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THE RAVENS NEST

Everwood

Progressive Metal


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4 stars The Hungarian progressive metal band Everwood has a bright future.

No, make that an exceptionally bright future.

On The Raven's Nest (TRN), their second studio release, Everwood continues to exhibit rare musical inspiration. The 15 songs on TRN are well-recorded, masterfully executed, and genuinely engaging. Most importantly for me, Everwood has a firm grasp on melody. So even though their songs can be guitar-driven heavy a la Dream Theater or Symphony X, they aren't afraid to tone down things and tug at the heartstrings using delicate solo piano or synths a la Marillion circa Misplaced Childhood.

In other words, Everwood strikes a refreshing balance between poignancy and an all-out head-banging metal onslaught.

Balazs "Balu" Koncz has a remarkable voice, boasting plenty of power and range -- with just a hint of an accent. Sure, if I listen hard enough for it, I can hear his Hungarian origins. But Balu sings, clearly, with passion and genuineness. There are some American-born singers who enunciate less well than Balu, I can assure you.

Guitarist Ferenc Farkas, keyboarist Attila Tanczer, and bassist Viktor Erdos create a lush musical landscape that draws me in while drummer Tamas Szabo propels it all forward -- breathlessly when need be, restrained and careful when a deft touch is required. It's obvious he's a gifted percussionist, but he doesn't need to double-time his way through the entire album to prove it.

And that's the key to understanding Everwood.

These guys are not your typical prog metal musicians. When you pop TRN into your CD player, don't expect to hear Mercenary, Nevermore, Dark Tranquillity, Into Eternity, Cellador, or DragonForce. This isn't wall-of-sound metal played at breakneck speed with vocals that scream more often than not. There's a place in the world for such music. I happen to like those bands. But Everwood isn't in that category. And, for that, I'm thankful.

Why? Because, for me, music that stands the test of time is that which I can play repeatedly, and in which I can hear something different each time. There are gaps in the songs into which my mind can fall like Alice down the rabbit hole. I love music that elicits reverie. In short, the music transcends time, sounding as fresh now as it did when it was recorded over three decades ago. Groups that have released music of that caliber are Yes, and the early recordings of Kansas, Rush, Genesis, King Crimson, and ELP. Three key elements regarding music from those bands are superb musicianship, a keen sense of melody, and songs with varying textures, nuances of light and dark.

Everwood's music offers that, and a whole lot more.

TRN kicks off with "Pure Awakenings," a short, pretty, keyboard-driven musical interlude that morphs into a clever, breezy, Latin-tinged ditty that gives way to "Another World," a guitar monster that also features swirling keyboard flourishes and soaring vocals. It's a one-two punch that perfectly opens the new Everwood album.

And it only gets better from there.

Track Four ("Like a Miracle") is one of my favorites. This song has it all -- a solid melody, uplifting lyrics, power chords, outstanding keyboard work, and Balu's powerful voice. (Tasty solo from guitarist Ferenc Farkas, too.)

It's hard to say which musician stands out more on TRN. For fans who enjoy the sound of piano and keyboard, there's plenty on TRN to love. For people who gotta have the roar of a guitar, there's that in abundance here, as well. Everwood is a nugget of gold in a musical landscape that offers less of real value with each passing year. These guys have true talent, and it shows.

The Raven's Nest is nearly 70 minutes of musical elegance, with enough of everything to keep fans of all stripe content. I've heard this album probably a dozen times, and I still hear each song with fresh ears, finding something new with each listen.

What more can you ask of a band?

I wholeheartedly recommend Everwood's latest release, The Raven's Nest.

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Send comments to ProgHead2007 (BETA) | Report this review (#124785)
Posted Tuesday, June 05, 2007 | Review Permalink
avestin
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Playing within the frame, creating some bends but not breaking it

I received this promotional album from this Hungarian band, since I was intrigued about them after reading some favorable reviews, saying that they were the hope of progressive metal and reading good reviews of their previous album "Mind Games".

This album is made up of three stories written by the keyboard player, Attila Tanczer: The White Angel (tracks 1-4), Quiet Valley (tracks 5-8) and The Raven's Nest (tracks 9-15). When you put the CD in your computer, you can read those stories while listening to the music. I will not tell the stories here and let the people who get this to discover it themselves.

The band plays power/symphonic prog-metal with clear vocals seems to be the order of the day with some nice additions of the keyboards putting in some electronic sounds and other more exotic sounds. The songs are not too complex (and I am not sure they aimed to do so anyway), but they do deliver a dynamic experience, with the pulsating riffs and the melodic vocals and keyboards.

While they keep the structure of their songs in the usual frames, they do "go about" and let the instruments perform a solo or toy a bit with the music. But as a whole, it is tightly controlled, and they might consider allowing more room for development, more space to let the songs grow and break out of the mainframe, going beyond the pre-structured mold. Where it seems they let it "break out", it is not really the case, since it is a sort of pause allowing one of the instruments to have its solo spot; there is no real break or change in the format of the song.

Another thing is that there seems to be at times, some sense of repetition, as if I've heard this same riff and same musical passage in the previous song. That is, there should be more emphasis on the individuality of each particular song. This is not a major problem, but a minor issue which seemed to come back from time to time.

One more thing I find lacking is the bass which is too "hidden" from hearing and I could only make it out well in a part of Silent Wind where it had a nice line. The bass, when "let loose" can do wonders and add so much to the music, rather than just accompany it.

A nice feature I like about the band, apart from their catchy melodies, the playfulness and experimentation of the keyboards and their vigorous approach, is the richness of their sound, the volume of the music as it reaches my ears, which is something that is shared with other symphonic metal bands, as they're often called.

It is obvious that they know their stuff and what they like, but where the band truly shines is in tracks like Prelude which is the first part of "The Raven's Nest" story. This is an instrumental intro, which shows both their influences but their own sound as well. This shows more than in any other song, their progressive tendencies, their eagerness to go beyond the frame and boundaries they seem to be playing inside of in most of the other tracks.

Now, my view of this album is that it is good but nothing too special to make me recommend it wholeheartedly or with too much enthusiasm. I can recommend it specifically to people into this particular type of metal and maybe to several metal heads, given that they are inclined to this style. If someone asks for a recommendation for a symphonic/prog metal band, I'll probably mention them though not as first choice but otherwise if asked for prog-metal, this will not be the direction I will be thinking of.

Yes, it has its interesting features in each song, and some are better than others ("Run To My Fate", "Unbroken", "Can't Rain Forever" and "The Marching Of Time" are good examples), but that is just it. I find it to be a good album, but not much more. I can't say it's a great album, an excellent addition to your collection or anything of that sort. I can enjoy this, but it is not memorable. I am sure some will say this is an excellent and accomplished prog-metal, which I can understand, but not share the impression. What I can say is this: The Raven's Nest is a more than decent album, nicely executed, melodic and with high energy and it will appeal to fans of power/progressive metal. I might return to listen to it several more times in the future.

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Send comments to avestin (BETA) | Report this review (#141186)
Posted Sunday, September 30, 2007 | Review Permalink

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