4.5 out of 5 Stars!
When investigating a new album for potential review, I ask myself a variety of questions (yes, believe it or not, I have an actual “check list” of items I use to create my overall rating). Among these items is whether there is anything remotely “unique” (in my eyes…or ears) about a release regarding songs, musicianship, or general instrumentation, something to actually “spark” me to write a review? Then comes the other vital items: does every member of a band seemingly perform to his or her full capacity? Are the songs generally consistent, or in other words, do they sound as if they belong together within the same collection of tracks? Do I want to hear the album again? And of perhaps the greatest importance to me, does the band have at least a “je nais se quoi“—a “capturing a distinctive yet indescribable lightning in a bottle” moment—where everything seems to gel so damned ultra-perfectly and makes it apparently clear that the band, in its current state of “musician make-up,” has actual chemistry as a team of artists?
These items, as always, went through my mind when listening to this new album by Projection, a band labeled as “Progressive Rock” on most music-related websites. In truth, however, I quickly discovered that the band is actually so much more, ruefully mislabeled. Sure, there is Progressive Rock on display here, but also Progressive Metal influences in spades (and diamonds, and hearts, and clubs), as well as a touch of AOR and Hard Rock and…well…here comes that “je nais se quoi” aspect to the fore once again.
A darned good sign for this album is that, the moment it finished, I started it again. Indeed, I was so intrigued by what I had heard, that I didn’t hesitate to replay the album in its entirety once more (and, truth be told, I was itching to play several tracks the moment they concluded, but I forced myself to wait until the end of the “full experience,” not wanting to judge the album piecemeal). And I’m glad I did so, because some of the material at the beginning of the album altered my feelings toward the album’s latter half, and vice-versa. To make a point, this is an album that is probably better heard as a whole instead of in parts, a more joyful experience in its unity, in order to fully appreciate the scope of music on offer.
Now, I won’t specifically go track by track in my evaluation, but to give you an idea of what the album includes, I’ll list some of the highlights I experienced…
“Running Through Time” is a driving number with a catchy chorus (hell, I actually found myself singing along with the band by the second chorus). This track immediately leads into “The Expectation Cell,” which has an engaging opening section, lush with sound effects and an eerie atmosphere, before the initial (almost metal) verse kicks in. Here is a fine example of why I enjoyed this album—Projection offers unexpected twists, some surprises throughout the album, that happily grabbed my attention. I couldn’t get too complacent before something shocked and dragged me into “another world,” into another “soundscape,” of the band’s making.
Consequently, “Hypocrite” is another fine track that had this ability, complex in its arrangement, compelling in its overall delivery with the pounding rhythms and diverse instrumentation (and, again, additional sound effects and background voice-overs). Yes, “Damn you, hypocrites,” the singer declares with absolute conviction, and I loved it! This is a fine track, one I repeated several times after the album concluded to investigate further, to absorb the experience again and again. Riveting!
Now, when it comes to instrumentation, I also loved the changing guitar tones—as well as the keyboard solo and hammering “metal” rhythm section—on “Overload,” and the “I need to get out” line that perfectly ushered me into “Escape,” a track that somehow brought to mind bands such as a “more progressive” Deep Purple (probably due to the organ in the background), which showed me that Projection has a talent for joining together two completely different-sounding tracks, yet making them appear as if they seamlessly belong together as one single “experience.” As I said earlier in the review, this is an album that should be savored in its entirety, since the tracks run so perfectly together.
“Delirious” is another track I absolutely adored, with the general orchestration (especially the tones of the guitar and keyboards, not to mention the vocal melodies) being delightfully moody. Here, the band pieces together the song’s various sections into a compelling marriage of Prog-Rock and Prog-Metal. Don’t expect minutes upon minutes of self-indulgent solos ala Dream Theater, but rather, a shorter (under six minutes) and highly structured merging of genres.
“Stranded” must also be mentioned, since it includes only acoustic guitar backing a “lighter” moment of passionate vocals, and sparsely orchestrated by keyboard “strings,” thus adding a different “dimension” to the band’s overall sound. And speaking of “other dimensions,” the track “Off: A New Beginning,” is yet another side of the band. On most of the songs, darker “minor keys” dominate the atmosphere, whereas on this track, major keys prevail, showing that Projection has successfully added lighter and (dare I say) poppier material to its repertoire.
Several other tracks are included on this album, but by this time, you’ve hopefully caught a glimpse of the overall picture I’ve attempted to convey…to me, this album is special! To summarize, the talented members of this quartet have excelled in their individual and collective efforts to produce some engaging music, and for only a debut release, the band proves itself quite impressive. Now I can only pray Projection will enjoy at least a modicum of success with this album and eventually elect to continue creating more music, locating more of that special “je nais se quoi” I mentioned earlier, and eventually deliver additional material in the very near future.