunately, they don't follow one another, but alternate with the very accessible ballad-like songs, Stagnant and Slate Clean, each featuring numerous repetitions and few purely instrumental arrangements, especially the former, titled more than merely aptly. The situation would've been saved had the lengthy closing track, Lifelines, met the traditional requirements of a 'sidelong' suite, while it's not even a suite. Furthermore, the music is openly derivative. Once and over again, the sacred cow named Genesis has become the object of milking, though Lifelines develops too smoothly over all its 20 minutes to compare it with classic Genesis. It's rather the Fish-era Marillion at their most commercially successful, "Misplaced Childhood", although the vocals and the general instrumental textures are much like those in Genesis before Gabriel left.
Conclusion. Counting all the pros and cons of "Consumption", I find it a good album overall, although it is certainly not as good as their debut effort (which is still featured in my Top-20 albums of 2004). I don't think these very talented young men have lost their progressive vigor so quickly. I believe they have advisedly made much of their new music accessible. No, I don't condemn Eyestrings for their desire to get a larger audience. I wish them to have a favorable wind wherever they would move in the future, though of course, I would prefer they would back to a more adventurous sound.
VM: February 5, 2006
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