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INTO THE EPICENTER

Episode

Symphonic Prog


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Prog-jester
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars 3 and 1/2 actually.

Very good Neo bounding Sympho.Touching female vocals with nice male ones create an atmosphere of "YES meets RENAISSANCE".Nothing quite complex or challenging (majority of tracks falls into "Songs" category),but I like it."Have a Heart" is a wonderful ballad with hit potential; instrumental tracks like "Alien" or "Mouldie's..." sound pretty intresting,filled with various signatures and soloing from the band members.Recommended to all Prog Collectors: this is very good and rare New Symphonic attempt from the Dark Ages of Prog- less Existence

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Send comments to Prog-jester (BETA) | Report this review (#87583)
Posted Friday, August 18, 2006 | Review Permalink
ClemofNazareth
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Prog Folk Researcher
3 stars Probably the coolest thing about these guys is that you can download both of their studio albums right from the band's web site, which is probably just as well since I don't believe they are readily available anywhere else. Major kudos to the band for making their music so accessible. The other thing they get props for is making symphonic rock music in the first place, particularly considering the timeframe in which they made it. This album was released (on cassette and LP) in 1989 at a time where there wasn't a whole lot of new, decent prog music being made, at least not in the States. The other album released a few years later and is pretty similar, except that the production on that one seems to be a bit better.

One other thing that helps to put some context to this music is to understand that these guys appear to basically be a bunch of old hippies who live in the San Francisco area and who clearly grew up on regular doses of Jefferson Airplane, jazz, probably It's a Beautiful Day and the like. And it wouldn't surprise me if they have a few old Dead ticket stubs in their sock drawers either. So this isn't purely symphonic music; it's more like a little bit of funk, some fusion, and symphonic arrangements, all delivered with healthy doses of keyboards and a decidedly psychedelic-influenced temperament. For the most part this works pretty well, but don't expect Wakeman-like bombastic keyboards flights of fantasy or Gabrielesque theatrics. I would suspect most of these guys would consider that to be too much work and too pretentious for their comfort levels.

The opening track "Riding the Falls" is a pretty promising kickoff for the album, full of stilting keyboards (Moog? I'm not really sure, I'm a fan not a musician), and several electric guitars. The female vocalist has a really pleasant, earth-Mom kind of voice, not too much different than Linda La Flamme had on It's a Beautiful Day some twenty years early, or maybe that chick from Renaissance. Very laid-back, billowy - maybe what Grace Slick might have sounded like sobered up back in the day but with none of the aggressive nature of Airplane's music. This isn't really complex or ponderous music, but I don't think it's meant to be either.

On "Glass M Revisited" the band switches to a male vocalist, a more prominent guitar presence, and a kind of brooding tempo. 'M' apparently stands for menagerie, but its hard to follow the lyrics so I'm not exactly sure what this song is supposed to be about. The breaking glass sound effects are cheesy of course, but I suppose obligatory given the song's title. This is another pleasant but unremarkable track.

There seem to be at least three vocalists on "Have a Heart", singing harmonies for the most part atop a sparse piano line with occasional Pete Seeger-like poetic passages. This is much closer to folk music than to symphonic, but I actually like that kind of stuff so the change in mood suits me just fine. The tie-dyed sensibilities of the band really show through on this track in particular.

I don't know who Mouldie is, but "Mouldie's Hold on Time" is apparently about him/her. Very detailed and lively guitar work here, and the bass line is fairly prominent but not all that innovative. This is an instrumental track and is heavy on keyboards and short guitar riffs. Some unintelligible whispering is thrown in from time to time, plus a short drum solo and some spacey sound effects, and the end result is an obviously psychedelic-influenced track that serves to show some range to the band.

"Two Piece" on the other hand sounds sort of stuck in the early eighties with tritely rhyming lyrics, tacky keyboards, and awkward tempo shifts. Picture Weird Al Yankovic doing Arcade Fire covers and you get the idea. Actually, that's pretty funny when I picture it. Fortunately this song is not representative of the rest of the album.

Some beautiful and delicate piano opens "Flight", followed by that chick from the first track and her very melodic vocals, accompanied at times by a couple of the guys in the band. This is more folksy stuff, but frankly I kind of like it. Spread a checkered blanket in the grass, sip some wine and nibble on some cheese, and this track will help pass the day pleasantly enough.

