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Highest Place - 2005 - "Dilemma's"

(61 min, 'Highest Place')

TRACK LIST:                    

1.  Quantic Macrorealms 8:18
2.  It's Always a Matter of Choice 2:30
3.  Mental Distortions 10:07
4.  Above Ourselves We Must Pass 5:24
5.  Temporary Out of Order 1:18
6.  About Setting Illusions On Fire 4:20
7.  Humanized 6:30
8.  It Flows 8:59
9.  When It Looks Like an End 6:45
10. Inertia 6:39


Kevin Isabelle - vocals; guitar
Pierre Lauzier - guitar
Francis Viens - bass
Nicolas Tremblay - drums

Prolusion. HIGHEST PLACE is yet another (I've lost count) outfit from the progressively highly fertile Canadian province of Quebec. The band was formed by the four musicians, whose names you can see in the lineup above, the same year they graduated from high school (in 1999). "Dilemma's" is their second CD, following "First Sight" (2003).

Analysis. It's been quite a while since I've heard such a profound and expressive album of heavy progressive music as this. "Dilemma's" is original from head to toe, coming with not even the lightest trace of commerciality, to my great pleasure. "A Social Grace" by Psychotic Waltz, Iced Earth's "Burnt Offering" and "Sophisticated" by Sieges Even can be named as rough points of comparison, but only with great reservations, because the conformity is just barely perceptible, touching only some small stylistic nuances, which are common for all bands performing a cerebral, hyper-complex, uncompromising Prog-Metal with no keyboards. Four of the long six tracks (those exceeding six minutes in duration): Quantic Macrorealms, Mental Distortions, Humanized and Inertia are the most distinctive representatives of the album's primary style, whose generalized definition is put at the end of the previous sentence. On more intimate examination the songs' structures appear to be woven of fabrics typical not only of orthodox Prog-Metal, but also of those related to Techno Thrash and, in a much lesser degree, to what is known as extreme Metal. The arrangements are labyrinthine and full of off-meter phrasings and amazingly intricate stop-to-play turns and twists. Like a starship in sub-space, the band emerges from one dimension just to dive into another, with ease slackening or accelerating their pace, now forcing their way through the stony jungle of rocks, now delivering waterfalls of interlocking guitar solos, which are both astonishingly intricate and beautiful. Quantic Macrorealms and Mental Distortions are largely instrumental; the others reveal an approximately equal amount of song-based and purely instrumental maneuvers, but there is no place for rest even in the vocal sections, as the music is never easily-accessible. Kevin Isabelle sings either in a relatively traditional tone or does a full-throated 'metal' roar (which is clearly more comfortable for him), though never applying really brutal intonations - which are yet to come on one of the succeeding tracks. On It Flows and When It Looks Like an End the fundamental style meets guitar Art-Rock with softer, yet hardly less intricate arrangements, the directions never merging together! The latter song has a brief episode flavored of Oriental music. About Setting Illusions On Fire is as progressive and compelling as any of the named compositions, although it's closer to Black Metal, and not only because of the distinctive vocal styling. It also needs to be said that Kevin is in his best form here as a singer, much more convincing than taking, say, the middle road. There is no pause between the first three tracks, and the second one, It's Always a Matter of Choice (a kind of Space Rock bridge between its neighbors), is the only instrumental on the album. No pause between Above Ourselves We Must Pass and Temporary Out of Order either, both representing highly impressive duels between two acoustic guitars with the vocals occasionally interfering in their matters:-).

Conclusion. "Dilemma's" was released in last December, so I am gladly adding it to my Top-20-2005. ProGfessor? Don't be in a dilemma whether to check it out or not. Otherwise recommended also, just arm yourselves with patience. Repeat listens reveal more and more to like about this band and the CD.

VM: April 10, 2006

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