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Discipline - Unfolded Like Staircase CD (album) cover

UNFOLDED LIKE STAIRCASE

Discipline

 

Symphonic Prog

4.26 | 257 ratings

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Cesar Inca
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars Discipline's sophomore release is a step forward from the sort of effort displayed in the excellent debut album "Push & Profit": while this aforesaid item found the band digging deep into the realms and textures of their eclectic approach to the prog genre (including excursions in folk-rock and light spirited rock'n'roll), "Unfolded Like Staircase" shows a clearer focus on the idea of stylistic cohesiveness. In this way, the repertoire "Unfolded" enhances the Van der Graff (75-76 era) and Genesis (70-72 era) references, plus touches of Scandinavian-style Crimsonesque nuances (mostly, harmonic progressions, dense mellotronic atmospheres and some guitar solos), all of them provided under a framework that states a compromise between vintage prog and neo-prog. In many ways, this Discipline master opus is very much related to what bands such as Versus X, Scythe, High Wheel and Cliffhanger were doing at the time. The band's sound is tighter and stronger, despite the fact that the ensemble had been reduced to a quartet after the keyboardist's departure. Anyway, there is the enthusiastic and talented Matthew Parmenter to fill in quite effectively, together with his usual roles on sax and violin (the latter is his best input, actually). The fact that the material is ambitious in structure and length is an external symptom of the sort of vision that the band was genuinely aiming at. Most of this material had already been tried in concerts, so the album was, at least in an "abstract" sense, ready to be recorded as a 5- or 4-piece band. The opener "Canto IV (Limbo)" is a major Discipline classic. Starting with a martial, pompous mood, the main body is a slow section properly filled with the drama and irony of a soul lost in Limbo just because he happened to be a nice guy who died before the arrival of Jesus Christ. This spirit of disappointment is developed into varying moods and tempos, ultimately leading to an expanded reprise of the opening motif. 'Crutches' starts on a more solemn note, with soft acoustic guitar strums providing the basis for the joining of the whole ensemble. This piece is very vandergraffian in itself, stating a mixture of the acid splendor of "Godbluff" and the existentialist magic of Hammill's "Chameleon" and "Silent Corner" albums. The use of mild passages among the tough instrumental excursions is definite proof of the band's ability to create a successful amalgam of variations with cohesive fluidity. The 22+ minute long 'Into the Dream' is the longest track in the album, and it really provides room for the band to indulge in consistent series of motifs, all linked in a generally sustained mood of constrained anger. This piece may sound like a midway between what Landberk did in their first two albums and the deep darkness created by Areknamés in the new millennium. The recurrent moods of 'Into the Dream' bear a controlled density: for instance, the guitar solos are not totally highlighted, and the mellotron layers are only partially menacing. This trick allows transitions to flow naturally; it also allows Parmenter to deliver the piece's abundant lyrics with a bigger ease than needed when the mood variations are more dramatic (say, Genesis' 'Supper's Ready' or IQ's 'Harvest of Souls'). The only moments of exclusive instrumental splendor are reserved for the coda, which actually delivers a very melodic closure for the penultimate and final sections. 'Before the Storm' closes down the album in a successful attempt to retake the sort of density elaborated in 'Crutches'. The case of 'Before the Storm' is patently devoted to deliver a clear compositional focus, so the trick is now to use a recurrent motif now and then (on piano or mellotron). This piece also includes an extended instrumental coda, featuring a magnificent violin solo that merges its vibrant flows with the mellotron layers. General balance: "Unfolded Like Staircase" is one of the ultimate prog opuses from the late 90s, and also, the ultimate album of one of the best American prog bands that took part of the 90s prog revival.
Cesar Inca | 5/5 |

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