I think the term 'mandlebroth' comes from physics and has something to do with infinite spirals or patterns or something. Actually I didn't know that, but fortunately my seventeen year-old kid did. Anyway, that sort of makes sense when you hear the track of this name, as it consists of a series of spiraling instrumental passages on guitar, keyboards, and more guitar, none of them seemingly related except by their sense of winding motion. This is kind of an interesting track, but like the other instrumental sounds a bit dated today. Very good guitar work though.

The closing "Alien" doesn't strike me as an alien/sci-fi song at all. The lady singer is back and the mood is toned down again, and for some reason the vocals tracks are a bit muddled on this song alone, so I can't really follow it all that well. In any case, this is a pretty sparse and simple composition and doesn't quite fit the rest of the album's mood.

So a nice enough album, although it's not really your tradition type of symphonic music. The attempt is sincere enough though, and other than the occasional dated keyboard riff it wears well with time, so I think three stars are appropriate.

peace

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Send comments to ClemofNazareth (BETA) | Report this review (#104057)
Posted Thursday, December 21, 2006 | Review Permalink
Tom Ozric
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Thanks to Greg Walker at Syn-Phonic music, we have this little gem of an album - it's probably still available on LP from his site !! (that's if you are a vinyl-hound as I). It contains a lovely lyric sleeve and the cover art is stunning, suggesting music in the vein of Ozric Tentacles, but when it comes to prog, you can never judge a book by its cover, so, thankfully, Episode are way different and they are from the U.S.A. The overall style falls somewhere among sympho/neo-prog, with maybe a little psych thrown in. 'Riding the Falls' is the longest track, and starts out with a dark synth passage, which evolves into a more playful section full of tempo changes, and clear female vocals from Roe Tyler. 'Glass M Revisited' relies on guitar this time around with some symphonic keyboard work, and again is a great track. 'Have A Heart' is a well constructed song, more commercially oriented with simple progressions and harmony singing but makes for some pleasant listening - prog-lite perhaps. Last track side 1 is an intense instrumental track 'Mouldie's Hold on Time' (Mouldie is a Mole, an " intrepid, curious creature in search of fun and adventure " - from the sleeve notes) and the music is exactly that - fun and adventurous, with excellent playing from all involved. Side 2 - 'Two Piece' leans toward a rockier styling, a slightly weaker track on an otherwise excellent album. 'Flight' is a lengthy, ballad track, not in any hurry to get anywhere, but very carefree and enjoyable, with a basic layout of drums, bass, guitar and piano, and the quaint vocals of Roe. 'Mandlebroth' is a brief sound-collage leading into the closing instrumental track 'Alien', with some searing guitar and synth soloing and choice riffing. All players are compitent, both as musicians and vocalists, and the overall production is fairly decent and well balanced with no 'studio trickery' which can sometimes pin an album down to its era. 4 stars !!

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Send comments to Tom Ozric (BETA) | Report this review (#104180)
Posted Friday, December 22, 2006 | Review Permalink
Neu!mann
PROG REVIEWER
2 stars The debut effort by this defunct and now all but forgotten Northern California outfit began as a homemade demo package, later to be released (by Greg Walker's Syn-Phonic label) on good old-fashioned vinyl and cassette-tape at the tail end of the LP era. And that might have been the end of it, if keyboard player Nick Peck hadn't generously made the entire album available for complimentary downloading from his own web site, years later.

It's tempting in retrospect to dismiss the group (kindly) as a minor but engaging retro-Prog band recalling, with obvious affection, the mid '70s symphonic role model of YES. But give them credit at least for aiming high, and for playing unfashionable music so out of step with the notoriously hostile corporate entertainment culture of the Reagan/Bush 1980s.

Generous listeners should forgive the sometimes insecure vocals, the lack of virtuoso chops, and the seemingly arbitrary changes in mood and tempo lifted straight from the Progressive Rock rulebook, making the songs resemble (like a lot of secondhand Prog) a haphazard collection of unrelated ideas loosely stitched together. Enjoy instead the disarming innocence of the album's throwback style, and while you're at it let's have a round of applause for the group's stubborn, grass-roots devotion to a then-dormant musical cause.

