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The Reticent - The Oubliette CD (album) cover


The Reticent


Experimental/Post Metal

4.21 | 46 ratings

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5 stars Working with the very important element of a very talented Maynard James Keenan clone for vocalist, the experimental metal music here draws from influences and styles far more widely varied than TOOL have ever aspired to. The musicianship is top notch; the "band"'s collaborative tightness incredibly well synchronized, with musical dynamics often shifting all over the place, heavy to soft, complex to austere, but not so chaotically as to wear on the listener. In fact, it all makes total sense in the context of the album's theme: "an emotional journey into the 7 stages of Alzheimer's Disease."

Line-up / Musicians: Chris Hathcock - drums, percussion, bass, rhythm guitars, vocals With: James Nelson - guitar leads on 1, 3 Andrew Lovett - tenor sax on 2 Steven Wynn (Undrask) - additional guttural vocals on 5 Amanda Caines - female vocals on 6, 7; voice acting on 2, 4, 5 Rei Haycraft - voice actin on 2, 4, 5, 7 Juston Green - voice acting on 2, 4, 5, 7 Jordan High School Wind Ensemble - winds on 5, 7

1. "Stage 1: His Name is Henry" (9:46) with such a beautiful vocal opening, it's hard to believe this is going to be a metal album. The Maynard James Keenan similarities are quite pronounced in the forms used in the third minute alone. Very cool switch into melodic latin jazz at 3:30 is soon followed by austere piano-and-voice interlude. Then we're back into the heavy prog. Great drumming! Great guitar and bass play. This guy can really do it all! (18.25/20)

2. "Stage 2: The Captive" (6:00) solid metal music with 100% MJK vocal stylings within the first 90 seconds turning to death metal growls. Slowdown and saxophone solo over finger-picked electric guitar in third minute followed by stark piano and vocal. What an amazing voice! Great shift back to metal palette near the four-minute mark. Don't know why but I'm hearing some sounds and stylings familiar to me from the 1980s metal bands--Iron Maiden, Def Leppard, Poison, Queensryche or someone. Then mixed with more Latin-like sounds & rhythms for the finale. (9.25/10)

3. "Stage 3: The Palliative Breath" (7:13) opens with Henry's daughter greeting a cheerful Henry but, sadly, not knowing who she is before the music begins. It's gently paced and beautifully set up with bass, and gently-picked electric guitar while Chris sings. This part reminds me of 1990s PEARL JAM--even the vocal. By the fourth minute we've shifted gears a couple times and moved into the heavier stuff, but never full metal--this is more melodic like Def Leppard or modern atmospheric metal masters Karnivool. Great lyrics--especially in the chorus sections--with nice multi-voiced harmonic vocals. Beautiful song. Really captures the mood of Henry's unwitting, insidious mental retreat. (14/15)

4. "Stage 4: The Dream" (11:47) multiple elegant electric guitar lines follow the opening passage from an interview with a young British-accented family member of an Alzheimer's patient. When Chris's voice enters its with a dreamy, heavily-treated plaintive vocal. At 2:17 the full band kicks in as multiple voices sing a bank of vocalise "ahh"s. Such dignity in this music; it's truly astonishing. Then, at 4:45, we take a drastic turn down another street--this one an instrumental section that is based on staccato instrumental play and near-Latin odd-tempoed rhythms--but it's over within a minute--replaced by a synth-dreamy sequence with an angelic female vocalist urging Henry to "come with me." In the eighth minute, then, we balloon out into full metal--though quite smooth and melodic (KARNIVOOL-like) soundscapes--while Chris's emotional MJK voice performs its magic. Those sections of gorgeous multi-voiced background vocalise are so effective! And I LOVE how the vocals are dialoguing about Henry's destiny. What a composition! I am a mess--an absolute ball of tears! One of the most powerful songs of 2020! (24/25)

5. "Stage 5: The Nightmare" (12:14) pure aggression, as expressed through an early Maudlin of the Well-like death metal style that is later enhanced by "orchestra." At the 2:30 mark we burst out of the chamber lull with some full-force prog metal. Quite theatric music (with full support of "orchestra") with a very powerful vocal performance la Ian Kenny. At the five-minute mark we return to more aggressive death metal stylings as the vocals turn to growls, but then we return to Ian Kenny-like smoothness at 6:00. Great music with an awesome, albeit brief, lead guitar solo. Then the eighth minute gets really weird as multiple styles and tempos get mixed together as the chaos inside Henry grows. At 8:50 we return to the great themes of the seventh minute. I love this music--especially the multiple guitar and vocal work! Incredible! I have to admit, the music--and the odd and unexpected interludes--is so fitting for this (sad and horrific) stage of Alzheimer's. And sadly, "There is no way out." (23.25/25)

6. "Stage 6: The Oubliette" (10:38) "locked inside himself" and "wanting it to all be over as quickly as possible." I can relate. With some eerie but so effective music to perfectly capture the goings-on both inside and outside the Alzheimer's patient at this advanced stage. With this music, I am strongly brought back to the powerful feelings of disorientation and isolation that Gabriel Lucas Riccio's 2013 album, Interior City provoke in me. (17.75/20)

7. "Stage 7: ___________" (6:10) over the sound of the pings and beeps of a fully-engaged hospital bed play the gorgeous and sad orchestral music with occasional vocal offerings sounding like a soloist from a boy's choir giving three minutes of cinematic "closure" as the life of Henry ends. James Newton, John Williams, or John Barry couldn't have done it better. Sheer perfection--totally capturing all of the emotions of that event. This is then followed by a rain-soaked speech with regards of the future impact of this "dreaded disease"--numbers and statistics rendered in an echoed voice that sounds like Steven Spielberg (while I know that it's not). (10/10)

Total time: 65:48

Though musically this may not be offering much that is breathtakingly new or boundary-pushing, it is amazingly successful in its support of the original concept "an emotional journey into the 7 stages of Alzheimer's Disease." This is by my reckoning an album deserving of all the accolades and superlatives one might hear and certainly the best heavy prog/prog metal album I've heard from 2020 and the most refreshing musical rendering of a concept since The Gabriel Construct's 2013 masterpiece, Interior City (which this reminds me of) or Tune's 2011 release, Lucid Moments.

A/five stars; a masterpiece of human expression and a truly worthy and amazing addition to any prog lover's music collection. Folks: This is what prog, music, and art are all about!

My pick for Album of the Year for 2020.

BrufordFreak | 5/5 |


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