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Shadow Gallery - Digital Ghosts CD (album) cover

DIGITAL GHOSTS

Shadow Gallery

 

Progressive Metal

3.90 | 208 ratings

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LiquidEternity
Prog Reviewer
4 stars This is exciting! This is my first promo CD and pre-release review yet.

I must say, before Digital Ghosts, my only experience with Shadow Gallery are their albums Tyranny and Room V, both of which I enjoy but don't find that much above average on the whole. But with this new release, they've focused on the aspects of their music that I appreciate most, namely melody, harmony, and keeping the noodling contained within fitting places. The big news that most people are wondering, though, is what the band is going to do following the tragic loss of their former lead singer, Mike Baker. The answer, thankfully, is to take the material they've been working on and turn it into perhaps their strongest album yet, as a wonderfully fitting tribue to their lost friend--and even though his vocals were probably my favorite part of their music, they do amazingly well without him. Also, I may only have the promo copy, but the production and sound values appear to be very strong, well mixed, and colorful. The album moreover is a good fifteen, twenty minutes shorter than their usual, which makes each song that much more impactful on the whole: a move I really appreciate and agree with.

The album's first track, With Honor, is a vocal-dominated piece full of brilliant melody and wonderful vocal interplay. Marked by a catchy and deep chorus, I must say that any fears I had about the band going more instrumental in the absence of their good man Mike were dispelled right here. Also of note, it ends with a long section of strings and spacey quiet. Next comes Venom, quite reminiscent of Symphony X with the crunchy riffs, grumpy vocals, and wild flailing guitars. It's also like Symphony X in that the melodies are well done (truthfully, as I'm not a huge fan of Symphony X, I find this a superior song to any of theirs). Lots of progressive riffing and trading of lead vocals fill this track. Pain has a soft Queensryche feel, mostly due to the guest vocalist (beats me, though, which one it is). It does get heavier, though rarely picking up in speed. Some soloing does occur, and it kind of does kill the mood of the song. Little things like these are why the album is only four stars in my book, though this is a strongly recommended four stars. Just for the record.

Gold Dust is something of a classic Shadow Gallery track, with light metal verses (with kind of weak melodies), strong and punchy choruses that get stuck in your head, and some breaks for entertaining but a bit shallow of noodling. The rapid fire riff chugging adds some serious meat to the tune. Strong kicks off in similar fashion, launching straight into a guitar solo. However, the vocal melodies here are not only really fantastic, they are particularly unusual for Shadow Gallery (at least from the two other SG albums I've listened to). Also, I'm not sure who the lead vocalist is here (as there are quite a few listed and, well, prerelease digital copies don't say these things), bu he does some wild wailing in very unusual fashion--for Shadow Gallery anyways. A bit of noodling happens, but there are some powerful choral movements hidden in here as well, cheesy though they may be.

However, it's with the last two songs that the album really soars. Digital Ghost begins with a beautiful and passionate instrumental section that could have kicked off a twenty minute epic and not been out of place. Here, it just fashions an upshift in quality and aim as the band shoots for much more progressive and much less noodly metal approach. The chorus sounds very classically Shadow Gallery, and the harmonies are painfully pretty. Vocals absolutely dominate this track, and that is one hundred percent a good thing. And this time, rather than singularly metal instrumentation, we get a feel for jazz guitars in the middle and more of that wonderful classical piano as well. The concluding instrumental might be their most inspired yet. If all the album's tracks were on this level, not only would this be way in the lead for 2009, it might promote Shadow Gallery to one of my top band slots. Haunted opens, well, hauntingly, as dark chords and tormented vocals rise out of the quiet of the preceding song's conclusion. Again, we have more well-harmonied choir action. It's amazing how many strong voices they have among their ranks. This is the gentlest track on the album by a long shot, though it doesn't stay gentle for its whole length. They manage to make a powerful slow song in the vein of mid- to late-era Pink Floyd without sounding anything at all like Pink Floyd, a wonderful feat to say the least. These choruses, these vocals: chills. Absolutely amazing.

According to my limited experience, the best Shadow Gallery release ever. It's got a bit much noodling that ruins some of the moods, and a couple of the middle tracks are only pretty good and not great, but heed my words when I recommend this. It's not a five star review, but I want to promote it as such. Definitely grab this when you can.

Addendum: I've received a few questions about the drumming on this album. Namely, that the drummer is only credited as being the drummer on two tracks. Now, I'm not sure what the band did, but this does not sound like drum programming on any of the songs. Perhaps electric drums, perhaps, but definitely not a drum machine. That, or they are ten times the programmer to any other band or percussionist that I have ever come across.

LiquidEternity | 4/5 |

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