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Epignosis - Still the Waters CD (album) cover

STILL THE WATERS

Epignosis

 

Symphonic Prog

3.32 | 56 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

JLocke
Prog Reviewer
4 stars Finally, Epignosis is on the 'chives! It's about time I had the chance to give this album all the praise it so genuinely deserves.

Multi-instrumentalist Robert W. Brown, Jr. has debuted with a true classic: STILL THE WATERS.

First thing's first: yes, this is a Christian album of sorts, no it does NOT shove the beliefs down the listeners' throats. Yes, I am friendly with Robert, no, I am NOT simply giving this album a good rating because I like the guy; I am very honest in my opinions on things. I'm not afraid to say if something sucks regardless of who is behind it. STILL THE WATERS is truly just as great as I have rated here in this review, you can count on it.

Alright, now that we have that out of the way, let's get on with the actual review.

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The album begins with the title track, ''Still the Waters'', my personal favorite track on the album. It starts off as an ambient lead in to something you know is going to be much bigger, then a soaring Electric Guitar solo explodes onto the scene. Honestly, I don't hear any other direct influences spilling through, here. It is all Robert; the style of his lead playing is very original and moving. Wonderful. After the intro, some truly beautiful yet simple Acoustic Guitar serves as the rhythm while Robert sings the first lines of the song, ''Be still, you waters.''. For Bible readers, it is obvious what is being referred to here, especially when he elaborates further by speaking of ''His only Son''. Again, the Christian message us clear on the record, but I never felt like Robert was trying to 'force-feed' his personal beliefs upon me as I listened to the music; he just loves writing and singing about his faith, and there is nothing wrong with that.

The song continues for a Chorus or two, before easing into a hauntingly beautiful Synth solo around the 3:11 mark (EDIT: Robert has since informed me that this solo is actually an Electric Guitar, as is the one around the 4:10 point. I assume he used a volume swell + reverb effect to get that 'Synth' quality to it). When I heard this solo, I knew at that point I would love this album. It is sometimes the simplest and most honest musical moments that can 'make' an album, and this moment truly 'made' STILL THE WATERS for me. I honestly got chills at this point in the song.

Pretty soon, some really solid Electric Guitar comes in, this time serving as Rhythm and not Lead, while a cleaner electric lead takes over. After that an Organ section freshens things up a bit before the first yet another Guitar Solo. I know it sounds like a helluva lot of solos and lead sections, but honestly, it's part of the charm of this record. It identifies is as a Robert Brown album, and his style seems to be more lead-oriented than anything else. This makes for a very intriguing listen because it promises the listener will never get bored. The best moment of the song for me is the final Syntheziser solo, as it really feels like a musical representation of praise to me. See, this is why I despise most Gospel music; it has no soul to it, and all of it pretty much sounds the same, but Robert's special brand of musical worship truly moves me, and therefore I can appreciate something like ''Still the Waters'' a lot more than I could ever appreciate ''Bread of Life''.

5/5

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The second song on the record, ''A Pearl in a Field'', doesn't really get going until the 1:34 point, with a riff that I think has the potential to become legendary in Prog history. I must confess, I hear a lot of Yes in this song, though I honestly have no idea if this was a conscious choice, though I seem to remember Robert telling me that he intentionally over-cranked the treble on his Bass on certain tracks to get that Chris Squire tone. Though not just in the sound of the instruments, but the composition, I can hear Yes influence. While I still really enjoy this song a lot, I personally don't find it as original as the previous one, even though there seems to be a lot more 'Prog' in it, what with the odd time sigs ans whatnot.

I think the highlight of the song is near four minutes in, where a superb Acoustic Guitar arpeggio is accompanied by an equally wonderful, light Piano section. Truly relaxing and uplifting at the same time. This particular part speaks to me the most I think because it is (to me) the least 'Yes-ish' area of the song, and has much more in common with Italian Prog in the vein of banco del mutuo soccorso than anything traditional. I think Robert should explore the lighter, more Classical direction in his music and take that a lot further the next time around, because he seems to be especially good at it, but hey, what do I know? It's just my suggestion.

4.5/5

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And then we have ''Move''. This is probably my least favorite song on the record, but that is certainly not saying that it is 'bad', since I consider no song on this record to be under 3 stars in quality, but something about this track doesn't speak to me as closely as the others. It's a preference, ultimately, but I just don't find it as enjoyable as the rest. Maybe it's because I find it a bit slow paced for it's length, or perhaps the melodies aren't exactly my cup of tea, but regardless of all that, i still can't find any true fault in the song. I just happen to like it the least; I still like it. A lot.

And I also should point out that the song does go places musically. I mean, it's not like it stays repetetive and stagnant for eight whole minutes; it evolves and develops quite a bit. It's definately a 'builder', and it ultimately does become fairly fast-paced, but i personally feel like it takes a little too long before it becomes interesting, and by that time, some less-patient listeners may have either stopped paying attention, or skipped ahead to the next track. Overall, though, ''Move'' is a good track.

Also, I might add that the lyrics for this song are probably my favorite of all the lyrics on the record.

So . . .

Lyrics = 5/5 Music = 3/5.

Pretty good rating, I think.

