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Discipline - Unfolded Like Staircase CD (album) cover

UNFOLDED LIKE STAIRCASE

Discipline

 

Symphonic Prog

4.26 | 295 ratings

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infandous
3 stars 3.5 stars really.

In anticipation of their reformation at Nearfest this year, I pulled out this album again and decided it was time to review it. On first glance it seems like the kind of thing I would love; powerful guitar, mellotron drenched, complex lengthy songs with multiple secions, affected and tortured vocals evoking both Hammill and Gabriel at different times. But, but but.

In spite of the VDGG comparisons I've heard and that are sometimes present, the music is indeed far closer to neo prog than to the kind of experimental strangeness that VDGG excelled at in their heyday. Heavy neoprog to be sure, with a bit more retro sound than many of those bands (since they use a real mellotron and piano, as opposed to sampled ones), but still leaning heavily on that late 70's Genesis type sound.

The first track is the one that I enjoy the most, being probably the most complex and cohesive (the only one that doesn't have sub sections....perhaps this has something to do with it?). The guitar work is outstanding throughout this song and it is more guitar driven than the other tracks (though the guitar is always a strong feature on this album). The second track has some great mellotron sections and the keyboards are a bit more dominant, but the complexity and diversity are beginning to seem more disjointed now. The third epic track (all tracks are over 13 minutes, with this one being the longest at 22 minutes) seemed like it would be a hit for me, since I am partial to epic tracks. But for some reason, it doesn't seem to jell for me, even after repeated listens. I think part of the problem here, and on the album as a whole for that matter, is the wordiness. There is never a break from the vocals, at least until the last 2 or 3 minutes. And that, in turn, seems like it is too drawn out as they recap musical bits from earlier in the song to create a suitably dramatic and prog ending. It's not that the singing is bad, far from it. Parmenter makes great use of his voice, has decent range, and keep the melodies interesting and dynamic. But it just seems like the whole song is there to support the vocals, with the music seeming much less focused as a result. The individual parts are decent, and everything flows together well enough, but there doesn't seem to be much of a musical connection to the various parts. So, oddly enough, this becomes my least favorite track. The final song, or rather, two tracks separated by a short pause (the calm before the storm, I presume), has an interesting melody for the chorus (not really a chorus, but a repeating line that show up a few times) and some nice piano work throughout. Once again we have a few seemingly disparate sections leading to a final run through of the initial section. The song ends with a long fadeout that, while not bad, does seem to drag just a little bit too long.

This all sound somewhat negative, but this really is a pretty good album. I can imagine that in 1997, the year of its release, it was praised a good deal. But almost 11 years later, it seems a bit derivative and not terribly special. I think the thing that hurts the album most for me is that the initial enjoyment wears off as the tone and style of the music remains the same throughout. There is a reliance on minor keys and (over) emotive vocals that tends to wear as the album progresses. Probably why the first track always seems like the best one to me. Still, this is well executed heavy prog with neo leanings. All the musicians are first rate and I do like Parmenter's vocals and lyrics (even if I do think there are a bit too much of both, especially in the longest track). I suspect that I will enjoy this band more live, but we shall see. In general, if you like the heavier, darker side of neo prog this is good album to have. If you want something completely new and inventive, this might not do it for you. Overall, a difficult rating for me, but I'm going with 3.5 rounded down to three as this is not quite essential but is also quite good overall.

infandous | 3/5 |

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