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(62:04, Melodic Revolution Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. I'm Not Answering 5:46 2. Mr. Extravagant 3:48 3. Insulated 4:42 4. Crushed 5:17 5. Exploratory Observations 4:00 6. Painful Observations 5:34 7. The Move 4:00 8. Mesmerized 6:01 9. Faithless 8:30 10. Remember When 7:47 11. Here They Come 6:39 LINEUP: Stephen Speelman – vocals; guitars, bass; keyboards Victor Tassone – drums, percussion; voice With: Vinny Krivacsy – keyboards
Prolusion. The US band UNIFIED PAST has been around in one form or another since the early 1990's. At first known as Labyrinth, but in 1999 they changed to their current moniker. "Observations" is their third full length production using this handle, and their first issued by the US indie label Melodic Revolution Records.
Analysis. I'll readily admit to having been in contact with both the musicians behind this band and the guy running their label. Fine people are all of them, polite and pleasant, and among the good guys to be found in the music business all of them, which is why I'll also admit to having a harder time than usual giving my honest opinion of their endeavors, as it is a somewhat critical one. But to start with the good parts… in this case the last four compositions, which make up just under half of the playtime of this disc. Mesmerized, a slightly flawed item but with many parts that should please fans of Rush from its “Hold Your Fire” period. This is a faithless, gentle ballad featuring calm, relaxed vocals and a pleasant symphonic backdrop throughout. Remember When is again a dampened excursion but this time with more of a vintage oriented symphonic art rock expression: organ and keyboards aplenty, harmonic in nature and a clear highlight in the vocals department. And finally the last piece Here They Come, is a clever instrumental excursion that switches back and forth between cinematic, soothing sequences, bass driven symphonic excursions closer to neo progressive in expression and a select few instances featuring more complex constructions and a somewhat more vintage oriented symphonic style. The latter two tracks are clear highlights, and basically good quality workouts that will inspire plenty of replays. The seven compositions that make up the first half or so of this disc are items of a rather different quality than the ones described in some detail however. Apart from third piece Insulated, which has a good but uneven run through a mid 80's tinged Rush sound, we're dealing with songs that for the most part are closer to melodic rock and AOR in expression, and subtly mired by vocals that aren't quite up to the task at hand. I tend to consult my wife in vocal matters, as she has a background as a choir singer at a relatively high level, and as such has knowledge where I have perception only. And her verdict was that the vocalist at times would veer about a half note off tune. A slight detail for many, but for those with sensitive ears for such matters it is enough to disrupt the mood and spirit of a song. And to flesh out this particular detail further, it would appear that it is when lead vocalist Speelman applies force and power to his delivery that his voice tends to get ever so slightly unstuck. In addition I'd note down that the mix and production at times seem to be ever so slightly unbalanced, with synths and sound effects mixed louder, or perhaps more compressed, than the remaining instrumentation, at least as I experience them, and then first and foremost an item I took notice of in the first half or so of this disc.
Conclusion. "Observations" comes across as a CD where the old cliche "an album of two halves" is an apt description. If you love melodic rock and accessible progressive rock and don't share this writer's sensitivities concerning vocal performance you should find it to be an enjoyable one, but if you tend to take notice of minor details in the vocals department you'd might want to check out the latter four tracks first to see whether or not they are enticing enough to warrant purchasing this disc.
OMB=Olav M Bjornsen: February 13, 2012
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