|Musical Style: Progressive Hard Rock Fusion||Produced By: Rob Perez|
|Record Label: Independent||Country Of Origin: USA|
|Year Released: 2013||Artist Website: Visual Cliff|
|Tracks: 9||Rating: 80%|
Like a bird building a nest, Visual Cliff has made a solid album in Out Of The Archives from a wide array of parts. Those parts in question being the demos the group recorded for its first four albums, starting with instrumental debut releases Lyrics For The Living (2003) and Key To Eternity (2004) but also including combination vocal and instrumental projects Freedom Within (2005) and Into The After (2007). Said demos were originally put together by founding member Rob Perez with a single guitar and no scratch track. When co-founder Rick Mals later discovered that they included a dozen unreleased songs, he proceeded to add his own bass and drum parts prior to presenting the revised versions to Perez in late 2012. The subsequent collaboration resulted in Out Of The Archives, the aptly entitled six full length Visual Cliff album from the fall of 2013.
Out Of The Archives finds Visual Cliff staying true to its jam-fusion-progressive-meets-hard-rock roots, with 8 songs being re-recorded demo instrumentals and 1 a new vocal piece. Now, no need for concern in that the material here in no way can be considered ‘leftovers’ or ‘second bests’. Rather, you will encounter the same technical fortitude and precise attention to detail characteristic to past Visual Cliff releases. Keep in mind the songs here have been modified from their original forms - Perez reworked his original guitar parts - with the upshot a more up to date and current sound not that far removed from the groups most recent offering from 2010, Collective Spirit (85% Angelic Warlord review).
Visual Cliff has always proved adept at intermingling various styles and forms – again, ranging from jam based and jazzy to progressive to the bluesy and melodic - that combine to create a logical whole. Out Of The Archives proves no exception in reflecting this penchant while evenly breaking down between heavier pieces and those taking a more tempered approach.
Heavier material leaves little doubt that Out Of The Archives is a guitar based project and allows Rob Perez to make a signature statement as a result. Consider the driving hard rock rhythms to “The Falling Away” and “When Everything Else Is Gone”, with former aligning scintillating harmony guitars with airy keyboards and latter delivering a snarling guitar sound and some of Mals’ best technical drum work. Likewise, “For All Its Worth” hits hard as it gets but in the more energetically driven package (this one delivers quite the wallop), while “All Is Unfolding” maintains the trenchant basis in reflecting Visual Cliff’s progressive leanings (from its heavier to quieter and back again time signatures).
Of the lighter tracks my favorite is “Cathedral Groove” with its mirthful mentality in upholding fluid soloing throughout (this one finds Perez stretching and cutting loose). No less able are the progressive touches to “Awake In Time” (gently moving its length to guitars ranging from lighter to crisper but with a jazzy bass in the backdrop) and ambient flavorings of “Rise” (a bit heavier from its bluesy to the jam based front to back soloing). “Soul Of The Way” comes across atmospheric and ethereal in playing up a flowing emphasis and added bluesy lead guitar.
One of the albums highlights is lone vocal piece “The Divine”. This one maintains the tempered penchant in serving to highlight the rich and warm vocal tinctures to holdover vocalist Shane Lankford (Orphan Project, Fall Of Echoes). Lankford was recruited following the release of Key To Eternity with the goal of ‘adding another dimension to the Visual Cliff sound’. He continues to fulfill that role by lending to the gentle melody and airy mentality that graces the song (not to mention faith based lyrics).
Production, as with past Visual Cliff releases, represents a strength in allowing guitars to shine on both the heavier and lighter material (drums make the needed presence felt as well).
Out Of The Archives adds up to another trademark Visual Cliff release: Adept musicianship (Perez and Mals prove a winning combination) and instrumental basis (I am somewhat reminded of Fourth Estate as a result) set the defining tone. Further add that the material here is of high quality and in no way falls under the ‘throwaway demo’ category. Vocal piece “The Divine” helps make Out Of The Archives that much more of a complete package (lone complaint is that I wish at least one more track featuring Lankford - perhaps taking a heavier heading - had been included). In the end Out Of The Archives comes with a solid recommendation to those into any form of guitar driven instrumental music- and cannot help but make the groups next release Between Two Kingdoms (scheduled to come out December 2013) that much more anticipated.
Review by Andrew Rockwell
Track Listing: “Awake In Time” (5:40), “The Falling Away” (4:10), “All Is Unfolding” (5:39), “Rise” (5:36), “Soul Of The Way” (4:45), “When Everything Else Is Gone” (4:14), “Cathedral Groove” (3:52), “For All It’s Worth” (5:04), “The Divine” (4:56)
Rob Perez - Guitars & Keyboards
Rick Mals - Bass & Drums
Shane Lankford - Lead Vocals