|Musical Style: Progressive Rock||Produced By: John Eargle|
|Record Label: ProgRock||Country Of Origin: USA|
|Year Released: 2010||Artist Website: Supernal Endgame|
|Tracks: 14||Rating: 70%|
|Running Time: 78:40|
Dallas, Texas based Supernal Endgame might have formed in 2000 but can trace its history back several decades to Harbinger, a group comprising multi instrumentalist John Eargle, Rob Price and Dan Pomeroy. The musical partnership that resulted between the three led to Eargle and Price recruiting Pomeroy after developing a vision to create a “unique band with a spiritual emphasis”. Hence, Supernal Endgame was born. By 2004 work began on Touch The Sky – Volume 1, the independently released fall of 2009 full length debut from the group. Supernal Endgame later signed with Progrock Records for an early 2010 label based release.
Supernal Endgame, a name which, according to the band, paints a picture of the “high calling” or “divine purpose” of our lives as human beings, can best be descried as symphonic progressive rock. But there is more to it than that in that the band also incorporates elements of AOR, Celtic folk, classic rock and artsy power pop while underpinning things with some distinct worship rock flavorings.
Direct comparisons vary but you will find a heavy 70’s influence here that cannot help but bring to mind Kansas, Yes, Genesis, Rush and Ambrosia. While some reviewers reference Dream Theater, it must be noted that Supernal Endgame gets heavy in places but do not cross the line of hard rock and metal. Neal Morse, Vertical Alignment, Kinetic Element and ArkAngel deserve mention in terms of the Christian progressive rock scene.
What impresses me about Supernal Endgame is how it interweaves its material with generous melody while allowing for a variety of instrumentation.
“Everlasting Fanfare (Part 1)”, “Loving Embrace” and “You Reached Down”, for instance, meld acoustic and electric guitars with well placed melody structures. “Expressions” maintains the melody driven slant but with a heavy keyboard emphasis. Many of the albums tracks make use of violin, which helps lend to the symphonic leanings here, a particular standing out best on the worshipful “Fall To My Knees”, medieval flavored “Psalm 51” and lush instrumental “Gossamer Strings”. Where Supernal Endgame puts it all together are on its two epics, “Still Believe” (10:27) and “Grail” (9:05), with the former, a brilliant Shadow Gallery-like piece, presenting with many of the albums harder rocking moments and latter some lengthy instrumental excursions.
The only complaint does not revolve around the quality of the music but rather the quantity in that in coming in at just under 80 minutes the album is a bit long winded (this coming from a guy who insists on writing track by track record reviews- so look who is complaining about being long winded, huh?). In all seriousness, an album of this length can become somewhat trite when listened to casually; I often find my attention starting to wander as it moves over its final half. With this in mind, perhaps things might have worked better if Touch The Sky – Volume 1 had been cut by three or four songs- and reduced by fifteen to twenty minutes in the process.
At this point it must be noted that Supernal Endgame originally intended the album to be a two CD set made up of 150 minutes of music! Wisely, the group made the decision to break things down into more than one release; hence, the tile “Volume 1”. Work is currently progressing on the second CD in the series, Touch The Sky – Volume 2.
As previously referenced, all three Supernal Endgame members are multi instrumentalists.
Rob Price handles lead vocals, drums, percussions and loops. Vocally, his singing is pleasant throughout in bringing a smooth and richly textured style perfectly suited for the progressive rock genre. John Eargle and Dan Pomeroy share acoustic and electric guitar duties. The two help turn the bands instrumental sound into a strength, their adept soloing shining on “In Your Hands” (jazzy feel to their playing) and “Everlasting Fanfare (Part 2)” (bluesy direction). The sweeping instrumental portions on the two epics, “Still Believe” and “Grail”, find Eargle and Pomeroy at the top of their game as well.
Eargle also fills in on bass and keyboards. It must be pointed out the keyboard work here is particularly well done in helping lend to the albums overall ambient atmosphere.
Two well known musicians in the progressive rock scene lend their abilities to the album in guitarist Roine Stolt (Flower Kings) and bassist Randy George (Ajalon and Neal Morse). Stolt bestows his graceful playing to “Grail” while George participates on seven tracks.
Production – crystal clear, bright and fluid – represents a strength.
Lyrically, Supernal Endgame brings an honest reflection on life from a Christian perspective.
Track By Track
Keyboards, piano and acoustic guitar uphold the worship rock of opener “Everlasting Fanfare (Part 1)” until the rhythm guitar fades in over the final minute. I am almost reminded of Neal Morse in the process. This one is an invitation to worship God in His majesty:
Come and partake in the songs we share
And join us in this everlasting fanfare
Echo the chorus of Heaven with the song that endures for all time
Enter with passion, resolve and prayer
The heartbeat of this everlasting fanfare
Heard in the song of the ages and proclaimed from the hears of mankind
Unto Jesus our Lord, the Divine
The ten minute “Still Believe” represents the albums best and most progressive. What we have here is a sweeping piece, characterized by its lengthy instrumental excursions – including a two and a half minute “jam based” opening and jazzy interlude at the halfway point – and time changes galore. Along with bolder rhythm guitar driven passages you will find others heading in a more lush direction with vocal melodies and keyboards holding sway- all the while a fulfilling melody rises above the majestic scene.
