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Shadow Gallery - Digital Ghosts CD (album) cover

DIGITAL GHOSTS

Shadow Gallery

Progressive Metal


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LiquidEternity
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars This is exciting! This is my first promo CD and pre-release review yet.

I must say, before Digital Ghosts, my only experience with Shadow Gallery are their albums Tyranny and Room V, both of which I enjoy but don't find that much above average on the whole. But with this new release, they've focused on the aspects of their music that I appreciate most, namely melody, harmony, and keeping the noodling contained within fitting places. The big news that most people are wondering, though, is what the band is going to do following the tragic loss of their former lead singer, Mike Baker. The answer, thankfully, is to take the material they've been working on and turn it into perhaps their strongest album yet, as a wonderfully fitting tribue to their lost friend--and even though his vocals were probably my favorite part of their music, they do amazingly well without him. Also, I may only have the promo copy, but the production and sound values appear to be very strong, well mixed, and colorful. The album moreover is a good fifteen, twenty minutes shorter than their usual, which makes each song that much more impactful on the whole: a move I really appreciate and agree with.

The album's first track, With Honor, is a vocal-dominated piece full of brilliant melody and wonderful vocal interplay. Marked by a catchy and deep chorus, I must say that any fears I had about the band going more instrumental in the absence of their good man Mike were dispelled right here. Also of note, it ends with a long section of strings and spacey quiet. Next comes Venom, quite reminiscent of Symphony X with the crunchy riffs, grumpy vocals, and wild flailing guitars. It's also like Symphony X in that the melodies are well done (truthfully, as I'm not a huge fan of Symphony X, I find this a superior song to any of theirs). Lots of progressive riffing and trading of lead vocals fill this track. Pain has a soft Queensryche feel, mostly due to the guest vocalist (beats me, though, which one it is). It does get heavier, though rarely picking up in speed. Some soloing does occur, and it kind of does kill the mood of the song. Little things like these are why the album is only four stars in my book, though this is a strongly recommended four stars. Just for the record.

Gold Dust is something of a classic Shadow Gallery track, with light metal verses (with kind of weak melodies), strong and punchy choruses that get stuck in your head, and some breaks for entertaining but a bit shallow of noodling. The rapid fire riff chugging adds some serious meat to the tune. Strong kicks off in similar fashion, launching straight into a guitar solo. However, the vocal melodies here are not only really fantastic, they are particularly unusual for Shadow Gallery (at least from the two other SG albums I've listened to). Also, I'm not sure who the lead vocalist is here (as there are quite a few listed and, well, prerelease digital copies don't say these things), bu he does some wild wailing in very unusual fashion--for Shadow Gallery anyways. A bit of noodling happens, but there are some powerful choral movements hidden in here as well, cheesy though they may be.

However, it's with the last two songs that the album really soars. Digital Ghost begins with a beautiful and passionate instrumental section that could have kicked off a twenty minute epic and not been out of place. Here, it just fashions an upshift in quality and aim as the band shoots for much more progressive and much less noodly metal approach. The chorus sounds very classically Shadow Gallery, and the harmonies are painfully pretty. Vocals absolutely dominate this track, and that is one hundred percent a good thing. And this time, rather than singularly metal instrumentation, we get a feel for jazz guitars in the middle and more of that wonderful classical piano as well. The concluding instrumental might be their most inspired yet. If all the album's tracks were on this level, not only would this be way in the lead for 2009, it might promote Shadow Gallery to one of my top band slots. Haunted opens, well, hauntingly, as dark chords and tormented vocals rise out of the quiet of the preceding song's conclusion. Again, we have more well-harmonied choir action. It's amazing how many strong voices they have among their ranks. This is the gentlest track on the album by a long shot, though it doesn't stay gentle for its whole length. They manage to make a powerful slow song in the vein of mid- to late-era Pink Floyd without sounding anything at all like Pink Floyd, a wonderful feat to say the least. These choruses, these vocals: chills. Absolutely amazing.

According to my limited experience, the best Shadow Gallery release ever. It's got a bit much noodling that ruins some of the moods, and a couple of the middle tracks are only pretty good and not great, but heed my words when I recommend this. It's not a five star review, but I want to promote it as such. Definitely grab this when you can.

Addendum: I've received a few questions about the drumming on this album. Namely, that the drummer is only credited as being the drummer on two tracks. Now, I'm not sure what the band did, but this does not sound like drum programming on any of the songs. Perhaps electric drums, perhaps, but definitely not a drum machine. That, or they are ten times the programmer to any other band or percussionist that I have ever come across.

Report this review (#241682)
Posted Saturday, September 26, 2009 | Review Permalink
debrewguy
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars As a comparative newcomer to Prog metal, I approached reviewing this promo copy of Digital Ghosts with some trepidation.

But, while I can't do an indepth overview using what little I know of most Prog Metal, I can still give it a good write-up from the perspective of the general prog fan.

So here goes ... you will find fiddly bits on guitar & keyboard as the stereotype that many identify as Prog Metal. But, to my ears, they feel natural, not just "solo time ! watch me fly" !

