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Hourglass - Oblivious to the Obvious CD (album) cover

OBLIVIOUS TO THE OBVIOUS

Hourglass

 

Progressive Metal

3.81 | 84 ratings

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Epignosis
Special Collaborator
Eclectic Prog Team
4 stars Hourglass's 2009 release is a mammoth album- two discs jam packed with heavy music totaling a massive two hours and twenty minutes. For those who like metal in doses, listening to this record can be a daunting task, but as someone who falls into that category, I have to say I hated this album upon the first hearing, but was very impressed, especially the second time around, when I realized I recognized several of the melodies and riffs. At times, the vocals range from exaggerated imitations of Layne Staley or Bon Jovi, which can be annoying at times. The bassist, however, seems to make this album- whenever he pops up by himself, I know I am in for a treat, and even in the background he tends to stand out. Despite the discouraging length, this powerful album will no doubt find its way out of my speakers on many more occasions.

"On The Brink" After a striking introduction, the guitarist chugs out some chords, while a thin organ sneaks over them. The whistling synthesizer is a grand touch, occurring right before an intense piano. The lead guitar makes use of both shred techniques and sustained notes, but in either case, it is very melodic. The vocal bridge toward the end is somewhat silly, but for the most part, this is a killer progressive metal track, and should gratify most.

"Homeward Bound" Dark piano and soft guitar comprise the beginning of this second track. Generally it is more pleasant than the first track, with better singing, great bass work, lovely piano, and tasteful guitar. There's a great bass solo midway through, that, while not exceptional in and of itself, is fabulous for setting up the next part of the piece, which includes a fiery guitar lead. However, the bass toward the end is nothing short of phenomenal.

"Pawn II" The band goes for a Hispanic/Near Eastern vice with the classical guitar juxtaposed with other exotic sounds. The piano comes in, and introduces a heavier sound, full of rapid rhythms. A short, exotic yet funky bass solo brings in the guitar shredding that is rather out of place. The vocal section begins rather abruptly. This part includes one of the most ingenious riffs I've ever heard in conjunction with a vocal melody. And once again, there's a gutsy bass solo right around the corner, this time giving way to some keyboard madness.

"Faces" Delicate piano and equally delicate vocals begin this piece, which sends the album in a lovely direction. The lyrics are a tad cliché, particularly in terms of rhyming, but that's all right- the music is beautiful and remains that way for quite a awhile, even when the bass finally comes around to usher in the next phase.

"38th Floor" Once again, the bassist shows what he's made of, kicking off the track with some fancy finger-picking. The vocals are solid, and the synthesizer adds a great dimension to the piece, but the guitar tone is thin and takes away from things I find remarkable. There's some great interplay between all the instruments as they rock out. An airy and almost tribal section arises in the middle, serving as the basis for a more melodic bass solo and vocals with a fresh and positively memorable vocal melody. Tasteful electric guitar comes back in, both as a rhythm and lead instrument, lending an almost bluesy feel to the segment. The bassist ultimately holds it together and keeps it interesting. Overall the arrangement is solid, and full of variety in terms of composition, but even then, this song just seems to be too long and overbearing. For a piece of such length, the ending is entirely lackluster and unsatisfying, sort of petering off with some jazzy meandering on the piano.

"Façade" Gentle electric piano begins the second disc. Initially the lead guitar sounds like a saxophone until the slides make it more clear that it is indeed a guitar. The bassist fades in out of nowhere, making this a less than subtle transition, and soon the chugging guitar and drums increase in intensity and begin the next phase of the piece. This main vocal section is closer to power pop rock, with a bouncy and catchy vocal part.

"Skeletons" This is probably the worst track on the album, particularly with those opening vocals. Nothing here is nearly as memorable as anything else, particularly on the first disc. The whistling keyboard solos are plusses, however.

"Estranged" Hourglass goes the acoustic route for this gorgeous second-person song. To me, this sounds a lot like the softer side of Enchant, both instrumentally and vocally. Not only is the vocal melody amazing, but the acoustic guitar solo represents a few moments of sheer brilliance.

"Delirium" With spunky bass and heavy guitar, this ten-and-a-half minute instrumental gets going, as subtle keyboard textures are introduced. I could have been fooled that Victor Wooten himself was sitting in with the band on this track, particularly with all those rapid bass notes. The second half is largely jazz-rock music, with a steady beat and continuously creative bass and guitar fretwork. When things return to the heavier side, each member takes turns with a quick cadenza between recitations of a common riff. Finally, the bassist just dominates with a speedy solo alongside hurried drumming.

"Oblivious to the Obvious: Part 1 - No Chance" An elegant twelve-string guitar begins this five-part, thirty-minute epic. Despite the bright backup vocals and instrumentation, the lyrics are thematically dark, apparently about the horrific cycle of atrocious parents inadvertently breeding atrocious parents. Finally, there's a proper piano solo, and shows what the keyboardist is able to do with another instrument besides a synthesizer.

"Oblivious to the Obvious: Part 2 ? Realization" Remarkably, the band resists the urge to plow ahead with metal and actually creates an even more depressing, sedated mood. The vocal melody is very good.

"Oblivious to the Obvious: Part 3 - Remember Me" Rightfully so, things pick up right in the middle, with a synthesizer lead and crunchy guitars. For once, the bass playing is restrained, almost pounding out the root notes of the chords. Not surprisingly, there's another bass solo at the end.

"Oblivious to the Obvious: Part 4 - In My Hands" This fourth part, which is surprisingly short, is based on a creative and heavy riff.

"Oblivious to the Obvious: Part 5 - Redemption" The finale features a chunky bass and haphazard keyboard runs. There's a slick guitar solo later on, but that's about it. While the previous track could have led to a suitable conclusion, this instrumental almost acts as disjointed filler, firstly since there are no lyrics to continue the quasi-narrative, and secondly because none of it really flows together. It was like the band wanted to "balance the weight" of the second disc with that of the first one. Whatever the case, there isn't much of interest going on here, especially since almost everything that preceded it was far superior.

Epignosis | 4/5 |

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