|Musical Style: Progressive Hard Rock Fusion||Produced By: Rob Perez|
|Record Label: Independent||Country Of Origin: USA|
|Year Released: 2007||Artist Website: Visual Cliff|
|Tracks: 10||Rating: 85%|
|Running Time: 45:26|
Visual Cliff can trace its history back to the late nineties when guitarist Rob Perez wanted to form a group to record the new material he had recently put together. Crossing paths with two friends he had not seen in close to a decade - drummer Rick Mals and keyboardist Rob Klan – in 1999, Rob joined forces with bass guitarist Eric Fuller later the same year. With its line up complete, the new four piece until proceeded to record the Visual Cliff Project demos – hence, the bands moniker – along with the instrumental releases Lyrics For The Living (2003) and Key To Eternity (2004). At this point, Visual Cliff embarked on a search for a vocalist with the goal of “adding another dimension to their music”. The end result was the recruitment of Orphan Project frontman Shane Lankford. Shane went on to contribute lead vocals to three tracks on the bands 2005 project Freedom Within in addition to half the material on its fall of 2007 outing Into The After.
Into The After picks up where Freedom Within leaves off by showcasing a blend of hard rock, progressive rock and fusion based instrumentals. Of the albums vocal tracks, “Empty Words”, “Beyond The Gates” and “12 Stone Gardens” stand out with their guitar driven edge and the creative progressiveness the band is renowned for. “Into Your Embrace”, on the other hand, comes across in the form of a stylish ballad while “Broken Soul” is one the more laid back pieces here. Visual Cliff’s instrumental touch can be best found on “My Guardian”, “Sovereign Eyes” and “Separation”, three top of the line hard rockers, and the quieter, ethereal based sounds of “The Multitudes” and “Wind Of The Spirit” (these two bring to mind Fourth Estate in places).
Rob Perez proves masterful in adorning the full length of the album with his abundant guitar riffs, some heavy and aggressive (such as on “My Guardian Angel” or “12 Stone Gardens”) and others reflecting a smoother feel (“Wind Of The Spirit” comes to mind). Shane Lankford, of course, perfectly complements the material here with his trademark rich and warm sounding vocal style. Keyboardist Rob Klan’s role is a highlighting one, adding the necessary detail to the backdrop without coming across overriding. Bassist Eric Fuller and drummer Rick Mals combine to form a sturdy rhythm section.
Production values are polished and transparent in allowing all the instrumentation to stand out in the mix.
“Empty Words” commences as an upfront rhythm guitar backs narration from Matthew 23:27-28. The vibrant scene continues as the song moves forward, not decelerating until the achievement of a temperately delivered chorus but picking back up in pace as the hard rocking momentum returns in prevailing fashion. Showcasing an abundance of time changes – again, some quieter and others more driving – “Empty Words” represents quite the inviting album opener.
“My Guardian Angel”, the first of the albums instrumental tracks, begins its first minute to a muscular guitar riff. After the song tapers off for a passage sustained by keyboards, the up-tempo initiative kicks back in as a heavy duty rhythm guitar rebounds to play a prominent role in the mix. “My Guardian Angel” closes out its final seconds aggressively as pounding drums stand in support of the cacophonous environment.
I might describe “Broken Soul” as composed melodic hard rock. Moving its distance at a relaxed mid-tempo clip, this one combines Shane’s emotionally charged vocal delivery with an extensive stretch of tasteful done work on lead guitar. A pronounced bass line adds to the bottom heavy feel to the song.
Opening in a slower and almost bluesy manner, “Beyond The Gates” gradually flows through its verse portions until the rhythm guitar steps forward and carries things to a chorus emanating a plethora of exalted appeal. Similar to “Empty Words”, “Beyond The Gates” features its share of time changes in addition to a first class display of tight sounding riffing from Perez.
The album returns to its instrumental ways with “Sovereign Eyes”. This is a compelling piece giving rise to a striking feel with its driving impetus and crisp but polished rhythm guitar sound. You have to enjoy how the song breaks after its first minute for a lengthy passage in which keyboards and an edgy guitar dual.
The short keyboard solo introducing “12 Stone Gardens” gives way to a rollicking rhythm guitar. Maintaining the up-tempo demeanor for its first verse, the song takes on a more melodic tone just prior to the unleashing of several seconds of intensely conveyed guitar riffs. “12 Stone Gardens” peaks upon acquiring a worshipful chorus shored up by deep and resonant backing vocals:
Sol E De A Glorious (repeat 4 times)
To God be the glory
Glory to the God of love
“The Multitudes”, the third instrumental here, comes across tranquil in capacity as a quietly played guitar underlined by occasional traces of piano carries its brief (3:29) distance.
A piano propels “Into Your Embrace” forward from the start, the calm and collected setting upheld until a catchy chorus highlighted by a fitting acoustic guitar is obtained. The song does not pick up in pace until the rhythm guitar briefly kicks in to drive a passage progressing in a heavier and more forthright direction.
Into The After closes to its two final instrumental tracks, “Wind Of The Spirit” and “Separation”.
“Wind Of The Spirit” gives rise to a still and eerie feeling with its subdued interweaving of rhythm guitar and portent keyboards. Ominous is the first word that comes to mind here as the song plods ahead in a fashion that borders on the inauspicious.
“Separation”, on the other hand, moves in a more upbeat heading as a hard hitting rhythm guitar gets things underway. The guitar driven impetus is maintained as the song powers its way forward, only tapering off at its three minute mark for an ethereal passage that brings to mind the laid back ambience of “The Multitudes”.
Review by: Andrew Rockwell
Track Listing: “Empty Words” (5:19), “My Guardian Angel” (3:49), “Broken Soul” (4:48), “Beyond The Gates” (5:01), “Sovereign Eyes” (4:48), “12 Stone Gardens” (4:23), “The Multitudes” (3:29), “Into Your Embrace” (5:34), “Wind Of The Spirit” (3:58), “Separation” (4:18)
Shane Lankford – Lead Vocals
Rob Perez – Guitars
Rob Klan – Keyboards
Eric Fuller – Bass
Rick Mals – Drums