|Musical Style: Progressive Hard Rock||Produced By: Gary Wehrkamp|
|Record Label: Inside Out||Country Of Origin: USA|
|Year Released: 2005||Artist Website: Shadow Gallery|
|Tracks: 14||Rating: 95%|
|Running Time: 75:34|
If critics (such as myself) were to compile a list of the best albums in the progressive metal and hard rock genre then Shadow Gallery's excellent 1998 concept album Tyranny would rank at or near the top. Its 2001 follow up effort Legacy proved nearly as good, the band continuing to combine its superb musicianship and lush vocal harmonies with adept compositions of a very high caliber. Shadow Gallery delivers more of the same on its Inside Out Music debut and fifth overall full length album entitled Room V. Another concept album, Room V is a follow up to Tyranny in which its story line begins only eight hours after Tyranny’s last track, "Christmas Day", concludes. Also similar to Tyranny, Room V is divided into two seven song "acts": Act III & Act IV (Act I & Act II take place on Tyranny.) And of those fourteen tracks, Shadow Gallery delivers eight excellent full length numbers averaging 7 to 9 minutes each: Four move in a hard rock direction, while the other four are guitar driven melodic based ballads. There is no need to be concerned, however, because nobody (and I mean nobody!) writes a better ballad than Shadow Gallery. Of the albums six remaining songs, five are short instrumentals coming in at around two minutes each.
With his emotionally charged classic tenor voice, Mike Baker deserves to rank among today’s top progressive metal vocalists (including LaBrie, Allan, Brown and McDermott). The talented guitar team of Brendt Allman and Gary Wehrkamp combine for a profusion of beautiful guitar harmonies in addition to a more than ample amount of sophisticated dual lead guitar work. The rhythm section of bassist Carl Cadden-James and drummer Joe Nevolo, as always, puts in place a solid foundation for the bands sound. Wehrkamp also fills in on keyboards and adds just the right amount of texture without coming across overbearing.
Please note that keyboardist Chris Ingles left Shadow Gallery following the release of Legacy in order to take a break from music. He did, however, receive several songwriting credits on the album so he is still involved with the band.
A transparent and crystal clear sounding production job allows all the instrumentation to evenly rise above the mix.
As for the concept behind Room V, it is not my intention to ruin the albums listening experience for you by giving away its storyline. My advice would be to purchase the album (and Tyranny!) and figure out the complex and detailed story behind its concept first hand.
A disclaimer at the bands website states that most of the members of Shadow Gallery are believers in the Christian faith. Carl Cadden-James, the bands primary lyricist, lists the Holy Bible as both a source of inspiration and information in the albums liner notes. While by no means a Christian album, Room V might be best described as an album written with a Christian viewpoint in mind. Christian imagery abounds, best reflected on tracks such as "Vow", "Torn", "Room V" and "Rain".
The instrumental "Manhunt" opens Act III as a blend of furious rhythm guitar and well placed keyboards are driven over a foundation of pounding drums. I like how the song slows just past its halfway point as a piano enters the mix and helps carry its last minute.
On the ethereal power ballad "Comfort Me" Laura Jaeger, who performed on the track "Spoken Words" from Tyranny, returns to sing a duet with Baker. A piano takes the song through its first verse as the two trade vocal lines before the rhythm guitar enters the mix and backs an exquisite chorus with a huge catchy hook. An acoustic guitar interweaves with the piano during the second verse before the song effortlessly flows to its second chorus.
"The Andromeda Strain" is a driving hard rocker along the lines of "Society Of The Mind" (from Legacy). Getting underway to a crunchy rhythm guitar, Baker sings in a lower key during the songs verse portions only to display the abundant range to his voice upon reaching a catchy chorus underlined by the bands lush vocal harmonies. A three minute long instrumental passage opens to a fast paced riff that transitions to a bluesy guitar solo underscored by a punchy bass line. Wehrkamp's keyboards add the perfect atmospheric touch throughout the song.
An acoustic guitar propels "Vow", the albums second ballad, through its first and second verse until it culminates for an emotionally charged chorus with an atmospheric feel. After the song gains further momentum over its third and fourth verse, the rhythm guitar takes over and drives its second chorus in a powerful manner. The fluid lead guitar work carrying a forty second instrumental passage returns to close out the songs last minute.
