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Eclectic Earwig Reviews


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

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

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)

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