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Ajalon - This Good Place CD (album) cover

THIS GOOD PLACE

Ajalon

 

Symphonic Prog

3.25 | 26 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

J-Man
Prog Reviewer
3 stars This Good Place Could Have Been Better

I discovered Ajalon the same way many people did; through Neal Morse. I was intrigued by Randy George's impressive bass playing with Neal Morse and company, so it was only a matter of time before I checked out his band Ajalon. Although I had heard On the Threshold of Eternity before, This Good Place was really my true introduction into Ajalon's music. After giving it a lot of attention lately, I can comfortably say that this is a very good album that could've been much better if a few relatively small things were fixed.

First of all, there are a few things that "on principle" could turn you away from this band before even hearing them. They take an obvious Christian lyrical approach, which can either be a plus or a minus depending on the person. I am not usually bothered by religious lyrics, but I will be the first to admit that in many cases they can become very cheesy very quickly. With Ajalon, it's kind of a mixed bag. Songs like Nickels and Dimes, Marbles and Stones and Not Man have very interesting lyrics, whereas Love is a Dream and the title track are on the cheesier side of the equation. If you don't like Christian lyrics on principle, these definitely won't be the exception to the rule. The second thing that could definitely turn off some people is Ajalon's "retro" style. While the band has developed their own sound, they don't bring many new things to the symphonic/neo prog scene, and don't take the most original and innovative standpoints with this release.

If you can look past those two things, This Good Place is a really great purchase. Ajalon's sound is, as mentioned, "retro", but they're not a clone band. They are a combination of more accessible symphonic prog bands like Spock's Beard and Echolyn, mixed with the religious lyrics of Neal Morse's solo works, and some neo-prog and pop sensibilities.

This Good Place consists of 7 tracks and has a 59:32 running time. This means all of the songs are pretty long, with the 19:07 Redemption taking the cake as the epic. Ironically enough, the shorter songs are actually my favorites here. Love Is a Dream, Not Man, Nickles and Dimes, Marbles and Stones, the instrumental Abstract Malady, and This Good Place are all pretty good, but the 8:40 Lullaby of Bedlam and the 19:07 Redemption are disappointments in my book. They have moments of greatness, but the themes don't develop enough and they become slightly trivial.

The musicianship is a mixed bag. Randy George is, just as I expected, absolutely fantastic. I knew he was a monster on the bass, but he is also very skillful on the keyboards and guitars. Not many people are this proficient on these three instruments, and I will praise Randy George for being able to do that. Wil Henderson's vocals are good, but he sounds a bit weak and needs to be more forceful at times. He's a decent singer, but nothing more. There are a few guest musicians on the album, the most notable of them being Rick Altizer doing the vocals on Not Man. He is a fantastic vocalist, and I often wonder what this album would've sounded like if he sang the whole thing. In its current state, the vocals are good but leave something to be desired. The real problem is Dan Lile's drumming, which is too trivial and unpredictable. He's talented, but he just doesn't know how to make good fills. There are many times where he will do cymbal crashes or big rolls when they're completely unnecessary. I would honestly recommend a more simple approach, and to focus more on making good fills rather than hitting every drum in the kit. It may be partially because of the annoying sound of the drums due to the weak production, but Dan could definitely improve as well.

The production is a pretty big issue here. As mentioned, the drums are the biggest concern here. The treble is way too high, and the drums sound completely fake as a result. Add in the fact that they are too high in the mix, and you have a near-disaster. The other instruments sound alright, but everything's way too clean and crystal clear for my tastes. I have the deepest respect for Randy George, but I do think its time to hire a professional producer. Their music would definitely benefit from that, and This Good Place would've been a much greater album.

Conclusion:

This Good Place has a lot of potential, but it doesn't always deliver. At its heart this is a great progressive rock album with solid compositions, but the weak production, sometimes questionable musicianship, and slightly derivative style really bring down the overall quality of the album. As it stands, this is a good album, thus a 3 star rating is deserved. I would've given at least a 4 if a few small problems had been fixed, and it really frustrates me that so many flaws got into the final album. Still, I am excited to hear Ajalon's future efforts.

J-Man | 3/5 |

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