The brief (2:38) instrumental "Birth Of A Daughter" begins to a blend of keyboards and acoustic guitar before the rhythm guitar gradually fades into the forefront of the mix. Picking up in pace, a driving hard rock beat reinforced by pounding drums and an organ takes the song through its close.
"Death Of A Mother", the second short instrumental in a row, moves forward to ominous sounding keyboards until an aggressive riff bolstered by a flowing piano carries it forward. A majestic guitar solo drives the song over its last thirty seconds.
A combination of acoustic guitar and piano stands in support of Baker's emotional vocal delivery during the minute long "Lamentia".
Act IV starts with the instrumental "Seven Years" as a combination of acoustic guitar and keyboards buttressed by a flute impels its first minute and a half. Once the rhythm guitar kicks in, the song proceeds at an upbeat tempo as Arjen Lucassen (Ayreon) makes a guest appearance with a well timed sublime guitar solo.
"Dark", serving as a minute long introduction to "Torn", commences to breaking glass and a child's cry of "Daddy! Daddy!" before moving ahead to a foreboding blend of bass guitar and keyboards.
A quietly played guitar line provides the foundation for the first verse of "Torn" before an immaculate blend of piano and vocal harmonies carries its second. Subsequent to an edgy rhythm guitar shoring up the songs third verse, it leads the way to an anthem-like chorus fortified by keyboards. A slowly moving combination of lead guitar and keyboards highlights a minute long instrumental passage. Beautiful song.
Ranking among the albums heaviest tracks, "The Archer Of Ben Salem" features a duet between Baker and bassist Carl Cadden-James. Once a hard hitting riff introduces the song, a blend of keyboards and pounding drums stands in support of Baker during its first verse. A crisp rhythm guitar accentuated by an organ backs Cadden-James as he lends his raspy voice to a strong chorus delivered in an aggressive manner. Maintaining its upbeat hard rocking direction as Baker and Cadden-James continue to trade vocal lines, "The Archer Of Ben Salem" closes out its final three and a half minutes to a sweeping guitar driven instrumental passage.
"Encrypted", the albums final ballad, brings to mind "Roads Of Thunder" (from Tyranny). The quietly played guitar line at the start of the song slowly leads the way through its first and second verse. After the rhythm guitar takes over hard and heavy, it reinforces a chorus underlined by the bands catchy vocal harmonies. A lengthy guitar solo that starts slowly but picks up in speed at its end helps carry an instrumental passage closing out the songs final three minutes.
"Room V" and "Rain" rock the album to a very satisfying conclusion.
Initiated by an edgy rhythm guitar, "Room V" rushes through its first verse with an abundance of energy before it is bolstered by keyboards at the start of the second. The bands trademark lush vocal harmonies enter the mix in time to accentuate a chorus that, with repeated listening, will pull you in and refuse to let go. An instrumental passage driving the songs final five minutes opens to a lead guitar and keyboard trade off that gives way to a near perfect mix of rhythm guitar and keyboards backed by pounding drums.
The pouring rain closing "Room V" segues perfectly into "Rain". Opening to a two minute instrumental passage featuring some of the albums best lead guitar work, "Rain" progresses through its first verse in energy laden fashion. An infectious chorus highlighted by Baker's emotional vocal delivery ends to more of the bands mesmerizing vocal harmonies. The vocal harmonies in question return to help carry the song over its final two and a half minutes. Perfect ending to a great album.
The best way to sum up would be to say that Room V is nothing less than a musical work of art in that it includes all the elements of a great progressive rock album: catchy and melodic based songwriting, superlative musicianship and a professional sounding production job. The albums compelling storyline only adds to its appeal.
Review by: Andrew Rockwell
Track Listing: "Manhunt" (2:07), "Comfort Me" (6:49), "The Andromeda Strain" (6:44), "Vow" (8:25), "Birth Of A Daughter" (2:38), "Death Of A Mother" (2:13), "Lamentia" (1:02), "Seven Years" (3:35), "Dark" (1:01), "Torn" (8:21), "The Archer Of Ben Salem" (7:26), "Encrypted" (7:59), "Room V" (7:42), "Rain" (8:59)
Mike Baker – Lead Vocals
Brendt Allman – Guitars & Bass
Gary Wehrkamp – Guitars, Keyboards, Bass & Violins
Carl Cadden-James – Bass, Flute & Vocals
Joe Nevolo – Drums
Laura Jaeger – Vocals
Arjen Lucassen – Guitars
Joe Stone – Guitars
Also Reviewed: Amaran's Plight - Voice In The Light