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Echolyn - Mei CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

4.13 | 329 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
3 stars With AS THE WORLD Echolyn proved to be one of the most gifted contemporary prog bands (non-neo, non-metal), easily on the same level as Spock's Beard or the Flower Kings, perhaps even surpassing them in inventivity. I was curious what their one-track album MEI would sound like, and after checking out the many positive reviews the album received on Progarchives I gave it a try.

Now that I am fully acquainted with MEI, it seems obvious that, if AS THE WORLD was an updated version of classic Gentle Giant, this 49-minute production is much closer in spirit to A PASSION PLAY by Jethro Tull. It has a similar kind of structure: sung passages, some catchy (either ballad-like or rocking), some turgid and unmemorable, are interspersed with quirky solos and recurring instrumental figures. Even the subject matter is similar: MEI's composers have compared their work to Dante's Inferno - and wasn't A PASSION PLAY about life after death?

But the subject matter is precisely where, in my view, Echolyn go awry. While Jethro Tull had at least a modicum of humour (reflected, among other things, in John Evan's curious synth solos), MEI sounds deadly serious from start to finish. Worse, it's the umpteenth American rock album where life is described as some sort of road movie. Although the band do not plunge the depths of Spock's Beard's SNOW (preachier than which it's impossible to get) I've seen similar ideas expressed more forcefully by (supposedly vulgar) bands like the Eagles! Worse, all the way through MEI I was waiting desperately for a Willow Farm type of passage, where the band would finally lighten up. Unfortunately, Echolyn remained straight-faced throughout and kept hectoring the listener, for a full fifty minutes. This is the kind of mistake Andy Tillison also tends to make, with the Tangent. Gentlemen, puh-llleeeze! Serious lyrics and a lack of catchy choruses are no guarantee for artistic success.

When it comes to album-long, uninterrupted prog suites, it seems the best efforts by the likes of Mike Oldfield (AMAROK) and Pat Metheny (THE WAY UP) will remain unrivalled. Such albums have the advantage they're predominantly instrumental and do not feature any lyrics; their power just resides in the music. Still, in spite of all of MEI's defects Echolyn must be admired for their audacity. This album of theirs is definitely worth hearing, and even worth buying. If you're interested in Symphonic Prog's recent development, you ought to be aware of MEI. I expect you'll be digging this album up from time to time and giving it a happy spin, even though you may groan at some of its more earnest passages...

fuxi | 3/5 |


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