Over the course of the album, I hear influences ranging from Queen (the guitar playing in With Honor & Digital Ghost for example), some Kansas in much of the composition and arrangements, some Megadeth with a mellower attitude as on Venom, and even some Styx in their ability to present infectious Pop-worthy melodies. You can catch some Queensryche with keyboard moments, here & there.

In some cases, I found they shared a quality with Shadow Circus, their american prog compatriot - they allow themselves to make a joyous noise, happy prog, entertainment for the estethe if you will without being elitist.

Now if you're like me, and the furthest you've dipped your toes into Prog Metal is Dream Theater, this album can be a great way to open your ears to what is out there. I found Digital Ghosts to have more to it than just Prog Metal influences. I hear some Symphonic , some Neo, some commercial and crossover prog. Built on a base of solid prog metal, but surely of interest to fans outside that genre.

Well worth the time to those who are looking to step outside their usual preferred genres, and also to those who like their prog metal with mucho melody.

And for those who are curious but unsure whether they should spend their hard earned money on this album, you can always check out the samples found on the band's official site http://www.shadowgallery.com/. If you like that, the album will not disappoint.

Report this review (#243132)
Posted Monday, October 5, 2009 | Review Permalink
JLocke
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars When I received my review copy of ''Digital Ghosts'' from InsideOut, I was both excited and worried. Excited, because I had never gotten an advance copy of anything for review before, and so I felt rather cool and professional, but worried because I have had quite a love-hate relationship with Prog Metal over the years, and Shadow Gallery's music has never touched my ears until this was sent to me. Truly, I did not know what to expect, and if I would just be honest with myself, I was partly dreading it. I was afraid that I would despise the record, and therefore have to scathe my very first review copy. Feeling like an ass isn't something I enjoy, but I am also very honest about my feelings on matters (especially music!), and so I bit the bullet and gave ''Digital Ghosts'' a try.

Luckily, I did not hate the album. In fact, I quite liked it. I am reminded of the earlier days of Dream Theater, while also being surprised by the sheer originality present in the epic, heartfelt music the album has to offer. I'm not saying there isn't the typical slice of cheese to go along with the music, here; there certainly are moments I could have done without, but as a complete piece, Shadow Gallery's latest album delivers in strides.

I have no point of reference regarding the band's earlier works, but I was told that a new singer is featured here, due to the untimely death of Mike Baker, the original lead vocalist. I have no idea how his voice compares to this new guy, but all I can say is that I am impressed. Not too showy at all, just the right balance between emotional and bombastic, this guy knows exactly when to belt it out, and when to tone it down to best suit the songs.

The same can be said of all of the other guys in the band. I rarely heard a lot of over-the-top playing, here. Oh, certainly some top- notch playing, no doubt, but I never felt as if I were standing in the middle of a shredding contest where the goal is speed rather than soul. Now, most Prog Metal I have heard is crap-- shoddy rehashes of past Dream Theater classics with a few riffs switched around and absolutely no heart in the songwriting. This wasn't the case here, however. For me, this album is a great example of what good Prog Metal is actually capable of. Again, I can't judge any of their other works, but as far as I am concerned, ''Digital Ghosts' is a Shadow Gallery album that everybody should listen to if you're on the fence about this band, or the genre in general. It's a prime example of prog done right. Innovation, not duplication. Finally, Pain Of Salvation is no longer alone in this regard!

