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Discipline - Unfolded Like Staircase CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

4.22 | 422 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
4 stars Angst and More Angst Fuels Excellent Vocal Neoprog

Discipline's UNFOLDED LIKE STAIRCASE is an album I badly want to give 4.5 stars. It's almost, but not quite, a masterpiece. It starts with the astounding "Limbo / Canto IV" which may be the best neo-prog song ever written. However, the remaining 50+ minutes of music don't quite communicate as well as the first song, and fall into the good to excellent category. Lead singer Matthew Parmenter is a master of theatric vocals, clearly heavily influenced by Peter Hammill. The music is straight out of the prog play book, with all songs being epic length, a few allusions to classic Genesis pieces, and complex song structure. The guitars are well played but the tonality could have used some tweaking into something a little less ordinary. A few more strong melodic themes to anchor the later pieces would have turned this into a monster. It's close already. Unfortunately, at this time at PA, it's bewilderingly classified symphonic or it would have its rightful place high on the neoprog charts.

On the lead track, Parmenter's sense of melody comes strongly into play, making the lyrics easier to follow and making it easier for this listener to dive into the story being told. I feel like the musical techniques really combine to serve the song and the message rather than the other way around. The jarring rhythms and painful emotional vocal delivery communicate the existential angst perfectally. Some have claimed Parmenter's theatrics are too much, but when playing the part of the lost soul kept out of heaven, it works perfectly.

The remaining three songs are not bad at all. Part of the problem is that the album is so dark and heavy, that the listener is a bit worn out by the end. The songs get progressively longer, the lyrics a little denser, and the song structures more challenging. This is in a relative sense, for the entire album is full of juxtaposition, complex time signatures, and dissonant tonalities. It's just that by the end, things feel a bit overlong.

Two main positives emerge from this album. One, Matthew Parmenter was one of the best neo-prog vocalists out there, merging Hammill and Fish into an evocative, full tone that oozes pain. His note choice is challenging, in fact sometimes too much so. Some of the phrasing he pulls off while simultaneously playing keys is truly impressive. The other related positive is that the entire band is not afraid to dive head first into the kind of difficult pieces that make prog what it is. These guys are clearly some of us, huge fans of the genre working from a vocabulary that is near to all of our hearts.

I fully recommend the album. "Limbo / Canto IV" is, to me, part of the prog canon. The phenomenal album artwork must be mentioned as well, one of the few that I would put up on my wall even as an adult. I wish they had continued to evolve and improve from here. There are more works to explore, but this is the peak.

Negoba | 4/5 |


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