With a little time and a larger audience, Episode could have developed into something really special (check out their second, final album: a big step forward from this one, and also available gratis on their web pages). Too bad they weren't allowed that chance, but by making the music so easily available they've also kept it very much alive, and that's no small blessing for an otherwise neglected Prog Rock band.

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Send comments to Neu!mann (BETA) | Report this review (#109157)
Posted Saturday, January 27, 2007 | Review Permalink
aapatsos
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Prog Metal and Heavy Prog Teams
3 stars The first Episode of this journey is worth taking. The debut album from this American band is an approach to neo-symphonic (often commercial) prog. Despite being released in 1989, the album is influenced by the 70's sound.

An interesting sequence of different sounds and moods is the dominant element in Riding the Falls, where initial flowing-water sounds give their place to soundtrack-like keyboards, and subsequently, to a 'typical' dynamic 70's symphonic prog piece. But there is more. Attractive female vocals accompanied by a folk background mix with a more neo-prog sound as the track goes on. Again a change of mood takes place during the last two minutes, to end this impressive sequence with a relaxing atmosphere.

Glass M Revisited is a mid-tempo, male-vocal based melodic track that moves away from the adventurous structure of the opening track, but still remains interesting in its own way. Typical melodic refrains and a symphonic/waltz interval after 3 minutes add to the quality. Have a Heart moves further into melody and harmonies reminding of Alan Parsons' good moments; a decent and pleasant ballad overall. On the contrary, the next track drives us back in a 70's 'Yes' sound with harsh symph music lines and a bit more complicated/sophisticated approach. but not for long as the two following songs fall again into more simple and lyrical paths including both male and female vocals, with Flight being the weakest despite the beautiful piano ending.

The sounds of nature in Mandlebroth are rapidly replaced by a well-structured instrumental ending track mainly influenced by ELP, accompanied by distinctive electric guitars; a great composition, bringing out a dramatic, but at the same time, a 'jamming' feeling by the band. Both quality and interest are kept on high levels from end to finish. I found myself enjoying this and the opening track more than any others; clearly the highlights in my opinion.

Overall, this is a good effort for a debut album. The main disadvantages of the record are the weak vocals at several points and the 'shallow' production. Apparently good but not essential for a prog fan, I, however, insist that this album is worth giving a spin (or more.).

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Send comments to aapatsos (BETA) | Report this review (#186355)
Posted Sunday, October 19, 2008 | Review Permalink
Evolver
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Crossover & JazzRock/Fusion Teams
4 stars When I was a reviewer for a progressive rock newsletter back in the pre-Internet times, I had the good fortune to receive this album on a cassette from the band. In retrospect, it's somewhat surprising that this was originally meant to be a demo, as it sounds better produced than the CD that was made years later. And, to be honest, the songs are better.

No, the production is not perfect. The drums and keyboards are often mixed a bit too low, and when there are no harmonized vocals, the solo singers are still thin sounding. But this is still a fine album. The songs are classics symphonic prog rock, and the band is talented and tight. Don't expect virtuoso performances, just nice tasty prog.

And the best song? Easily Mouldie's Hold on Time.

By the way, this album is available to download for free at Nick Peck's web site.

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Send comments to Evolver (BETA) | Report this review (#245426)
Posted Tuesday, October 20, 2009 | Review Permalink
3 stars In spite of being influenced by prog giants of the 70's, such as YES, RENAISSANCE,GENESIS,CAMEL etc.. of symphonic-prog mainstream and also with a strongly presence hints of flower-power movement like CSN&Y, MOODY BLUES, JEFFERSON AIRPLANE among others, the North-American band EPISODE make only a lukewarm work in their first albun . I say this, because the band don't take a chance to try a highest flight in any of 9 tracks in the albun, Although hapen some flash moments in attempt to create a more sophisticated sound atmosphere, this moments are not enough for provide a great audience. The only moments of a certain approximation to their influences are the track 1 - "Riding the Falls" ( which remminds YES meets Renaissance), the track 5 - " Two Piece" (whit a guitar solo divided by eletric and acoustic) and the track 8 " Alien" ( a instrumental track ). My rate is 3 stars !!!

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Send comments to maryes (BETA) | Report this review (#507077)
Posted Sunday, August 21, 2011 | Review Permalink

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