Report this review (#246124)
Posted Saturday, October 24, 2009 | Review Permalink
3 stars Like many recent "Prog Metal" bands, Shadow Gallery is full of ups and downs. However, Digitial Ghosts just may have moments that take you to heights where you might want to freeze forever, as well as enough downright ridiculous moments to make you wish the album was half it's length. To be honest, prog metal and complexity has never really interested me, but this band has "that undeniable element" of sincerity that pulls them miles ahead of their metal peers. It really is a shame that the band seems to feel tied down to the basics (and cliches) of their less creative counterparts. A great example of this is the section of Haunted (a shameless mixture of the absolute best and worst moments on the album) where after an incredible climatic dark buildup, it takes an amazing turn in a melodic and powerful style "Maybe I will trade these wings for a life where I am stronger and a life where there's no sleepless nights" emphasized powerfully by Ashland, definately one of the most talented vocalists I have ever heard... and then, a shred guitar solo and a synthesizer duel, completely out of place. The vocal and instrumental arrangements on this album can be truly amazing (In With Honor there is an acapella section with incredibly well thought out 5 way vocal harmonies) and Brian Ashland is freaking incredible, displaying a range of over 4 octaves, which he uses in a completely unpretentious and heartfelt way. This band has so much potential, and I hope to see them move in new directions in later releases. (Also, Two Shadows, sung by Mike Baker, is a bonus track available on the Digipak, and it's by far the best thing this band has ever put out)
Report this review (#246759)
Posted Tuesday, October 27, 2009 | Review Permalink
3 stars I'm happy with this release over all I think Shadow Gallery did a fine job with this CD considering... The late Mike Baker was one of the finest voices in prog metal (if not the finest !) and simply can't be replaced easily so to a certain degree Shadow Gallery had to take a chance on a new singer and continue on, the results aren't outstanding but the new singer is capable and fits in with the brand of prog metal Shadow Gallery plays more or less. With such a drastic thing like not having Mike Baker on vocals has left a hole, I can't deny it but the song writing on Digital Ghosts is good and consistent and the music is amazing in places. I see this as a work in progress, I believe that by the next CD all the pieces will come together but for now I have a few areas of concern with Digital Ghosts primarily the vocals , at times I wish the singing would shut up and some of the drumming done by Gary Wehrkamp (who isn't normally listed as Shadow Gallery's drummer ?) sounded a tad unprofessional, plenty of the same cluttered drum fills that start to get on my nerves reminding me of Ben Timely the drum machine from the first Shadow Gallery CD, still decent but not up to Shadow Gallery's normal high standards that stop Digital Ghosts being in the same class as Room V or Tyranny.
Report this review (#246762)
Posted Tuesday, October 27, 2009 | Review Permalink
5 stars My first review and I'm a bit biased being a huge Shadow Gallery fan but after about 20 listenings of this CD I feel compelled to offer my .02˘ worth. First I was devastated to hear of Mike Baker's untimely passing. Because of this I awaited the release of this CD with both hope and trepidation. Too many times in the past when a band continues after the loss of a key member the result is such a let down. I can assure you that if you were a Shadow Gallery fan previously, this CD will not disappoint! In my opinion what makes Shadow Gallery 'Shadow Gallery' is still intact on this CD. To me Shadow Gallery was as much Vocal arrangements, melodies & harmonies as it was musically and all of that is still present on this CD. Another worry I had was because of their previous CD "Room V". While Room V is a fantastic CD in it's own right, Room V always felt to me like a lot of rehashing of stuff they already did on their previous CDs. That didn't stop me from listening to it a billion times but that slight disappointment was always there. This worry was also for naught. This CD feels so new and fresh yet there are still moments that will remind you of their past work. The perfect mixture (in my opinion)

The addition of Brian Ashland is such a no brainer after listening to this CD. At times he almost sounds like Mike and at other times he reminds me a lot of Geoff Tate (of queensryche) and still at other times like neither. He has a very powerful, emotional voice and simply put it fits very well within the Shadow Gallery world. Overall Digital Ghosts seems a little bit harder edge then previous CD's. This could all be an illusion (as there are still plenty of melodic acoustic parts) but it seems Gary does a bit more shredding on this CD. However it never feels like he is doing it to show off his talent, it always feels like its the perfect fit for the point of the song they are in. Gary's keyboard work is also outstanding on this CD! From piano twinkling to organ filler, to keyboard shredding. All in perfect moderation for what is needed to make the song work. Joe's (and/or Gary's) drumming is another thing I love on this CD. They (with Carl) drive the music where it needs to go through key changes, tempo changes, what have you. I would love to see these guys do this CD live! (I don't know which 2 songs Joe drums on but it seems seemless to me with Gary's tracks.)

ok, enough gushing. song by song with a disclaimer. I'm not sure where the guest vocalists are used so I'm going to just assume (for thr benefit of this review) that it is all Brian. If you know whom is whom, just pretend I used the correct name ;-)

"With Honor" is a good "classic" Shadow Gallery Opener. it has all the points you've come to expect from previous CD's. Guitar & key shredding, great introduction to the fans of Brian's vocal abilities, all the guys vocal harmonizing (around the 5:30 mark). The song starts off loud, quiets down slowly builds back up, some temp changes. A 10 minute classic SG song.

"Venom" One of the harder songs on the CD. Hard driving and Brian's vocal's at points seem like he'd like to break into a death growl (but never does thank God!). A very enjoyable song and I love the way it ends with the keyboard repeat & fade.

"Pain" Starts off with piano and acoustic guitar.. very quiet, very melodic. When Brian begins to sing, here is one of the times he reminds me of Geoff Tate. Carl's flute add's just the right accents in just the right places. Vocal harmonies in the chorus are classic SG and will remind you of previous songs without duplicating any of them. The second half of the song never returns to the quiet beginnings but moves and develops nicely so it ends with nice build up and send off.

"Gold Dust" The vocal harmonies in this will again remind you of previous SG songs but the song itself is a nice hard driving song. Lots of tasteful guitar work, Brian again reminding me of Geoff, nice keyboard work towards the end.

"Strong" There is no real break between Gold Dust and Strong other then your CD changer changing track numbers but they are 2 different songs. You can look at them as a 13 minute long epic if you'd like. Brian's (or perhaps one of the guests vocalists) voice (for some odd reason I have yet to pin down) starts off reminding me a little bit of old Alice Cooper but that quickly changes as the song progresses. The song has a nice see-saw rhythm that just makes you want to tap your foot or bob your head or whatever. The song speeds up about half way through into another classic SG keyboard/guitar solo with Joe & Carl constantly moving you along with them. great stuff.