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''An Everlasting Kingdom'' - Right from the get go, this song is striking. I really like the opening riff; it puts me in mind of Gryphon. Soon, at about 1:11, a very spacey, soothing ambient section is introduced followed by some of the most beautiful Keyboards in modern Prog I have ever heard. Truly. I really like Robert's singing on the whole record, but the effects he has added to his voice on ''An Everlasting Kingdom'' are particularly affective and striking. Not to mention Tasha Brown's harmonies. All of these factors help the vocals on ''An Everlasting Kingdom'' be my personal favorites. So this track gets the 'best vocals' vote, but what of the music?

Well, for starters, the music is back on track, as far as I am concerned. Remember how I was praising (no pun intended) Robert's originality musically on the first track? Well, I again must say just how original and unique this track is compared to most other prog out there. I think tracks like this one that can give a true sense of an artists own particular 'sound' it needs to be celebratyed. How many times in the Pop world have we as listeners come across Beatles clones? How many times in modern Jazz-Rock has Miles Davis been ripped-off? Metal bands have been mimicking Metallica and Dream Theater for years, and plenty of Prog bands have made it a point to sound exactly like Genesis and/or Yes. Not so with Robert. He is a truly unique artist with his own style of music, and his imprint is as individual and specific as a fingerprint. This track, along with the first, fully solidify that fact. Nothing here sounds borrowed, heavily influenced or even tributed. It's all Robert, and nobody else.

Not only is the atmosphere and mood of the song the most beautiful, it also kicks into high gear at around five minutes and fifty seconds with a very off-beat, almost Jazzy breakdown that I absolutely adore. I think Robert said that he used a Drum Machine for his debut, but whatever it was, the Drums here are superb, and the most impressive Guitar solo on the entire record makes its appearance during this part of ''An Everlasting Kingdom'' as well. And let's not forget about the countless pro-level Keyboard leads found in the song. Again, a true testament to the originality of the music found here is that the Keyboard solos don't sound a thing like Rick Wakeman. While most new Symph Proggers would leap for the familiar or 'safe' direction when it comes to Keyboards, Robert chose to again show off just how great he can be without stealing others' styles.

All in all, I feel this song is representing an (Heavenly) existence beyond the time and space we as humans relate to; an existance that resides in a realm full of surprises we have yet to discover, and the mystical use of ambience and reverb definately helps that effect. Truly an amazing track, and my second favorite on the album. It kept me riveted all the way to the lovely Piano outro. Clocking it an a whopping 10:08 (By debut album standards, I consider that enormous), ''An Everlasting Kingdom'' never bored me once. In fact, I felt like listening to it all over again as soon as it was over because I thought it wa too short! Extremely entertaining and well-written, this track.

5/5

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''No Shadow of Turning'' - So you thought the last track was epic? Remember how I said by debut album standards, ten minutes was a lot to swallow? Well how about twenty minutes?

Okay, so to be fair, I have to confess, I personally feel that when an artist releases their debut album, they needn't get as pretentious or over-the-top 'epic' as they might be initially inclined to do. Why is this? Well, because I think on an artist's first go 'round, they need to establish some trust with the listeners first. After all, nobody has heard of Epignosis until this release, so it may be a little too much to handle, a new listener giving this new music a try might not like having to sit through nearly twenty minutes of Prog stylings.

However . . . something I would like to address here is that the album STILL THE WATERS as a whole is exactly four minutes shy of an hour. Comparatively speaking, that is an average album length, and while I personally don't like the idea of forcing someone to sit through such a long song first-off, I would have a lot worse problem with it if this had been a twelve-track album, but it isn't. This thing has only five tracks on it, and so, I can't really condemn the last track's length, because had Robert split this track in two, for instance, I still would have sat through both tracks without skipping, since it would still be one entity. Ultimately, the listening experience stays the same, and 3 long tracks and 2 longer tracks, or twelve short tracks, it's still the same length; 56:00. Because of this, it isn't logical for me to hate on this final track simply because it is longer than the rest.

This song is the most prominent in the Bass department, and tat clear Squire-esque tone is there, but not obnoxious. It fits, I think, for the song's premise. Also, the coolest Keyboard solo is on the track, and a very Blue Oyster Cult-ish vocal multi-tracking can be heard around 11:22.

''No Shadow of Turning'' is probably my third favorite track on the album, actually, and it serves as the percect album closer. Just brilliant in pretty much every way. Despite its length, it will keep listeners interested, because it never repeats itself or follows the traditional song formulas. In essence, I guess you could say that ''No Shadow of Turning'' is the most 'Prog' track on the entire STILL THE WATERS album.

4.5/5

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So my track preferences, from most to least favorite, are as follows:

''Still the Waters'' - 5/5 ''An Everlasting Kingdom'' - 5/5 ''No Shadow of Turning'' - 4.5/5 ''A Pearl in a Field'' - 4.5/5 ''Move'' - 3/5

Some things to keep in mind: this is not a fast-paced album like a lot of the more popular modern Prog Rock bands, and if you expect it to be, you may be dissapointed, but if you go into it with an open mind and don't want yet another Yes clone, but truly original Prog music, you will hard pressed finding something not to like here. A terrific album!

Ultimately, it's simple: You HAVE to listen to this album! It is a bright light in the dim blandness that is Modern Progressive Rock; a true testament of a man's talent and love for originality. Robert was sitting on this material for four years, from what I understand, and there is absolutely no doubt that all that time has payed off greatly. I think you owe it to the man to purchase and listen to this wonderful piece of music. STILL THE WATERS may be Epignosis' first album, but I hope that it is not the last.

A wonderful debut by a wonderful musician. A solid 4/5.

Happy listening.

JLocke | 4/5 |

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