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Neal Morse - Lifeline CD (album) cover


Neal Morse


Symphonic Prog

3.13 | 284 ratings

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The SaidRemark
2 stars A disappointed Morse fan writes:

After the incredible "Sola Scriptura," I had such high hopes for this album. When I heard Neal Morse was going to revisit the lyrical ideas of "Testimony," I was even more excited. Unfortunately, "Lifeline" has been a big disappointment for me.

The title track might be the best song here, and even it has some definite flaws. After its outstanding overture, it starts to go down hill. One of my biggest complaints with Morse's music is the predictability - the standard pop verse-chorus structure packaged between instrumental movements, and though all melodies are very carefully crafted and themes reoccur cleverly, it is pretty unsurprising. This is made more dull by the lyrics; Neal has never been a great lyricist, Christian or otherwise. The lyrics here are your standard Neal Morse Jesus homage, packed full of heavy-sounding phrases that when you consider, just aren't that good (i.e. "he gave me a lifeline right down to my soul.")

"The Way Home" is fair, despite being a straight ahead Christian-pop song. The guitar hook is quite good. Still, this track and those like it later on the album do not compare to level of excellence reached by songs like "Heaven in my Heart" (off the "Sola Scriptura" album.)

"Leviathan" is the the closest thing to innovative on this album, a strange fusion of funk and metal, and a failed one at that. It still is subject to the same sub-par lyrics, and combined with the percussive sounding keyboard solo in the middle, the whole thing almost sounds like a joke. The composition is fairly unfocused, especially by Neal Morse standards.

"God's Love" and "Children of the Chosen" pick up where "The Way Home" left off, more Christian-pop balladry. Sadly, these boring tracks are the highlights of the album; they actually sound pretty good after Leviathan. They really offer nothing more than basic pop tunes with good hooks and decent lyrics, though.

"So Many Roads" just goes to show that Neal Morse needs new inspiration. The template he has been using for his epic songs is beginning to wear out for me. The overture+songs within songs+reprisal concept he has been doing virtually his entire career has become so rehearsed that it no longer feels innovative whatsoever. Despite being nearly thirty minutes in length, this song doesn't feel like anything more than a collection of smaller songs, which on their own, do not compare to the quality he displayed on previous albums. Lumped together with some all-too-fluid transitions, this is a standard affair. Even though there are good moments scattered throughout, this track does not justify the tremendous length it takes to deliver them. Neal's singing "so many roads to no where" a million times does not help.

The album concludes with one more straight ahead Christian-pop ballad, by far the sappiest one here. "Fly High" is Neal needlessly gushing his Christian philosophies upon us yet again, ending the album on a very boring note. The shredding guitar solo at the end is far too forced of an attempt at being epic. This song begs you to stop the album before its finish.

My number one complaint with "Lifeline" has do with its lack of innovation, which in my opinion is the most crucial aspect of progressive music. On previous albums, Neal Morse has nearly perfected his craft, and I haven't minded the repetition of his style, simply because the quality of music has never suffered - until now. It is not just Neal who grows repetitive. Mike Portnoy's drum work is so soullessly calculated and typical of his work in Neal's projects, I feel as if I have heard it all before (maybe I have). Listening to his playing here, I almost forget that this is the man who took my breath away with his playing on Dream Theater's first several albums.

"Lifeline" is Neal at his most mediocre. Epics are just average, lyrics are quite awful in places, and much of the album is contained in Christian-pop songs disguised under a progressive title. Though are and though moments of excellence do shine through in certain places, the overall package here deserves no more than two stars.

The SaidRemark | 2/5 |


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