"Digital Ghosts" A 9 1/2 minute masterpiece and My favorite song on the CD. Song has everything I love about SG and Prog metal in general. it really is hard to put in words but listening to this one song is like listening to an entire concept album. Very melodic. The vocal arrangements, harmonies and melodies in this song are simply outstanding. when this songs ends you truly felt you just finished a journey of sorts. Gary and/or Brendt really shines on this song starting with keys around the 6:30 minute mark and continuing into guitar work past the 8 minute mark. At one point I even hear a little Frank Gambale. Anyway, best song the CD imo.

"Haunted" Starts out Quiet and then either Gary or Brendt channel Brian May for a spell before the song begins building up. A very good end to the CD with Joe closing it out with a repeating beat.

The 4 bonus songs add a lot to the CD too!

"Two Shadows" I believe this is the first of Mike's lasts songs. Very melodic. mostly acoustic & symphonic and a very beautiful song.

"Gold Dust (Demo)" A slightly different version of the main song but what this and the next song do is give you a sense that your listening to a concept CD due to the reoccurring melodies from the original songs.

"In Your Window" I am SOOOO glad they added this song to the CD. I believe they took the vocal tracks from Digital Ghosts and placed them here. You can really hear how much work and talent went into just laying down these vocal tracks for the bigger song 'Digital Ghosts' Again it gives you the feel of a concept CD hearing them again in this new light.

"World of Fantasy (Demo)" The second bonus song with Mike singing. Opening with simply Piano and Mike singing it really reminds me of some older Shadow Gallery songs. Mike really had a nice melodic voice. He will be missed. Anyway the song continues in a nice quiet melodic way, drums slowly entering around the 2:30 minute mark. I wonder how much of the song was complete and how much was added posthumously, regardless it is another quiet, lovely song.

if your a Shadow Gallery fan, I can't recommend this CD enough. if you a prog metal fan who likes a lot of melody and doesn't mind slowing down occasionally, you will like this CD. if you like your metal more towards the death metal genre, your probably not going to enjoy it as much.

The only disappointment I have with this CD is knowing I'll probably have to wait another 4 years for the next.... and already... I can hardly wait. Cheers!

Report this review (#247176)
Posted Thursday, October 29, 2009 | Review Permalink
3 stars I love Shadow Gallery. IMHO, Room V and Tyranny ranked among the best prog metal album in this decade. This album however is a big disappointment of this year. I must admit that I'm a bit too skeptical. Maybe it's because the great expectation, maybe I familiarized myself too much with Mike Baker's voice, maybe I don't like prog metal anymore...I don't know. I tried almost 20 spins and all I know is this album is a lame sub-par prog metal.

The new singer, Brian Ashland, is apparently not good enough- actually he is not even a good vocalist. Trying to imitate Mike's singing style, the new singer sounds pathetic. Shadow Gallery used to be a great combination of a gifted and emotional singer, uniquely melodic songs and beautiful arrangement. Now what is left is a lame, old school, haired-band singer in the more heavy wanna-be music. It is too sad that even there are some resemblances in vocal melody, it just in a complete different quality. It's like when you see The Shawshank Redemption once and then you put...lets say...Tom Cruise in the role of Tim Robbins on the second run (Even a camel can act better than Cruise!).

The music is okay, not outstanding. A bit pretentious, it's like the musicians are trying to rock harder.

It's a lame flavor but I'll give them another try on the next release, if any. For me, this album goes directly to eBay. 3 stars for an okay album

Report this review (#247404)
Posted Saturday, October 31, 2009 | Review Permalink
Tarcisio Moura
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars I still don´t know why Shadow Gallery haven´t reached a broader audience and be as famous and praised as, say, Dream Theatre or Symphoniy X. Those guys have everyhting needed for a band to be huge: terrific musicanship, excellent songwriting team, tasteful arrangements, a great sense of melody and good production. And more than that actually: a personality of their own and a fantastic and very unique vocal harmony style. And still they are not so well known. To top that their vocalist and original member Mike Baker died of a heart attack last year.

So I wasn´t expecting much from this new CD. I thought it might be a transitional album and in some ways it is. But it is also as good as their other excellent latter releases! Their mix of traditional heavy metal riffs, symphonic prog and wonderful melodies is intact. One thing those guys know is to make a record that pleases both the HM fans and the prog ones. It always takes a long time for them to record a new CD, bu boy, do they do it well! They know how to balance the heavy guitars with great melodies, soaring keyboards, unsual vocal harmonies and wonderful solos done by the mastermind Gary Wehrkamp (the guy is simply a genius!).New singer Brian Ashland is very good and versatile too: his voice is very fitting on all the tracks on which he sings, heavy or otherwise (a couple of the new ones were recorded with guests voclaists Ralf Scheepers (Primal Scream) and Clay Barton). But Ashland proves to be the right choice for Shadow Gallery.

Unlike their previous works, Digital Ghosts does not seem to be a concept album after all, although the theme of loss is present on most songs, for obvious reasons. All the tracks are good and varied, as usual. Heavy moments and slower ones, but all very melodic, strong and convincing. This is the kind of band that wastes no single note when they are recording. Everything fits like glove here. But be sure to get the digi pack issue, that includes four extra songs. Two of them are demos from tracks ended up on the final CD in different versions and includerecordings of the late singer Baker. But the real jewel is the song In Your Window, totally sung a capella (only voices, with no instrumental backing). They prove they are more than just excelent instrumentists. Brilliant!

