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Discipline - Unfolded Like Staircase CD (album) cover

UNFOLDED LIKE STAIRCASE

Discipline

 

Symphonic Prog

4.25 | 289 ratings

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Epignosis
Special Collaborator
Eclectic Prog Team
2 stars Unfolded Like Staircase is a symphonic Van der Graaf Generator; indeed, Matthew Parmenter sounds very much like Peter Hammill and the compositions share several similarities with the aforementioned group. I regard this album as one of those "prog masterpieces" that haphazardly combines musical passages without much regard to compositional context. But even when there is, I cannot say what the band comes up with pleases me. Overall, it boils down to this: I don't admire the compositions, even if they are performed remarkably well. Unlike the music from a band such as Ritual, which too is mired in a symphonic quirkiness, I find it hard to follow or be viscerally absorbed by; indeed, I never anticipate hearing this album. However, if the reader fantasizes that Van der Graaf Generator were inspired by Genesis, Yes, or Kansas, this is without a doubt essential listening; for me, I am less than enthusiastic. I may yet warm up to it, though I doubt it; I've had this album for years and I just can't feel what a great many others are evidently feeling.

"Canto IV (Limbo)" After a raucous opening, piano, bass, electric guitar, drums and saxophone offer a slightly discordant bit introduction. Soon the rowdy introduction just ceases and the slower, plodding vocal section emerges. I quite enjoy the heavier, Van der Graaf Generator-like chorus. The instrumental passages that follow are exciting and have a degree of flow, something the rest of the album lacks. However, the thudding vocal section with the various lead instruments in the background I just don't adore. The guitar solos are likeable, managing a degree of restraint in both volume and style while still managing to impress.

"Crutches" Here is an angst-ridden song that alternates between heavier bits and quiet sections. The vocals are biting, but I find they grate and distract from the music, which in most cases, I don't believe should happen. And when the music performs without the vocalist, it is not nearly as impressive as when it was carrying on underneath the singer! The instrumental latter bit is more appealing though even if a tad incoherent for my tastes.

"Into the Dream" The epic of the album lacks a cohesiveness for me. The bass playing, however, is the most exciting aspect- well done! The rest of the music fades into background music to me every time, even the overbearing vocals. I have difficultly describing this track because no matter how many times I sit through it, it just seems like an amalgamation of sounds and passages that don't work together. For a while, the vocalist sounds less like Peter Hammill and more like Layne Staley. Mellotron backs (or almost overpowers) an acoustic guitar solo. The rest of the piece- I feel I must apologize- seems to me to be neo-prog platitudes that do not seek to move the listener.

"Before the Storm (Part 1)" Piano opens the first of a two-part piece. This is a highly structured piece very much in the vein of Peter Hammill's main crew. It even has a light organ bit before the guitar-led instrumental section.

"Before the Storm (Part 2)" The band explodes into full heavy rock symphonic mode, and while each instrument has a distinct voice, the parts blend into something coherent finally. The unruly vocals throw things off though, wavering between a progressive rock and nasty grunge style falsetto. The brass comes to the fore (under the vocals of course), but overall the composition is just another one of those pieces that remains hard to follow no matter how many times I listen to it.

Epignosis | 2/5 |

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