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Life Stage - Stage 1 CD (album) cover

STAGE 1

Life Stage

 

Progressive Metal

3.33 | 3 ratings

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Windhawk
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Stage 1 is, as one might surmise from the title, the first production by US act Life Stage. A fairly long effort as far as EPs go, clocking in at just over 30 minutes with tracks averaging at just over 6 minutes in length. Their chosen style is progressive metal, and of a variety that doesn't remind of acts like Dream Theater or Fates Warning - always a welcome surprise in this genre.

Dark, distorted guitar riffs with a grimy vibe is the dominant feature of this band, with words like gritty and dirty often coming to mind when listening to this CD. Life Stage opts for a merry mix of riff cascades and quirky thematic riff constructions for the heavy parts, and the guitar sound as well as the manner in which these passages are constructed reminded me of semi-legendary US act Possessed they way they came across on the Joe Satriani produced mini album "Eyes of Horror" as well as the debut effort of the somewhat more obscure 80's act Nasty Savage. When that is said, there's much more to Life Stage than what these 80's acts had to offer though.

Besides heavy and quirky, contrast is another aspect of this disc which stands out. Both between the clean lead vocals and the aforementioned guitars, but also due to the extensive use of lighter, undistorted guitars. Most often in themes and passages with wandering guitar textures wedged in between heavier passages or as the initial movement of the compositions.

Personally I found this band talented, but not yet fully developed. Generally speaking I think their compositions can become more concise, lots of really good ideas to be found but there are also passages that come across as overly long or slightly out of place.

Opening track Full Proof features a melodic theme with what I'd describe as eastern touches as a recurring theme. Which sounds great. And the alternate version of it that appears in the final passage of the track is arguably just as intriguing. Personally I would have loved hearing the latter version more extensively explored in the initial instrumental part of this track as well rather than to be saved for the final moments. In a similar vein, I thought the instrumental outro on Can I? to be just a tad too long, while the initial phase of Instrumorphasis might have served it's purpose as a standalone track on this disc just as well as it does as a precursor to the at times brilliant following 4 minutes of shifting expressions and quirky riff workouts.

Life Stage does save up the best for last on this EP. Final track New Life is a really intriguing effort, and the bombastic last third of this track represents this band at their best, smoothly developing the hypnotic bass and drum cascade appearing just after 4 minutes into a brilliantly evolving monster of a climax.

If you have an interest in progressive metal that ventures outside of the most well trodden tracks and you manage to appreciate a well talented act when you come across them, Life Stage is a band you'd most likely want to follow. Especially if you generally enjoy the darker side of the progressive metal universe and have a soft spot for subtle complexities and sophisticated quirkiness.

Windhawk | 3/5 |

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