Conclusion: another winner from this fantastic band taht should have more exposure than they are getting. After such a tragic loss, they come back with a very strong CD that shows that the sum of the parts is actually bigger than the individual talents of each member. RAting: something between 4 and 4,5 stars. Highly recommended.

Report this review (#248118)
Posted Wednesday, November 4, 2009 | Review Permalink
5 stars How do we define a musical masterpiece? I am listening to Mozart's Symphony No. 40 in G minor as I write this review. Many critics will hail this (along with No. 41) as the pinnacle of his genius and it is clearly one of the most brilliant pieces of music ever written. Too often reviewers force music into a singular stylistic expression, often referred to as genre. Then a musician or a group of musicians refuse to remain within the critically prescribed limits of the style in which they have been so inexpertly placed. Shadow Gallery is one of these groups and Digital Ghosts is their Symphony No. 40.

A great musical journey is like a boat ride on a river. You glide along, enter the rapids, hold on for dear life, the cliffs tower above you, the waves spill over onto your lap, and then you pass into a gentler current that carries you past vineyards, farms and small cottages that dot the landscape. You do not notice if you are wet or hungry, the river flows and you become one with the river. Digital Ghosts is a great river of music flowing onward and Shadow Gallery is the current that carries you along. When the album ends, you find yourself in a new place, deeply affected by your experience, eager for the next ride!

As Mozart was deeply influenced by the contemporaries of his day, so is Shadow Gallery influenced by their contemporaries. Their musical influences reads like a Utopian festival of the greater and greatest bands of all time. Queen, YES, Pink Floyd, Brian Wilson, Supertramp, Kansas, Patrick Moraz, Metallica, Van Halen, Keith Jarret, Tangerine Dream are all on this stage. Mozart, Chopin, Lennon, and especially Mike Baker smile down from the heavens. Mike is all over this music- a ghost navigator on a wonderful river journey.

No, this review isn't like the rest here.. I am denying you the pigeon hole. Shadow Gallery's music expands beyond metal and prog and neo and symphonic and becomes something greater than the pieces of prog standards that other reviewers require for musical legitimacy. Shadow Gallery is not influenced by Dream Theater and Symphony X, they are the influencer's- the pioneers of placing every note where it should be, every melody where it belongs, blending harmonies with emotion, words with effects- water and current, passage and scenery- this is a journey and Digital Ghosts is a great wonder in the musical world.

Think about this- Shadow Gallery lost their singer, but he was never their voice- he was part of the greater whole and he is still a part of this masterpiece and Brian Ashland, a reluctant vocalist who prefers guitar becomes another part of the grand machinery- creating music that defines a genre by defying its boundaries, album after album- each a separate symphony- each a different river to journey upon. While all rivers share a common element, water, and a common direction, to the Sea and are alike in this way- so they are also each one different and unique. Digital Ghosts is the finest Shadow Gallery has ever created from the springs of their musical talent. They have reached their pinnacle.

With Digital Ghosts, SG has created a symphony of movements, each song as beautiful and stunning as the next, beautiful to listen to from the beginning to the last fading drumbeat. Coldplay does not create like this. Linkin Park is a see-saw ride at best. Dream Theater repeatedly docks their boat so they can show you how great they can play. There is none of that nonsense here. Noodles? There are noodles in Campbell's Chicken soup but not in Digital Ghosts. Every note is where it belongs, placed with perfection, with the prefect touch of emotion to relay the desired meaning of each song.

Sing along to the bawdy soldier's chorus in "With Honor". Get infected with "Venom" Feel the "Pain" of "Gold Dust", stand up "Strong" and then when you look behind you, you will see a shadow in the back of the boat, and "Digital Ghosts" are upon you, leaving you "Haunted".

From their Molto Allegro of "With Honor" to the Allegro Assai of "Haunted", Shadow Gallery has brought us another great symphony for our time. Drop your swords of genre and shields of egocentricity and climb aboard...there is a great river to ride here.

Report this review (#248333)
Posted Thursday, November 5, 2009 | Review Permalink
5 stars The very first note of this album will capture you completely & won't let go--from the lofty harmonies through the driving beats & furious guitar solos to the exquisite finish, "Digital Ghosts, the new album from Shadow Gallery, is a revelation.

I'm a huge fan of music. I have a decent & ever-growing collection of music...listening to shuffle on my playlist can make you feel a little crazy. However, there's a paucity of progressive rock in that collection of classical, rock, pop, blues & even a zydeco CD. I've listened to some Rush & know a couple songs but not many. I've heard of Yes & Dream Theater but couldn't tell you anything about them. So how do I come to be reviewing "Digital Ghosts" a week before the North American debut? Hold on before you go get your pitchforks & torches (yes, I can hear the SG faithful rustling & murmuring). The truth is I'm a major fan! In fact, after really giving a listen I talked to the friend who had turned me on to Shadow Gallery & asked, "How did I go this long without listening to this"?

