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Syzygy - Realms of Eternity CD (album) cover




Crossover Prog

3.93 | 78 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
5 stars Imagine having an equalizer that allows you to adjust the amount of influence, style, or sound of a set list of prog bands and create a new band sound. Let's say you were to set Glass Hammer to 7 (out of 10, not 11), Dream Theater to 1, Wobbler to 1.5, Anima Mundi to 0.5, Cairo to 3, and well, a couple of other bands could be set in there two and the appropriate adjustments made. You might very well end up with something that sounds like Syzygy's "Realms of Eternity".

Modern day prog music is a funny fish. In the 70's, everyone was busy coming up with their own thing. In the 80's, the old guard were trying to reinvent themselves while the young ones who grew up with 70's prog tried to make it work in the new music scene, giving us neo-prog and progressive metal. But after grunge had its moment in the limelight in the 90's, progressive rock made a miraculous recovery. The new bands of the day could take their influences from the 70's and the more interesting developments of the 80's and begin making a new style of progressive rock. Now nearly 20 years have passed since prog's back-to-being-respectable revival and in the recent years it seems to be sitting quite confidently in its rightful throne. It's very common for reviewers to cite prog influences of the 70's in music even as recent as this year; however, in my opinion, the 70's are no more obvious here than in shadows and traces. Listening to this album reminded me much more of prog music of the last two decades than the first decade. Thus I mentioned the groups above (though I was reminded once or twice of Jethro Tull and Dixie Dregs).

But this is one exciting album! Before the first track had finished I was already thinking of my review. By the time the album was over I was already thinking of playing again on my way home from work. There are prog albums that you know are going to be good once you have a chance to get into them. And then there's an album like this where right off the bat you know it is going to get played a lot. I had to pay a hefty penny for this as an import in Japan but it was worth every yen, and it hasn't left my ear buds since!

So, what's so freaking spectacular about this album? This is exactly what I expect a prog rock album to sound like. Let's go over my checklist.

Guitars: acoustic strumming and picking, clean electric, distorted heavy guitar, gentle effects and quick runs and bursts, varied time signatures and tempo, odd pacing, jazz and classical influences. Check.

Keyboards: piano, synthesizer, moog, organ, delicate, funky, spacey, atmospheric, rockin' - it's all there. Add guitar/keyboard interplay and you're there. Check.

Bass: a chunky low end that holds it's own and even sets the riff, a low end that stops and turns on a dime. Check.

Drums: anything is possible from rapid fire bursts and fills to odd beats to creative percussion to slow gentle steady rhythms. Check.

Strong vocals: I don't expect good vocals from every prog band (Lord knows there are some great musicians out there who can't hold a note vocally) but this guy, Mark Boals, who sings as a guest vocalist on four tracks has the right mix of edge and melody. He is a true singer. A funny thing, I was listening to "Darkfield" and thinking, "Who is this guy? I know this voice but from where?" The second time through I was at last able to place him - vocalist on Uli Jon Roth's "Under a Dark Sky". I didn't find him too impressive on that album and actually thought he sounded too generic as a hard rock vocalist. But I think he sounds better here (though I was reminded of Uli's album in the heavier parts of this album) and perhaps suits the music and style of this album more than he does Uli's album which is so heavy in theme and music (symphony and choir with rock band). Syzygy add harmony vocals and beautiful harmony choruses (one part reminds me of Cross but you'd be more likely to say Yes) and so you can check all that too.

Eclectic music: rich synthesizer sounds, hard rock and metal guitar, acoustic pieces with strings and flute, weird twists and turns and stops and starts, jazzy sections, funky sections, spacey sections, AOR rock sections, folk, classical - it's all here. Check

Mini epics and a suite: two songs are over 10 minutes, one is over 16 minutes, and "The Sea" forms a suite of 8 movements or parts or sections, whatever you want to call them. These eight parts are divided into separate tracks but follow the theme of the suite and despite their diversity (acoustic guitar with flute to almost progressive metal) everything seems to have its rightful place. Nothing comes across as added just to show that they are capable of playing it. Check.

Instrumentals: Lovely short acoustic ones and rollicking crazy bombastic ones. Check.

Complex music: Check.

Syzygy have simply put it all together into one incredible album. When someone asks me what progressive rock is I always think about what is a good album to lend them as a definitive example, and that might be classic Yes or Genesis, or recent stuff by Wobbler or Galahad. This album sums it up very well, I think. It's amazing that this is only the group's third album between 1993 and 2009, but then again it seems like the time in between is where they learn their chops and get it all together to make a killer album. At just over 77 minutes I would normally say that it's too long, but dividing the album into a set of individual tracks and a suite seems to justify the length. The album is never boring or repetitive. It's just so darn well done through and through. I can't find fault here. And I read that Steve Hackett and Patrick Moraz both gave this album their highest praise.

FragileKings | 5/5 |


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