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(70:44, Unicorn Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. Reverie 1:28 2. Innerlight 3:27 3. Frantic Memories 2:30 4. Confusion 5:06 5. Wise Man 5:13 6. The Rain Comes 4:13 7. Innerlands 6:45 8. Rainbow Elves 5:10 9. Hope 1:48 10. Legend Lives 7:48 11. I 6:12 12. Farewell Master 8:44 13. Us 5:32 14. Fate 3:46 LINEUP: Steve Tremblay – el. & ac. guitars; vocals Yannick Lapointe – keyboards; vocals David Schram – lead vocals Dan Gagnon – bass; vocals Phil Prince – drums, ac. & el. percussion
Prolusion. Yet another progressive rock act from the Canadian province of Quebec (I’ve lost count of those), SIGNS OF ONE (the Signs hereinafter) hails from its capital of the same name, and has existed since 1996. “Innerlands” is a successor to their debut CD, “Here & There, Now & Then”, released in 2003. Besides the band members, whose names and respective instruments are listed above, a few tracks on this recording feature three side participants on flute, clarinet and violin.
Analysis. By citing Rush, Ayreon, Marillion, Arena, Radiohead and Muse as their sources of inspiration, the Signs are as if offering themselves to be compared to those bands, which also might lead the uninitiated potential listener to suppose that their music is a confluence of Prog-Metal, Neo- and modern-day mainstream Progressive. To cut a long story short, none of the names I’m going to use as reference points in this writing coincide with the aforesaid ones. What is more, I find “Innerlands” to contain to a greater degree original- rather than derivative-sounding musical material: please note this and keep on reading. Of the fourteen tracks on this 70-minute recording only the shortest two, Reverie and Hope, are instrumentals. The first of these is an acoustically-driven symphonic piece, while the latter has a full-bodied sound, combining Magellan-stylized progressive Hard Rock with Queen-style guitar soloing and lush orchestral arrangements where, in turn, I make out more hints of Savatage’s Rock Operas than anyone else’s. That being said, all the musical specificities and terms used in the previous sentence find their reflection almost everywhere on the album, its overall vocal palette reminding me for the most part of a cross between the three quoted ensembles (though some of the band’s four-voice harmony singing is occasionally reminiscent of Yes circa “Union”). As mentioned, however, it’s not that the Signs really sound like any of those artists, but it's more that they’re similar to them in style, or even more so in approach, particularly as concerns both their contemporaries, who also adapt ‘70s symphonic and hard rock traditions to the present, generally speaking. The first three tracks with vocals, Innerlight, Frantic Memories and Confusion, while coming as a single piece-suite, are each among the most intensive as well as dynamically evolving compositions in the set, at times revealing genuinely classic sympho-prog arrangements. However, the certain edginess of their instrumental parts on the one hand, and their scarcity of soft, texturally fragile, transparent moves on the other, makes me compare these to Magellan (e.g. Virtual Reality or the title song of “Impending Ascension”) somewhat more often than to Queen or Savatage either. Their closest brothers in style would be I, Legend Lives and Us, though the first of these is the sole track here that in some ways abounds in metalloids, finding the band from time to time venturing on Black Metal. Legend Lives contains a couple of slightly prolonged balladic themes, as also the latter song does, but presents those in a different, better, way, ornamenting the vocal line with the acoustic guitar patterns and the flute trills. The Rain Comes, the title track and Rainbow Elves, following each other straight in the middle of the recording, all alternate sections with harder and softer arrangements, and are the richest in symphonic interludes with acoustic instruments at their fore. On the first two of these the band at times provides chorals which have almost an operatic quality to them, while the latter is notable for some amazing theatric singing, though it is generally a standout, offering a prog-metal take on Tango with some hints of La Chatea Fou from “The Seduction of Madness” by Garden Wall. So it was easy to pick Rainbow Elves as one of the winners – along with the aforesaid I, which in turn is stylistically the most varied composition on the disc, though to a greater or lesser degree I’m satisfied with all the tracks here. While being for the most part performed without the rhythm section, the violin-laden Farewell Master has quite a good deal in common with the title track – perhaps due to its somewhat unhurried (yet still interesting) development. Even the two basically balladic songs, Wise Man and Fate, have their fine moments, both in places revealing vocals of a kind of asexual nature – just another voice in the band’s many-sided vocal palette.
Conclusion. “Innerlands” is overall a very good effort, and would’ve been an excellent album if some of the tracks here had a lesser balladic sense than they have. Recommended with minor reservations.
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