I first picked up on the buzz on Twitter (follow Shadow Gallery @shadowgallerymu) & decided I needed to find out what all the chatter was about. So being the curious girl I am I fired up my Google & off I went. Long story short I hit up their website www.shadowgallery.com & read some of the background etc. (ok I read the whole site) and I went to Youtube & searched out anything they had (you can subscribe to Shadow Gallery's channel at www.youtube.com/shadowgallerymusic). Finally, I went to Grooveshark & created a playlist of every SG song available...and put it on repeat. After two days of non- stop SG at work I was hooked. Since then I've kept up with every announcement, video teaser & mp3 clip.

So on to the album!

"Digital Ghosts" is nothing short of perfection. The vocals are rich & layered with harmony throughout. Brian Ashland's voice lends itself effortlessly to the soaring heights of the music. He's an excellent choice to provide the lead vocals going forward. The music is everything you'd expect from these guys. There's not one false moment throughout the entire album. Not only have Gary Werhkamp, Carl Cadden-James, Brendt Allman & Brian Ashland lived up to the expectations & hype; they have surpassed it. These guys have taken progressive/symphonic rock/metal & flown to the stratosphere.

"With Honor" kicks off this powerful, emotional ride with anthemic music & lush harmony. Setting the tone "...foreign lands of sinking sands so strange & unfamiliar...holding to the code of honor we vowed to defend....with honor we will not walk away...." this song reaches out & shakes you awake. It is a non-stop ride into "Venom", a classic guitar-fueled metal song with the gritty vocals of Clay Barton (Suspyre) & Carl Cadden-James. It growls "I am the bringer of the rain and the foreteller of the pain, the end of days is near at hand/when God returns your just reward gets paid in metal". Then proving that any expectations are there to be shattered, SG starts "Pain" with a quiet, ballad-style guitar & stripped down vocals before adding in thudding drums & a truly excellent melt-your-face guitar solo. Here Shadow Gallery digs deep into the sense of loss & pain to which we can all relate. "Clinging on so tight/I bled my hands/I draw the shades & hang my head...love's the air I need to breathe...on the battlefield you were never there beside me..." From there "Gold Dust" swells with synthesized keyboards and hope. It's filled with the promise of reuniting across time & space with a loved one--"You & I lie awake for hours separated by the world/well I can't see you ~ you can't see me but somehow I can feel you stand inside my soul". Creating a feeling of flight in spirit "moonbeams on my ways & always in my skies...you float/you're a dream/you take my hand and we roam/we run, we rock 'cuz you are the one" Shadow Gallery takes us on a cosmic trip.

The second half of the album opens "Strong"-- which is a good old-fashioned rock song. Exploding with all of Shadow Gallery's musical strength "young & proud/hard & loud/ on the wing/everything/what gives you strength/what gives you courage for tomorrow...concrete running through our veins...in the dark/from the heart". When the chorus of "One for all, All for One" starts up it's impossible not to raise a fist & make the vow. In the title track, "Digital Ghost", the band evokes hope in the face of grief. The opening cadence creates the feeling of a drum line...Shadow Gallery is marching forward & we are privileged to be invited along. The band expresses vividly the idea that there is more out there than what we can see. "I believe in the afterlife...through Heaven's hallowed hall...charismatic countenance upon a distant fading sky". "Ashes to ashes they say, then dust to dust...the circle remains here my friend, guarded with trust...we will suffer no last goodbye" reaffirms the sense that those we have lost (like Mike Baker) are still with us in mighty spirit. Closing out this powerhouse album is "Haunted". Another song that starts slowly with a lone piano & simple vocals "who waits for me/who waits so long/and shall I wait for dawn...or shall I sink into myself..." Looking for answers among all the questions that haunt the quiet dark nights yet "Maybe in time I'll fly away & trade these wings in for a life/a life where I am stronger and a place where there's no sleepless nights...". The lyrics are filled with longing that is compounded as the song fades out.

Each song is a testament to the true genius of these guys--a showcase for their mighty talents and yet you are never left with a sense that any of them are "showing off". The lyrics are powerful & stirring. My favorite tracks are "Pain", "Digital Ghosts" & "Haunted" but there isn't a track I don't like. Although the overall tone of the album is somewhat dark & deals with "loss" as a general theme it is also a steadfast statement for moving forward in the face of loss. I defy you to listen, truly listen & not walk away feeling stronger & better for it. The music & lyrics combine to form a sublime experience that will live inside listeners long after they turn the CD off. In the words of Shadow Gallery it is indeed filled with "enduring anthems crossing time & crossing minds".

