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ECHOLYN

Echolyn

 

Symphonic Prog

4.10 | 439 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

J-Man
Prog Reviewer
5 stars After a roughly seven year wait since The End Is Beautiful, my expectations for the eighth Echolyn album were pretty high. This American quintet has been crafting top-notch prog rock for many years now, and after such a long break, one would only imagine that the band has returned more inspired than ever - and this imagining would be correct. Echolyn's 2012 eponymous observation shows the band at a creative height that has effected one of the year's finest masterworks. A virtually perfect album in all regards, Echolyn is one of the must-hear progressive rock experiences of 2012.

Some of the earlier Echolyn outings like Suffocating the Bloom and As The World were frequently noted as sounding like an updated, more melodic version of classic Gentle Giant, but the band's newer releases have moved in a much more symphonic direction. Beginning with the sprawling 49 minute epic masterpiece that was Mei - a choice in songwriting that was certainly never attempted by Gentle Giant - Echolyn moved in a direction that was more symphonic and melodic than some of their earlier works. 2012's Echolyn shows the band coming full circle as a melodic symphonic prog act, but they have (fortunately) not sacrificed what made them so special in the first place. Echolyn is still as instrumentally capable as ever (just listen to the opening of "Island" if you're unsure of this) and the vocal harmonies are pure bliss, but truly moving melodies have been incorporated into their sound more than ever before. While I've considered Echolyn among the elite modern prog acts long before this album was even rumored, the flawless mix of technical prowess and breathtaking melody showcased here makes it a serious contender for the band's finest outing thus far.

It's also worth noting that Echolyn sounds more 'retro' than any of the act's previous albums, to my ears at least - Chris Buzby's choice in keyboard tones stays within the palette available to players in the seventies', with most of the keyboards being presented in the form of piano, organ, mellotron, and analog-sounding synthesizers (think something that Tony Banks would've used on A Trick of the Tail). The warm and organic production also gives the album a bit of a retro flavor, but the real treat here is in the music. Compositionally, this observation treats the listener with some of the best that modern prog has to offer. Many of the songs linger around the ten minute mark, with "Island" being the longest and most traditionally 'progressive' of all the tunes; the challenging opening sequence and frequent time and key changes make this energetic track a perfect way to open up the album. The excellent melodies in "Headright" and the tremendously beautiful "Speaking in Lampblack" (which may be the most emotionally moving song I've heard all year) are probably the most unorthodox songs here by Echolyn's standards, though both fit perfectly in the context of the album. "Some Memorial" and "When Sunday Spills" are also favorites of mine, although the reality is that I've yet to find a substantial fault in this observation - this is simply a monumental effort from Echolyn on all fronts.

This album served as my soundtrack for most of the summer and fall of 2012, and even though I've heard a lot of other excellent albums this year, I still find myself returning to this one time and time again in December. Ray Weston, Brett Kull, Chris Buzby, Paul Ramsey, and Tom Hyatt are musicians of the highest caliber, and this observation's seamless blend of old and new ideas results in a listen that doesn't lose its shine even after dozens of spins. Echolyn is the sort of album that should be taken as a 'modern classic' - an observation that, if there is any justice in this world, should be looked back on decades from now as one of the the definitive prog albums of its era and a true masterpiece in every sense of the word.

J-Man | 5/5 |

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