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Ovrfwrd - Beyond the Visible Light CD (album) cover




Heavy Prog

3.66 | 27 ratings

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3 stars VERY Good Debut.

I probably should have reviewed OVRFWRD's two albums in chronological order, but I have been so enthralled with Utopia Planitia that I reviewed their second album first. But this is also a very good album. I think the 5-star system here on PA is missing one category, in between "excellent" and "good". What to do when an album is better than "good but not essential", but not quite at the same level of "excellence" as, say, Moving Pictures ? Perhaps we need a "very good" category? Ovrfwd's debut album, for me, is clearly in this realm, and better than a lot of classic albums. The style is very similar to their second album (Fantasy Absent Reason, or FAR), and I do not agree with some reviewers who claim the second album was a huge step up from this first one. Both albums are, in fact, quite similar in a lot of ways (except that there is no flute on this one, which featured on Utopia Planitia), and the quality is generally high. Beyond Visible Light has five extended tracks, often with multiple sections to them, just like FAR, with a number of great guitar and keys solos. And, similar to my review of FAR, there are enough sections where the chord progressions are not overlaid with solos that I feel another instrument (say, perhaps a flute? - sorry, can't help it) would have helped fill out the sound. The album starts with a great song ("Can We Keep the Elephant"). The main theme starts the tune for the first two minutes, dies down for an extended interlude, and then comes back. The song packs a great punch. "Stones of Temperance", the second track, is my favourite on this album, and my second-favourite of OVRFWRD's songs (after Utopia Planitia). Starting with an excellent interplay between piano and e-guitar built around a slightly-modified minor scale (hints of that tri-tone again!) the song builds from very quiet to what Frank Zappa liked to call "an orgasmic frenzy", only to quiet down in the middle and change to another excellent chord progression which once again leads to a great build-up and awesome guitar solo. If this whole album were as good as this, it would be 5 stars.

The last three tracks on the album all have a kind of AB structure (or ABC), such that the second-half of the song is quite different than the first half. In each case, I much prefer the second halves. The third and longest track on the album, "Raviji", is in this style. One can clearly hear the influence of Rush here (hints of "Xanadu", "Free Will", etc), particularly in the first five minutes (more tri-tone). This first part of this song is not my favourite part of the album, but the piece gets really good about 6 minutes in, starting with new a piano-only chord progression into, then some acoustic guitar lines, and then a fantastic electric guitar solo which jams out long enough to get into some feedback-laced soloing over a rising chord progression bringing the piece right up to a brief jazz-fusion-y ending. The fourth track, "Man with No Shoes" moves among a number of different styles in its first half, some of which involve some crunchy metal and some which are more jazz fusion (again avec lots of tri-tone, and some nice drumming!). Then, at the almost-5 min mark, it becomes very quiet thus beginning a guitar solo which ushers in the conclusion with some new themes. The last tune ("Darkest Star") starts as a fairly simple falling chord progression that repeats over a straight beat, for about 4 mins. Like their second album, I don't think vocals are necessary on most of this music, but these four minutes could have used something accompanying (flute maybe?). But the song gets good at the 4:10 mark when a great guitar solo starts, changing completely the feel of the song. As in "Raviji", the guitar solo ends in feedback, at which point a great new section of the tune begins - one of the highlights of the album, albeit too short. The song ends with an abrupt cut (like the Beatles' "Shes So Heavy"), which abruptly changes the mood and wakes you up, like an alarm clock in reverse. But I was loving all the noise!

All together, a very good album. Lots of very musical sections, but sometimes feeling patched together - the transitions are not always smooth. The noisy ending to "Darkest Star" and the great guitar solo on "Raviji" makes me wish there were even more extended guitar solos and that the band free- improvised a bit more. On balance, I give this album 7.6 out of 10 on my 10-point scale - just a hair shy of what I gave their second album. Indeed, the quality is pretty consistent across both albums, and "Stones of Temperence" is really excellent - recommended! I would like to thank Chris Malmgren for sending me these albums. I have really enjoyed listening to them. Chris - if OVRFWRD ever gigs in Toronto, let me know. I would love to see the band!

Walkscore | 3/5 |


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