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Echolyn - Mei CD (album) cover

MEI

Echolyn

 

Symphonic Prog

4.13 | 242 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

AtomicCrimsonRush
Special Collaborator
Symphonic Team
5 stars "Mei" was recommended to me a while back and as soon as I heard it I was completely mesmerised by its beauty and its power. Echolyn begins this epic 50 minute journey in a quiet mood with tranquil atmospheres and very emotional vocals. The music builds to a loud explosive sound with Hammond blazing, guitars crashing and fast paced bass and drums over more aggressive vocals. It settles again with acoustic vibrations and piano with a haunting vocal. It seems to be drifting in a new direction after the outburst, like being in the eye of the hurricane. The vocals are mixed to the front and easy to decipher, with such poetry as "The wipers move back and forth confessing, The scenes pass through my eyes, Slipping through darkness, Deeper than oceans, The miles can't purify, My dashboard glows cold liquid red, The miles tick on and on, Rainfall adds to a beat, lamenting, What's been said and done."

After this there is an incredible build up of sound with hammering Hammond and an odd time sig and I reminds me of Gentle Giant in their most quirky mood. The lyrics "Out here there could be giants" further confirms the influence. The vocals are more forced "I want to walk in their shade, Introduce me to a brand new kiss, Help me forget my love." An instrumental break fires up and that stabbing Hammond staccato rhythm is incredible, and the music locks into a 6/8 sig and then a lead break follows, and the Gentle Giant sound is prominent. This is a fantastic piece of music and feels quite dark in texture especially with the angular guitar riff with muscular tone, leading to the next verse "Sky has opened, Suppose I could ignore the rain, Should I listen to all that's golden, And the ghosts of its curse."

Finally the intensity dies down with a threatening sustained organ chord and some wonderful guitars. The harmonies are well executed on the next verse, and it moves along on a jazz fusion vibe, with some odd tempos. The music has already won me over totally and we are only at the 17 minute mark. I love the way the tension and release dynamics are so prominent and pour out the emotions of the journey that the protagonist is experiencing. At this point I can tell what the story is portraying, a man driving in a car running from his pain, a lost love, a broken relationship, and the search for hope when his world has turned to pain, a search that takes place in his mind as memories flood over. His twisted memories eventually will lead him to crash his car. The roads and mountains are psychological elements of his mind as he searches for meaning in a midst of turmoil; a road trip designed to search for meaning.

The music seems to twist and turn like the highways stretched before the protagonist. As he revels in his regrets and guilt the music becomes more intense. There is a lot of religious imagery and allusions to war and the symbolic taking up of arms in a war torn scenario. One can take this to mean that the man has been through hell and back and towards the end it appears that the crash changes his perspective and he is bed ridden, perhaps an invalid or in a coma. This is a theme taken up on Ayreon's "The Human Equation" and Spock's Beard's "Octane" where the car crash leads to a coma and a catharsis for the victim or an epiphany leading to a change of heart towards themselves and others. The crash comes in the lyrics "I hear the road beneath my wheels, Spin and roar, Spit my teeth blood and tongue, Dashboard Jesus on the floor, Smoke and glass, twisted steel, Hard to catch a breath, Hard to pay from all of this, Devil in my ear."

After this the music detours into a quirky time sig and very cool guitar riff over very strong drums and bass. The Hammond and guitar duel at the 31 minute mark is delightful, then it locks into a relaxed melody. The struggle between good and evil seems to be the plight of the protagonist and he finally admits he is sorry to his lover. We hear it over and over on a loud speaker, which may be from the grave. The music intensifies again as the next verse is heard with the aggressive sustained howling "No more wishing you away". This is as heavy as the music gets at this point and it builds to a massive wall of sound. The shimmering Hammond releases finally and the sound of rain coming down is heard as an isolated piano comes in. The beauty returns to the epic and a violin compliments the mourning of the victim as his regrets are heard, "Where was my time for you, It was lost on a thousand reasons." The sadness of the scene is very moving and augmented by a melancholy guitar instrumental and the sound of birds twittering, and then a car driving by.

The pace picks up in a more bright tempo and the return of the shimmering organ is welcome, and it is building to a happier riff. A fast heavy rocking riff locks in and changes the atmosphere, one of my favourite sections of the track. "Separate the useless from the green, Keep me safe, I will do anything it takes, To feel the sun again" signifies that the protagonist is now lying in a hospital bed and is helpless, or is he dead and we are hearing his regrets from the grave.

The music takes on a dark quality as we hear more of the memories of the protagonist and then a heavy riff crashes through, with those Hammond splashes consistent. At 43 and a half minutes the drums begin a new sig, and are more forceful, the sig changes again with some nice harmonies and sweeping strings. The funky tempo punctuates the atmosphere in sporadic bursts, and then a rocking riff locks into place, to make room for a fantastic lead guitar break. This is followed by buzzing retro synthesizer, the band are in full flight jamming up a storm, and then there are sledge hammer crashes of organ and guitar. The vocals have more optimism, "I am ready to receive".

We are nearing the finale and it feels like the song is preparing to end, which is sad as it has been so brilliant. The final section is a lone acoustic strumming over gentle vocals, "My hope is a coin in a shattered fountain, Distorted, Out of touch, But shining through." After one final stirring lead guitar solo and some peaceful keyboards it comes to an end.

This is a genuine masterpiece of some of the most soul stirring music I have encountered. Everytime I hear it, it sends chills through me, and it inexorably led me to more of this incredible American symphonic band. "Mei" is one of the greatest epics and is highly recommended for all of the above reason; a triumph of exquisite musicianship and innovative prog.

AtomicCrimsonRush | 5/5 |

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