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Echolyn - Mei CD (album) cover

MEI

Echolyn

 

Symphonic Prog

4.13 | 243 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

James Lee
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars For those not familiar with ECHOLYN, this is probably not the place to start- unless you're an experienced proghead, comfortable with disc-length tracks and concept albums. Conversely, the music itself is a shade LESS progressive than earlier releases, making it a more comfortable listen for the more mainstream rock fan.

For those who are familiar with the band, you'll notice this relative shift towards more familiar rock textures. Not that ECHOLYN has gone mainstream, by any means; it's simply a continuing evolution of the trend from "As the World" onwards, and compliments the bands' strengths. Weston, for instance, sounds much more mature as a vocalist but also somewhat less immediately recognizable (in fact, at times he resembles Maynard during TOOL's quieter moments). The production is also less sparse and flat than previous releases, with less of a gulf between the individual instruments; this tends to highlight the organic elements and tasteful orchestration, and the band in general shows off a wider dynamic range. One could argue that they're less unique than they once were (as well as less frequently evocative of GENTLE GIANT), but also more adept at realizing the full potential of the music.

The concept is epic, though on a personal scale, and defies a simple summary. On their website they refer to it as a "...a combination of jack kerouac's "on the road" and dante alighieri's "inferno"...a pilgrim's journey...a love song...with love as something intangible and yet all encompassing, fragile, and yet eternal......but a backdrop of darkness forever surrounds this love...". One might say it's a story of one man's roadtrip, both literally and symbolically, across a landscape of endless roads and landmarks from his own psychological conflicts. Imagine "The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway" without the mythological surrealism, or MARILLION's harrowing "Ocean Cloud" with a more epic and in-depth character portrayal. There's certainly a less rarefied and more earthy and visceral feel than the band's songs have displayed previously. As songwriters, the band has clearly progressed- and "As the World", for example, was not lacking in lyric quality to begin with.

Which returns nicely to my original conflict: an album full of separate songs would have showcased ECHOLYN's development much better, but instead they want you to hear the 50-minute "Mei" as a whole- which places a bigger burden on the listener. They're more of a 'contemporary' band than ever (just listen to the filtered vocals and sampled drum loops that peek out occasionally- and to their credit, tastefully- during the song) but also more steadfast than ever in their refusal to join the ranks of prog bands who have attempted to produce a more commercially viable statement.

In short, this album is a remarkable achievement for the band, a treat for the fans (unless you're stubbornly in favor of the mid-90s sound of the band), and one of the most artistically effective progressive concept albums of the last twenty years. I can't go as far as to call it "essential", but anyone with the patience and openness to appreciate the album/song will find it an involving and impressive journey.

James Lee | 4/5 |

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