*Author's Note* all lyrics are used with permission of Shadow Gallery © 2009

Report this review (#248431)
Posted Friday, November 6, 2009 | Review Permalink
5 stars When listening to it the first time it was not until the ending of the entitled song, when i realized that 46minutes had passed and my feeling was that i was still in the beginning of the album and said to me- this song is just one more way to end of the album, wow, do not let this satisfaction end...! Inevitably the album ended with Haunted, but after that inevitably i turned the cd back to the beginning and so on... It is one week listening to the album and the only thing i can say is a very big BRAVO!!! Shadow Gallery achieved whatever Dream Theater were thinking for Black Clouds And Silver Linings, but the latter was quite far from what DT wanted, unfortunately... This one is going to be played for many years on,count on this prediction, while Black Clouds is in my opinion already heading for the roads of oblivion... Bravo, Shadow Gallery!
Report this review (#248457)
Posted Friday, November 6, 2009 | Review Permalink
Nightfly
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Having seen the name of Shadow Gallery around over the last few years and taken little notice I decided it was time to take the plunge and give them a chance on their new album Digital Ghosts. How this new album with new singer Brian Ashland compares to older material with their late frontman Mike Baker who died a year ago of a heart attack I couldn't say. This does however give me the opportunity to take it on it's own terms rather than comparing it to past glories and what I can say is I'm very glad I bought this cd as it's a really excellent prog metal album.

Shadow Gallery will undoubtedly appeal to fans of the likes of Dream Theater and Symphony X. The standard of musicianship is excellent with much guitar shredding for those who like that sort of thing. Along with the high octane instrumental workouts expected in the prog metal genre, Shadow Gallery can add another string to their bow with a strong emphasis on melody and excellent use of harmony backing vocals, which could give them wider appeal and an audience with people who aren't normally into the metallic side of things. New singer Brian Ashland is a fine vocalist in the Geoff Tate of Queensrhyche vein and works well with the backing vocal contributions of the rest of the band.

The music is often complex but not at the expense of melody, more so when they move into one of their often extended instrumental workouts, none better than title track Digital Ghosts where the band really show what fine musical chops they have. The music throughout constantly shifts from the more bombastic metal elements into more light and shade moments and does take a few plays to reveal its secrets but once discovered it makes a captivating and exhilarating listen. Particularly enjoyable is Gold Dust winning my award for strongest melody on the album alongside some fine playing. Also unlike many prog metal bands the keyboards are pleasingly given plenty of space, playing a key role rather than being merely used for texture and colour.

Overall then an excellent album highly recommended to prog metal fans that are partial to strong melodies. I'm pleased to have bought an album by Shadow Gallery at long last, my only regret being I left it so long to do so. I'll certainly be investigating their back catalogue.

Report this review (#250485)
Posted Saturday, November 14, 2009 | Review Permalink
Windhawk
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Digital Ghosts is the latest creation from US act Shadow Gallery, and their first production since the tragic loss of their former vocalist Mike Baker.

As this is a band I really haven't listened much to previously I don't know how new singer Brian Ashland compares to Baker, but he comes across as a good and versatile vocalist - perhaps a tad steeped in metal traditions but with a fine set of pipes. And with enough scope to cover the stylistic variations on this album.

The core of the music on this production are vintage progressive metal. Drawn out riffs and riff patterns at times heaviuly embellished with keyboard textures of a symphonic nature. But while many tracks draws upon the stylistic elements first laid down by Rainbow and later further developed by Yngwie Malmsteen's Rising Force and Symphony X, Shadow Gallery adds a few dimensions of their own to the proceedings. Vocal harmonies for starters, where influences from both The Beatles and Yes are easily detected.

Musically the scope is rather extensive too. The songs shifts back and forth in pace, style and intensity, and unlike many other progressive metal bands Shadow Gallery seems to be fond of venturing forth towards neo progressive territories rather than other metal-based expressions. Those familiar with acts such as The Flower Kings and Transatlantic should be able to detect themes and passages with a great deal of similarity to those artists - even if those sequences may have more of a metal coating in this particular case.

All in all it is a well made effort, and while there aren't too many moments of pure brilliance - limited to the songs Venom and Strong in my opinion - the rest of the tracks are all intriguing excursions without any notable weaknesses as such.

Report this review (#257816)
Posted Saturday, December 26, 2009 | Review Permalink
progrules
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars It was only logical for me to buy this unexpected new release by SG when I found out about its existence. I mean, I own all their previous albums and through the years they only increased in quality in my opinion so why not go for this one as well ? And still it was a bit of a gamble because of Mike Baker's death last year and the shock it meant for the fans. And a fan is certainly what I would like to call myself despite the fact SG is not my most favourite band ever.

