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Episode - Into the Epicenter CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

3.15 | 16 ratings

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Prog Folk Researcher
3 stars Probably the coolest thing about these guys is that you can download both of their studio albums right from the band's web site, which is probably just as well since I don't believe they are readily available anywhere else. Major kudos to the band for making their music so accessible. The other thing they get props for is making symphonic rock music in the first place, particularly considering the timeframe in which they made it. This album was released (on cassette and LP) in 1989 at a time where there wasn't a whole lot of new, decent prog music being made, at least not in the States. The other album released a few years later and is pretty similar, except that the production on that one seems to be a bit better.

One other thing that helps to put some context to this music is to understand that these guys appear to basically be a bunch of old hippies who live in the San Francisco area and who clearly grew up on regular doses of Jefferson Airplane, jazz, probably It's a Beautiful Day and the like. And it wouldn't surprise me if they have a few old Dead ticket stubs in their sock drawers either. So this isn't purely symphonic music; it's more like a little bit of funk, some fusion, and symphonic arrangements, all delivered with healthy doses of keyboards and a decidedly psychedelic-influenced temperament. For the most part this works pretty well, but don't expect Wakeman-like bombastic keyboards flights of fantasy or Gabrielesque theatrics. I would suspect most of these guys would consider that to be too much work and too pretentious for their comfort levels.

The opening track "Riding the Falls" is a pretty promising kickoff for the album, full of stilting keyboards (Moog? I'm not really sure, I'm a fan not a musician), and several electric guitars. The female vocalist has a really pleasant, earth-Mom kind of voice, not too much different than Linda La Flamme had on It's a Beautiful Day some twenty years early, or maybe that chick from Renaissance. Very laid-back, billowy - maybe what Grace Slick might have sounded like sobered up back in the day but with none of the aggressive nature of Airplane's music. This isn't really complex or ponderous music, but I don't think it's meant to be either.

On "Glass M Revisited" the band switches to a male vocalist, a more prominent guitar presence, and a kind of brooding tempo. 'M' apparently stands for menagerie, but its hard to follow the lyrics so I'm not exactly sure what this song is supposed to be about. The breaking glass sound effects are cheesy of course, but I suppose obligatory given the song's title. This is another pleasant but unremarkable track.

There seem to be at least three vocalists on "Have a Heart", singing harmonies for the most part atop a sparse piano line with occasional Pete Seeger-like poetic passages. This is much closer to folk music than to symphonic, but I actually like that kind of stuff so the change in mood suits me just fine. The tie-dyed sensibilities of the band really show through on this track in particular.

I don't know who Mouldie is, but "Mouldie's Hold on Time" is apparently about him/her. Very detailed and lively guitar work here, and the bass line is fairly prominent but not all that innovative. This is an instrumental track and is heavy on keyboards and short guitar riffs. Some unintelligible whispering is thrown in from time to time, plus a short drum solo and some spacey sound effects, and the end result is an obviously psychedelic-influenced track that serves to show some range to the band.

"Two Piece" on the other hand sounds sort of stuck in the early eighties with tritely rhyming lyrics, tacky keyboards, and awkward tempo shifts. Picture Weird Al Yankovic doing Arcade Fire covers and you get the idea. Actually, that's pretty funny when I picture it. Fortunately this song is not representative of the rest of the album.

Some beautiful and delicate piano opens "Flight", followed by that chick from the first track and her very melodic vocals, accompanied at times by a couple of the guys in the band. This is more folksy stuff, but frankly I kind of like it. Spread a checkered blanket in the grass, sip some wine and nibble on some cheese, and this track will help pass the day pleasantly enough.

I think the term 'mandlebroth' comes from physics and has something to do with infinite spirals or patterns or something. Actually I didn't know that, but fortunately my seventeen year-old kid did. Anyway, that sort of makes sense when you hear the track of this name, as it consists of a series of spiraling instrumental passages on guitar, keyboards, and more guitar, none of them seemingly related except by their sense of winding motion. This is kind of an interesting track, but like the other instrumental sounds a bit dated today. Very good guitar work though.

The closing "Alien" doesn't strike me as an alien/sci-fi song at all. The lady singer is back and the mood is toned down again, and for some reason the vocals tracks are a bit muddled on this song alone, so I can't really follow it all that well. In any case, this is a pretty sparse and simple composition and doesn't quite fit the rest of the album's mood.

So a nice enough album, although it's not really your tradition type of symphonic music. The attempt is sincere enough though, and other than the occasional dated keyboard riff it wears well with time, so I think three stars are appropriate.


ClemofNazareth | 3/5 |


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