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TRACK LIST: 1. Beach Discovery 4:11 2. Sirens Call 2:42 3. Log Entry 0:28 4. Horizons 7:31 5. Requiem of the Mind 6:22 6. Times Companion 3:53 7. Riding the Wind 1:12 8. Distant Shores 3:08 9. I of the Storm 13:32 10. Beach Realization 2:37 LINEUP: Cameron Castle – guitars Erinn Waggoner – bass Rusty Clutts – drums William O’Connell – keyboards David Ragsdale – violin Hugh McDowell – cello Damian Wilson – vocals With: Dave Gilbert – vocals Natalie Grace – vocals David Lee – narration &: Female choir (9)
Prolusion. PORT MAHADIA, from the States, is basically a quartet of Cameron Castle on guitars, Erinn Waggoner on bass, Rusty Clutts on drums and William O’Connell on keyboards. However, their first outing “Echoes in Time” features seven more performers, two of whom, singer Damian Wilson (Landmarq, others) and cellist Hugh McDowell (ELO), hail from England. I believe both of them, as well as violinist David Ragsdale (Kansas, others), have virtually participated in the project, thanks to the computer and internet technologies.
Analysis. The contribution that each of the three last-named guest musicians has made to the recording is weightier than that of any of the remaining four ones (see lineup above), but nonetheless it is the founder of the project, guitarist and songwriter Cameron Castle, who most of the time is in the focus of the arrangements here, while the bass, drums and (even) keyboards normally serve as backdrops for his actions. Apart from Cameron, only David Ragsdale more or less frequently shines as a soloist. To be more precise, on each of the four tracks that feature him, namely Riding the Wind, Beach Realization, Beach Discovery and Distant Shores, he not only shares the spotlight with the axeman, but at times starts on his solo flights, too. Beach Realization is the sole purely acoustic tune on the disc, only containing vocals, violin, cello and acoustic guitar. This is a refined piece and is a perfect ending for the album, no matter that Dave Gilbert’s singing there instantly brings to mind John Wetton’s. Riding the Wind is a short, yet impressive, instrumental which reminds me of chamber Prog-Metal in style, as also do Beach Discovery and Distant Shores, although overall both represent a blend of the said idiom and pure Symphonic Progressive. Reminiscent of the David Cross Band circa “Testing the Destruction” (if you aren’t familiar with David’s solo work avoid drawing any direct parallels between it and King Crimson’s), these are my favorite tracks on the disc, each containing plenty of room for well-played clean electric violin and both acoustic and electric guitar solos as well as for distorted, yet still diverse and compelling, riffs from the latter instrument. Although I clearly realize that the rest of the material is marked by a more conventional approach, comparisons are hard for me to find there, except forI of the Storm, while listening to which I am at times reminded of Eloy: within those movements of the epic that feature a female choir, to be more precise. Otherwise this composition has a lot in common with the instrumental Horizons which offers us fairly seminal Prog-Metal with only occasional symphonic or rather, say, merely art-rock-ish tendencies. These two are also thematically strong and well-performed pieces, but nevertheless they impress me less than the winners, since Cameron is alone as the center of attention on each. The same remark is relevant to any of the remaining three tracks, also: be it a ‘chugging’ pop metal song Requiem of the Mind or Sirens Call and Times Companion, both of which are ballads in the final analysis, the man rules on each and only Damian Wilson’s vocals make each sound more diverse than a benefit performance for its nominal creator. Damian sings on most of the tracks with lyrical content and he does his corresponding duties in such a highly original way that it’s often not too easy to recognize him. Wilson once again proves he is one of the most flexible vocalists on the genre’s modern scene, and I must tell you he is still in superb form. So it’s at least in some ways regrettable that a couple of the songs that are dominated by the project’s main man’s parts are largely instrumental.
Conclusion. While some of the tracks on Port Mahadia’s first offering reveal unpredictable moves in places, there is nothing overly complex here, save Castle’s and David’s guitar and violin histrionics, respectively, which demand a lot of technical skill from their providers, though, anyhow, almost three fours of “Echoes in Time” comes across as the guitarist’s solo effort. Cameron, why didn’t you ask Mr. Ragsdale to play everywhere on the recording? Then it would have been an excellent outing, whilst as it is it’s a merely good release and I'm turning a blind eye to the last three described pieces while making this conclusion.
VM=Vitaly Menshikov: March 16, 2009
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