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Mars Hollow - Mars Hollow CD (album) cover


Mars Hollow


Crossover Prog

3.64 | 76 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
3 stars A lot of mainly positive reviews persuaded me to get this eponymous debut from US band Mars Hollow. Listening to it again today for this review suggests that this is a promising start by the band, but one that is unlikely to trouble the compilers for Album Of The Year 2010 award.

The opener, Wait For Me, is, rather than Crossover Prog, a slice of pure homage to symphonic prog, Yes in particular. Indeed, many of the passages could have been lifted directly from Fragile. Good, but too derivative for me. I like neo prog bands, but appreciate originality in the music rather than pure lifting of passages from classic albums.

The same accusation, by the way, could be directed at Eureka. Steve Mach is clearly a very talented keyboardist, John Baker an equally talented guitarist, and Kerry Chicone a very good bassist, but, frankly, the intro to this track is, again, Fragile light. Very easy to listen to, but I would rather that the band turned their obvious talents into redirecting away from something that is far too obviously a tribute to their heroes. Whilst bands like The Flower Kings, especially, wear their influences on their sleeves, they have managed to turn those influences into a great fusion of classic homage and a wholly original sound at the same time. Mars Hollow need to do the same thing, before they descend into anonymous oblivion.

That is not to say that this album is bad, though. It is well produced, well performed, and the vocals, in particular, mainly have a light and instantly accessible attitude. Midnight is a very pleasant piece of music. If I Were You is two minutes longer, and much in the same vein, namely AOR, and, to be honest, throwaway. The instrumental passage that closes the track, in contrast, could almost be from any classic ELP, Hammond led, album. Again, very derivative.

In Your Hands takes its influence from the other symphonic great, namely Genesis, of Foxtrot and Selling England vintage. I don't particularly like the vocals on this (I don't know enough about the band to identify who sings this track), and it is probably at least two minutes too long.

Things improve substantially with Wild Animal, an excellent track weighing in at just over seven minutes long. The vocals are superb, sung with true passion, and I love the guitar work on this as it is so delicately underplayed at commencement, together with a dark and brooding rhythm section. This is by far the most original track on the entire album, and gives us a real glimpse of how good this band potentially are. Sure, there are clear nods to others (in particular a mid section keyboard section that is most definitely Flower Kings), but, somehow, the band manage to fashion this into originality, as do all the best neo and symphonic bands, of course. The closing minute and a half then morphs into a true rocker, with a very hard and bitter edge.

The longest track on the album is the finale, Dawn Of Creation, weighing in at over twelve minutes. However, unlike a couple of the shorter pieces, this doesn't seem to drag at all, and features some interesting band instrumental interplay. The Yes influence does, though, shine through very strongly in the lyrics to this track, which most certainly could have been written by Jon Anderson, meaning, naturally, that they are open to all kinds of interpretation! There is a fantastic guitar solo included on this, leading into the closing passage of the album.

All in all, a satisfying debut, and one that promises well for the future, providing that the inventiveness shown on most of the final two tracks in particular is repeated across an entire work.

Three stars for this.

lazland | 3/5 |


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