What I noticed pretty soon after a couple of spins is the variation in style between all songs. Well, ok, SG was never a dull monotonous band, they always had a great balance between power ballads and heavy songs but on this Digital Ghosts album the variation is huge. Opener With Honor sounds surprisingly familiar, the usual style you might say and I was pleased to hear that. But I wouldn't want to call it a rip off from their earlier material. Somehow they also manage to sound new and this also goes for the other tracks. Of course new vocalist Brian Ashland has a lot to do with this but besides that the band has taken a slightly new direction as a whole as well. With Honor isn't a very rough song but it's not a ballad either. Somewhere in between but most of all it's a very fine composition. With second track Venom they apparently had to prove they still have the balls as well, in that case the title is well chosen. Probably the loudest track on the album and comparable with the same titled song by Symphony X. Around the 3:40 mark of the song it even sounds a lot like the other great prog metallists, very striking ! Pain starts as a ballad but after a minute a touch of power is coming in. Overall it's a pretty quiet song but not in the vein of their splendid ballads on Room V. But for sure another great track. 4th Track Gold Dust again scores right in between a power ballad and a metal song. Somehow this song reminds me of their Tyranny release (3rd album) and I believe it's one of the strongest songs on this album, if not the very best. A great keyboard passage towards the six minute mark certainly helps for this positive feeling. Strong (5th track) takes care of a superb follow up to keep the fantastic flow of the album going. By now I'm convinced the band has succeeded with this 6th album and was right by going on after Mikes death. Title track Digital Ghost is another proof of that, another wonderful song and great composition. The chorus is coming back in one of the bonus tracks and sounds a bit annoying there but in this song it fits very well. Near the end of this long track the band suddenly sounds a lot like Ice Age with their fast guitar play. Last track of the original album is yet another half ballad, that is for the first half of the song. Second half is much more up tempo and isn't ballad-like at all. But it's absolutely a tremendous finish of a great album.

The bonus tracks that happen to be a part of my edition are a bit disappointing to be honest (especially In Your Window). Except for Two Shadows, one of the tracks that feature Mike Baker. If I would count them for the rating they would even push the verdict towards a three star possibility. But that wouldn' be really fair and I usually leave them out for my judgment. The 7 original tracks are really good enough for the four stars and remarkably enough this is the score they got from all prog reviewers so far. (Most of) the guest reviewers are somewhat more enthusiastic even but I don't feel this is a masterpiece like Room V. So 4 stars is ultimately the only outcome I can think of.

Report this review (#272710)
Posted Thursday, March 18, 2010 | Review Permalink
5 stars First of all I should say, Rest in Peace, Mike. I think this Album is what the fans have been waiting for! Excellent ideas and melodies once again, a very good replacement voice (although we will always miss Mike!), and of course when I first heard that Mike had some part in this album before his death I literally got the chills!! It is the most appropriate tittle for this CD! We were given the opportunity to listen to Mike for the last time and it is simply glorious!!!! I would recommend you all to buy this album like I did and not just download it. It is a must have for every prog fan's collection.
Report this review (#284425)
Posted Tuesday, June 1, 2010 | Review Permalink
2 stars Digital Ghosts ? 2009 (2.4/5) 8 ? Best Song: Venom (not counting the terribly rotten snarling turtle voice near the end)

Why continue on? In the four years between Room V and this, their lead vocalist Mike Baker died. Instead of calling quits like any mediocre band with respect would, they decide to continue on, and who do they enlist to replace poor Baker? Some shmuck by the name of Brian Ashland, who sounds like your typical power metal yelper, which means he sounds strong and bold, but has absolutely no emotion in his voice. It can't be tender or resonant, just blood-pumping, and that's when the band decides to back him properly, but like with the opener 'With Honor', the band is still going through the same soft-hard predictable motions. Now there's a little more verve to the forced diversity, and they make sure to beat that harmonizing horse until it's a rotting carcass. The band can still rock pretty hard, which is what I liked about 'Venom'. It doesn't go anywhere, and the songwriting has taken a real hit, but at least the new guy fits better into their power prog approach, unless he's making an absolute fool of himself, sounding like a goddamn teenage mutant ninja turtle. Kowabunga, dude! I like flute playing, sure I do. But you'd think if they're going to use them, they'd do the instrument judgement. With 'Two Shadows' the flute accompaniment might as well not have existed. It's your typical 'emotive' (by that I mean gimmicky) ballad. Again, I can't fault their playing ability ? it's decent enough, but they, even after the dissolution of the band's peak, have still yet to figure in subtlety and excitement into their concoction.

Report this review (#441814)
Posted Monday, May 2, 2011 | Review Permalink
SouthSideoftheSky
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Symphonic Team
2 stars With honor

After the previous Room V album, Mike Baker sadly passed away and left Shadow Gallery without a lead vocalist. They bravely soldiered on however and recorded this album, their last to date. The album opens with the superb, 10 minute With Honor featuring delightful Yes-like harmony vocals and Steve Howe-like guitar. Venom is a more straightforward Metal tune and not particularly interesting. Pain shifts back and forth between piano-based balladry and a simple heavy riff. The vocal performance on this song is sublime (reminding of Mike Baker's best moments), but the simplicity of the main riff subtracts from the song's overall value. It comes across as something like an average latter-day Deep Purple track! Gold Dust has some very nice keyboard parts but again the song as a whole is merely good and not too special. Strong continues in a similar fashion with a rather conventional riff. Don't get me wrong, all of these songs are indeed enjoyable - but it almost constantly feels as if you've heard it all before.

Not until the title track are we again approaching the quality of the very good opening track. These tracks are longer and more progressive than the tracks in the middle. There is in these longer tracks a Symphonic Prog influence as well as a certain jazziness. Haunted is a nice piano based semi-ballad with strong vocals, but again not too special or original.

This album is as good as Room V, but far behind earlier greats like Carved In Stone, Tyranny and Legacy.

Report this review (#590692)
Posted Sunday, December 18, 2011 | Review Permalink

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