Flute, woodwinds and violin carry the medieval flavored “Psalm 51” its distance. The overall impression left is ArkAngel. Lyrics are drawn from the Biblical passage in question:
Oh Lord, pour Your mercy out on me
And blot out my iniquities
Form in me a clean heart set on Thee
Take not Your spirit hence from me
Oh Lord, pour Your mercy out on me
And make my heart know purity
The sacrifice that You desire to see
A broken heart’s humility
“Disclosure”, an upbeat instrumental driven by light touches of rhythm guitar and a grooving bass line, gives way to “Fall To My Knees”. What we have here is a worship rock piece trending towards AOR with its acoustic based emphasis and hints of violin in the backdrop. The guitar solo is short but complementary.
“Expressions” continues the worship rock flavorings but with a bit more emphasis on keyboards, particularly during its instrumental moments. Things occasionally decelerate for a calmer passage in which a stately environs is put into place. “Expressions” gives account of the numerous ways we can creatively express our worship to God:
Expressions of what I feel for You
Such a freedom in sharing a love ever so true,
Appreciating the things You do.
Such inadequate means of responding to what I view.
Artistic interpretations – spontaneous declarations
In Your courts I will appear – making music to Your ears
Such fulfillment when I sense Your presence drawing near
“Loving Embrace” starts slowly in acoustic laced fashion. The initial feel is that of a ballad, but at just the moment the song starts to lose me the rhythm guitar cuts in to push things forward with greater resolve. Impetus gradually builds at this point, with things not culminating until the emotionally played stretch of lead guitar near the end.
“Grail”, the albums second epic, represents a return to over the top progressiveness. This one is a bit more laid back in comparison to “Still Believe” with its emphasis on acoustic guitar and keyboards, although periodic outbursts of rhythm guitar lend to a heavier rocking edge. A lengthy instrumental section flows forward in a relaxed manner until a stretch of bluesy soloing steps forward. “Grail” details our spiritual journey of redemption and sanctification:
Quest eternal, path resolute,
Through ways eternal, relentless pursuit,
From passionate beginnings to this place of despair,
Windswept wilderness, a desolate place,
I the infidel, my soul a disgrace,
Broken lips embrace mercy like a flower in the sand,
And I know that I am still in Your hand
Grail of my heart
On this truth I stand
Grail of my heart
“In Your Hands” heads in a much needed up-tempo rock direction, allowing for a bit more of a guitar driven emphasis and several runs of jazzy lead guitar. What we have is one of several tracks in which the bands pleasing vocal melodies make their presence felt.
A graceful joining of acoustic guitar and violin uphold instrumental “Gossamer Strings”.
As “Gossamer Strings” ends, “You Reached Down” faded in. The delicate milieu is maintained as a merging of keyboards and strings compels things ahead, initiative not picking up until after a couple of minutes as the rhythm guitar steps forward. A flowing instrumental interlude ensues. As its title implies, this one focuses on how God reaches down to us:
Please help me to find Your way each and every day.
Help me to see beyond the veil,
Don’t let me go astray, hear the words I pray
I need Your guiding hand to show me what is real
I reached upward – the reached outward
But we never could have touched ‘till You reached down
I looked inward – then fell downward
And we never could have touched ‘till you reached down
“At Play In The Fields” is another AOR laced worship rocker, advancing front to back at an upbeat tempo in mixing some forwardly done keyboards and an underpinning bass line. A gritty lead guitar run tops things off.
“Perfect Grace” takes an acoustic laced setting and joins it with abundant backing vocals and light touches of rhythm guitar. The message here revolves around the unmerited favor of God:
Confronted with my shame
I cried out to Your name
Restored in Your embrace
Must be Your perfect grace
Perfect grace resounding echoes of Your love
Favor from above to the lowly,
Perfect grace abounding deep within my heart
Setting me apart to be holy
“Everlasting Fanfare (Part 2)”, a moody and bluesy “reprise” of the albums opening track, closes things out. The song brings a bit more of a heavier edge when compared to the original, spiced with some edgy lead guitar while closing its final minutes to some ethereal guitar feedback.
As the old saying goes, “sometimes less is more”, and that would be the best way to sum up Touch The Sky – Volume 1, an otherwise very fine debut from Supernal Endgame. The volume of material notwithstanding, the songwriting quality is high and band performance spot on. Followers of the progressive rock genre will find a lot to like here while the variety of styles presented – ranging from AOR to worship rock – will be certain to attract fans of others genres as well. Looking forward to “Volume 2”, although I do hope the band tightens things up a bit in terms of its songwriting.
Review by Andrew Rockwell
Track List: “Everlasting Fanfare (Part 1)” (4:25), “Still Believe” (10:27), “Psalm 51” (3:54), “Disclosure” (2:57), “Fall To My Knees” (5:15), “Expressions” (5:09), “Loving Embrace” (6:46), “Grail” (9:05), “In Your Hands” (6:03), “Gossamer Strings” (3:24), “You Reached Down” (6:17), At Play In The Fields (5:46), Perfect Grace (4:11), Everlasting Fanfare [Part 2] (5:01)
Rob Price – Lead Vocals, Drums, Percussion & Loops
John Eargle – Electric, Acoustic and Synthesized Guitars, Keyboards, Bass, Loops & Percussion
Dan Pomeroy – Acoustic, Electric & Classical Guitars & Tin Whistle
Roine Stolt – Electric Guitars
Randy George, Tom Jodziewicz & Dan Henderson – Bass
Brad Bibbs, Randy Lyle & Katie Price – Violin
Tony Narvarte – Keyboards
Mike Musal - Percussion