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Spectre - 2007 - "Dreamland"

(57:15 / 'Atlantian')


TRACK LIST:                                 
1.  Dreamland 8:10
2.  Forever 6:51
3.  Masterplan 5:49
4.  One Nation 5:13
5.  The Spectre 7:38
6.  One Heart 5:06
7.  Abduction 6:09
8.  Universe 6:25
9.  Visions 5:52


Bob Sundgren - vocals; keyboards
Brian Smith - drums, percussion 
Todd Rose - el. & ac. guitars

Prolusion. "Dreamland" is the first release by American trio SPECTRE, although none of the musicians is a novice to the scene. The press kit says all of them are in their mid-thirties and that each is well known in the progressive rock circles of their native state of Connecticut and beyond, particularly guitarist Todd Rose whose former band Soundscape has opened for Echolyn, Fates Warning and King's X.

Analysis. The sound of "Dreamland" is so lush that I'd have easily believed this to be a quartet or even a quintet's effort if I hadn't known the real state of affairs. With two successive listens to the album behind me (but also keeping in mind that the band's founder, drummer Brian Smith, is announced as the primary songwriter), I realize that each of the musicians plays a very significant role in the project, but nevertheless Bob Sundgren, who fulfills the duties of a keyboardist and a vocalist, seems to be figuring somewhat more prominently than his partners. The point is that the recording's nine compositions are all quite ample in singing, with plenty of lyrical content, which though doesn't automatically imply they're vocal-based, let alone song-based. It wouldn't be a glaring error if I'd say that the players are always very resourceful while supporting the singing, but this is not such a case in fact. It is more than merely obvious that the vocal storyline (generally speaking) was created after the music as such, therefore serving exclusively as a complement to the album's instrumental ingredient, which already in itself appears to be a highly mobile substance. In term of style however, "Dreamland" is a quite monolithic canvas, the sound being pretty much the same almost throughout, so instead of detailing each of the tracks I'll only touch on those of them that stand out for some particular features. Here is how I see the recording's most prevalent picture. Working from what, well, instantly evokes classic '70s Symphonic Progressive, Spectre ornament their basic material with numerous vocal lines along with some '80s and '90s methods, such as the use of electronic drums or modern-day sound processors which make the guitar sound edgier than as is typical of the genre's heyday. Think a cross between "Tormato" by Yes and Magellan's "Impending Ascension", though when the trio enters the prog-metal area (which they from time to time do on all the tracks save for One Heart) they can even resemble Dream Theater, at least as regards technical filigree. Yes is a point of comparison, the band's influence being equally obvious in Bob Sundgren's keyboard and vocal parts, while the latter album is used in order to give you an idea of the nature of the drum tracks in this "Dreamland" rather than as a direct reference. Anyhow the overall sound is never derivative (an underestimation), and since each of the instruments deployed, the vocals included, comes across in most cases as an independently existing entity, much of the music appears to be multi-dimensional or, if you will, genuinely polymorphous in structure. As to the peculiarities, the title number best of all fits the vintage art-rock aesthetics, since it's the sole track here featuring several instrumental interludes, and not one or two as is in the other cases. On Abduction, there is a Pink Floyd-like movement with a bluesy guitar solo brought to its fore. Finally One Heart is a more laidback and unhurried tune, but while it has a ballad-like feeling throughout, its instrumental background is enough saturated to keep the whole thing interesting.

Conclusion. I can't remember when the last time I heard an album that, while being abundant in vocals, would be as diverse and as growing on the listener as Spectre's "Dreamland" which reveals something new even after a few successive plays. I think this is an excellent release overall, and you should be able to read between the lines so as to find out what prevents me from giving it the corresponding rating.

VM: October 17, 2007

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