Under the Sun: Under the Sun (CD, 67:31) Magna Carta MA-9041-2 Magna Carta PMB 1820 208 E. 51st St. New York, NY 10022-6500 CYBERHOME: http://www.magnacarta.net Well... if Under the Sun's objective with their eponymous debut CD was to impress upon listeners how fast they can play their instruments, then Under the Sun is a smashing success. Your chin will scrape the ground when you hear bassist Kurt Barabas rip into a machine-gun bass lick. You'll consider suing the band for whiplash as you shake your head in amazement while listening to one of Matt Evidon's Emerson-esque keyboard runs. I know it's part and parcel of the progressive genre to have a command over one's instrument, but these dudes really can shred - and if that's what you're into, don't bother reading the rest of this review and go pick up the CD. However, if the object of Under the Sun was to announce themselves to the world-wide music community as a formidable progressive band the likes of a Dream Theater, then Under the Sun comes up just a bit short of the goal. It's not that Under the Sun is a bad CD - on the contrary, some of the tracks are extremely interesting. I'd say this is one of the strongest progressive debuts in quite some time (Transatlantic notwithstanding). It's just that it seems at times the boys in the band fall into the standard progressive rock trap of being more concerned about displaying their instrumental prowess than about melodies and song structure. When the band stays focused on the sum rather than the parts, Under the Sun is very impressive - the opening track "This Golden Voyage" is very reminiscent of late-70's Rush, and the closer "From Henceforth Now and Forever" is an excellent example of how to compose a chilling and emotional piece of music, and contains a fantastic soaring guitar solo from frontman Chris Shryack. Unfortunately, the band doesn't keep the song quality at those levels for the whole CD, and often descends dangerously close to "hair-metal" territory. The plodding hard-rock track "Seeing Eye God" should have been left off of the CD, and the soundcheck-turned-demo tape "Tracer" suffers from some uncharacteristically awful vocals from Shryack. Lyrically, Shyrack dominates the CD and while he does have a knack for flowery prose and storytelling, sometimes the lyrics get a little too clever and pretentious for their own good. I think Under the Sun's press release says it all when it describes the band's lyrical content as "a positive affirmation, individual words presented as a tone painting offering the feeling of a voyage." Err... yeah... So, the question really is whether Under the Sun is good enough to take away Dream Theater's prog/metal-master title. The short answer to that question is "not yet" - while Under the Sun's vocals are certainly less annoying then James LaBrie's operatically trained voice, the band still needs to concentrate more on songs and less on solos. However, in the context of a debut release, Under the Sun is a success, and judging from some of the high spots on the CD the band definitely has a promising future in the world of prog rock. I certainly look forward to their next release. ~ Michael Askounes CREDITS: Chris Shryack: Lead & Harmony Vox, Acoustic & Electric Guitars, E-Bow Kurt Barabas: Bass Guitars, Bass Pedals, Harmony Vox Matt Evidon: Harmony Vox, Keyboards Paul Shkut: Drums & Percussion TRACKLIST: 1. This Golden Voyage (7:13) 2. Tracer (5:41) 3. Seeing Eye God (3:37) 4. Gardens of Autumn (5:02) 5. Perfect World (5:21) 6. Reflections (5:45) 7. Breakwater (7:34) 8. The Time Being (10:01) 9. Dream Catcher (7:56) 10. From Henceforth Now and Forever (9:16) More information on Under the Sun can be found at http://www.underthesun-uts.com
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