Atlantis Pray for Rain (Jonsongs Ltd, 2003) LA-based Atlantis bills their synth-dominated, light progressive metal as "modern symphonic rock." Their 1997 self-titled debut CD garnered attention in the underground on-line prog scene. On Pray for Rain, the songwriting core of the band, Ken Jaquess (bass) and "Teknobudd X" a.k.a Jorge Vasquez (keyboards), returns with new members Karl Johnson (guitar), David Bodna (vocals), and drummers Hank Wicke and Bob Craft each playing on half the songs. Pray for Rain sounds like a cross between the melodic prog/pop rock of Styx and the modern production and guitar/synth chops of Dream Theater. The songs vary from grandiose excess to curt instrumentals and lush pop. The CD opens with the 13 minute title track, which moves from a bloated keyboard intro of dated synth sounds into various instrumental and vocal sections that transition through studio overlaps. This prog opus might have been better placed at the end of the CD, given the shorter symphonic pop of all the other tunes, and the grandeur would have felt more appropriate after 45 minutes of less pompous music. "Lelune" establishes a willowy and effective ballad groove in 7:8 meter, but the added notes in the classic prog turnarounds kill the mellow flow. "Again," clocking in at 1:49, is a concise and tasteful guitar instrumental, a rarity for any symphonic or progressive band. Fusion legend Allan Holdsworth contributes an ordinary (for him) guitar solo to the otherwise unremarkable "Oceans to Cross." "Forest Cathedral" starts with a concise, snappy instrumental section that deserves to be a separate track, and then fades into a symphonic pop tune that builds to an evocative peak of swelling synths and melodic guitar, but it fades out just as it reaches a climax. "Secret Realm" far outshines the rest of the poppy tunes as the only catchy and memorable track. The synths carry the melody and the sinuous phaser guitar in the background skillfully builds tension in the pre-chorus. The chorus drops into a lower key and pushes lush vocal harmonies for a catchy resolution. The tempos of many of the songs feel too slow, including "Hills of Time," sections of the title track, and "The One." This gives the music a dull plodding feel, whereas bumping up the tempo a notch would have added the exciting mood of wild prog abandon featured in "Again." The choices of samples and synth textures often spill into cliché, such as the heartbeat and thunderclap samples and the Vangelis-style tones in the intro of the title track. The lyrics also tread thoroughly traveled prog rock ground, but on the whole remain unobtrusive. The arrangements and the mix feature the keyboards over all other instruments, perhaps due to keyboardist Vasquez's band role as a core member and songwriter. The guitars rarely riff on the bottom strings and all guitar parts except solos are mixed low. However, this unusual background placement of the guitar gives the music a lighter rock feel appropriate to the harmonized vocals and melodic chord progressions. The higher end of Bodna's vocal range sounds clear and airy in a classic prog style, but his lower range often sounds thin and strident. The keyboard and guitar playing remain tasteful even through extended solo passages. The prominent and crisp bass guitar provides a driving rhythmic force. All instruments project clear and distinct in the excellent production, no mean feat considering the multiple layers of guitars, keyboards, and vocals. Pray for Rain offers moments of synth-drenched prog rock and symphonic pop with great production, skillful playing, and solid writing. If Atlantis can build on the catchy melody and arrangement of "Secret Realm" in their future music, they could produce some memorable symphonic-progressive pop. Reviewed by Scott Andrews [firstname.lastname@example.org] More Info:
http://www.progressivemusic.cc Track Listing:
1. Pray For Rain [13:09]
2. Magnificent Desolation [4:22]
3. Lelune* [5:07]
4. Again* [1:49]
5. The One [6:30]
6. Hills of Time [5:46]
7. Secret Realm* [4:30]
8. Oceans to Cross* [4:18]
9. Forest Cathedral [10:38] Personnel:
"Teknobudd X" (Jorge Vasquez): synths/piano
Ken Jaquess: bass
Hank Wicke: drums
David Bodnar: vox
Karl Johnson: guitars
Bob Craft: drums*
Allan Holdsworth: guest solo guitar on track 8
This review featured in:
Atlantis: self-titled (CD, 53:01); independent release 090591-1 Like Eddie Jobson's solo release Zinc? Did ya dig UK post Holdsworth in the Danger Money and Night after Night days? Well I did -- and I like this Atlantis sound as well. Mystery man, Teknobudd, (Jorge Vazquez) , is flyin' fast on keys doing a fascinatingly superb job. Matthew Hedrick belts out tight Bozzio/Bruford/Palmer quality licks on the skins whilst vocalist, bassist, axeman, and pedals riff-meister, Ken Jacquess rivals olde J. Wetton n' G. Lee. Vocals are good along the Jobson quality with the Moev leanings. Get this, I even picked up some Missing Persons in "Deux Ex Machina". I heard O'Hearn and Bozzio moments in the overall rhythmic structure. Track three, "The Olde King", absolutely slayed me. I shant begin to describe the synethesia I felt. Yow! What a monster!! When the tubular bells kicked in I nearly had an out-of-the-body experience. It was a heavy UK/ELP(Tarkus/Brain Salad Surgery) flashback in a 90's rockin' package. Turn this one up! "One for the Money" was also a heavy hitter in the ELP("Knife Edge")/ Moev thrust with an ominous mid-song breakdown that I wished was three times longer. This band also knows how to mellow/space-out and drift off as done so nicely on "Run from the Past". Song six, "Little Man", gripped my soul as it is dedicated to a young son gone back to the Eternal Father. I too, know that road. They cannot return to us yet we shall go to them one day. Thanx for that one guys. This seven song offering has my vote for very well done progrock and ya know, from this critic, it don't come easy. -- John W. Patterson
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"The Olde King" excerpt
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