4 out of 5 Stars!
First, let me apologize in advance for the next few paragraphs. The reasons for them will soon become clear, so I pray you’ll bear with me.
Recently, I was given the opportunity to review a “soon to be released” album from a new UK band called Paradigm Shift. And, as usually happens in these rare instances, I found myself a bit hesitant. Why? Because I prefer to encourage musicians rather than discourage them, and when it comes to a forthcoming debut album, I feel an extra burden. What happens if I once again discover an album that leaves me disappointed or even appalled at the material or skill level of the musicians? Should I voice the unvarnished truth, which could potentially discourage customers from purchasing the music upon its release? Yet in doing that, I run the risk of kicking a group of hardworking musicians in the teeth, individuals who have likely sunk all their hopes and dreams (and finances) into creating their first album. As I mentioned, I’ve faced this situation before and am loathe to face it again.
By sharing my overall thought process, I hope to make anyone reading this understand that, for me, voicing the truth (as I see it) for potential customers is always preferable than whitewashing or hiding the facts for the sake of the artist. That way, music lovers will know that the words I publish on this website about a forthcoming debut album are indeed my personal feelings toward the material I’m reviewing and not an exercise in advertising or public relations for the bands or record companies. That way, my readers will learn to trust my opinion and know I’ll never offer a bunch of false praise when I actually think otherwise.
Now, with that explanation out of the way, please believe me when I say that this forthcoming debut album by Paradigm Shift is indeed worthy of purchase upon its release! Truly worthy!
As to the material itself…
Paradigm Shift kicks off this concept album in fine style, setting the stage with the fourteen-and-a-half minute epic, “A Revolutionary Cure.” After an atmospheric opening of sound effects and political commentary regarding the ugliness of “slavery” and the vital “fight for freedom,” the listener is treated to a highly diverse and occasionally intense foray into the world of Prog-Rock. Several melodic verses and a bridge (featuring pleasant lead vocals with enjoyable harmonies) eventually give way to equally melodic instrumental passages, many of them quite intricate and showcasing the full scope of the band’s potential. The final vocal section, with some grand orchestration, is where the epic feel truly comes into play until a final “jazz-heavy” section brings the song directly into the next track, “An Easy Lie.”
Here, the band drives forward with some metal influences, plus, to add even more variety to its overall sound, Paradigm Shift also includes verses sung in “rap” style. After the traditionally sung chorus, the listener is treated to some engaging instrumental segments. As on the previous track, time changes and rhythm shifts populate the song’s arrangement, providing a wide variety of moods. Here it also becomes clear that the band is not afraid to experiment with background accompaniment, using everything from both light and heavy guitars to grand and electric pianos. Even the bassist has a brief opportunity to solo, while the drummer accentuates all of these sections with intriguing fills and counter-rhythms.
The album’s shortest two tracks—both instrumentals—follow. “The Void” is a mellow, somewhat spacey and piano-driven piece that eventually leads into “The Shift,” this one bouncy and upbeat, featuring some commendable solos from both the guitarist and the keyboardist. The piano-rich backdrop actually reminds me of music one might hear on an album by either Kansas or Emerson, Lake, & Palmer, which was delightful overall. These dual tracks also serve as a double-intro to the next song, “Masquerade.”
Here, the band once again returns with probably the best vocal performance on the album, a great melody line during both the verses and choruses that somehow brought Kansas to mind once again. At the song’s midpoint, the band adds even more “voice-over political commentary,” then jumps into a splendid synth-heavy instrumental passage, including some blistering solos by both guitarist and keyboardist, sometimes playing in tandem or in harmonic counterpoint. The vocals eventually return to deliver a final verse before the song leads into the closing track “Reunification.”
The album’s “epic feel” now returns in full force, especially during a melodic opening vocal section. And, as I have already come to expect from Paradigm Shift, the varied instrumental sections in the song’s middle are quite superb. Expect to hear more tempo changes, more dual guitar/synth leads or solo passages, more “voice-over” commentary, etc. Then finally, after an orchestrated build up, the band surprised me by electing to conclude the track on a light and acoustic-driven “happy ending.”
Speaking of “happy endings,” I was pleased to discover that, despite the album’s “dark” theme, the music itself is not. Far from it, actually. The collection of songs exudes optimism, being generally full of upbeat, riveting, and electrifying instrumentation and chord patterns as opposed to what could have easily been a dreary, perhaps sluggish collection of songs laden with minor-key harmonics. So thankfully, the listener is left with the feeling of hope, of a brighter future, and especially, a lingering sense of tranquility.
Now, when it comes to the band’s overall sound and style—a successful marriage of traditional Prog-Rock with both Prog-Metal and Jazz-Rock elements—it’s difficult to pinpoint any “calculated influence.” In other words, Paradigm Shift doesn’t model itself on any one particular band in the same genre. With that being said, however, during the numerous instrumental passages, I am occasionally reminded of diverse groups such as the aforementioned Kansas and E.L.P., Hourglass and Spock’s Beard, Cairo and Haken, perhaps even some Dream Theater thrown in. A nice mixture. The keyboardist also relies heavily on piano (seemingly his main instrument on most songs, unlike many Prog-Rock bands where the “mainstay/foundation” keyboard is the organ) but also includes a wide variety of different synth sounds, both classic and modern. So whether keeping its influences intentionally ambiguous or not, Paradigm Shift comes across as highly sophisticated, skillfully adept, and wildly experienced on their debut album, certainly on par with many of their contemporaries who have numerous albums under their belts.
I must also add, that after listening several times to these six tracks, I’ve decided that I already want to hear more from Paradigm Shift. I do, however, hope that in the future they expand the vocals—the album seems a tad top-heavy when it comes to the instrumental sections. Nevertheless, Paradigm Shift is a welcome addition to the world of Prog-Rock. In my estimation, they have the chops and songwriting skills to go quite far, and I certainly wish them all the success on their journey forward.
So for fans of Prog-Rock, when this album is released (quite soon, I gather), I encourage you to give it a listen. And as for me, I’m just thrilled Paradigm Shift delivered an album of high-level material and made it so damned easy for me to tell the unvarnished truth!
Album Not Yet Available At Amazon.
Purchase Link To Be Added In The Future.