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Discipline - Unfolded Like Staircase CD (album) cover

UNFOLDED LIKE STAIRCASE

Discipline

Symphonic Prog


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Marcelo
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars The strong mellotronic melancholy from the first KING CRIMSON meeting the dark emotivity from VDGG. Beautiful melodies, darkness, nostalgy and lots of Mellotron plus sax and violin making a very brilliant work, with very high points in "Canto IV" and the epic 22 minutes "Into The Dream". One of the best '90s albums. Highly recommended.

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Send comments to Marcelo (BETA) | Report this review (#1764)
Posted Saturday, December 20, 2003 | Review Permalink
ProgLucky
FORUM & SITE ADMIN GROUP
The Founder of Progarchives.com
5 stars Grand 2nd disc by US band influence by VDGG/early GENESIS. "Unfolded Like Staircase", boasts three fifteen-minute songs including the brilliant "Canto IV" (Limbo), as well as a twenty-two minute epic entitled "Into the Dream". All of the songs are long epics, and complex in a slow, seventies-GENESIS way. A CLASSIC - 65 minutes of super recommended stuff ! All I can say is if you haven't already bought this album... BUY IT NOW!!!

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Send comments to ProgLucky (BETA) | Report this review (#1762)
Posted Monday, December 22, 2003 | Review Permalink
Sean Trane
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Prog Folk
3 stars when I bought it as it came out , I thought it was great but as I repeatedly listened to it the less I was enthoused by it as again everything on here is borrowed from somewhere and not much of their own personalities transpires through.

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Send comments to Sean Trane (BETA) | Report this review (#1765)
Posted Wednesday, March 03, 2004 | Review Permalink
loserboy
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars Great epic prog release from these lads from the US! This is 60 minutes of some of the '90's most powerful progressive work yet! Unfolded is a very dark album and DISCIPLINE create long dark passages through which we are transcended into. The lyrics are deep and deal with modern themes like relationships and power struggles. All musicianship is of the highest calibre and songs are exceptionally well constructed. The cd houses 4 nice and long songs which are allowed to develop at their own pace. This will no doubt become a prog classic in the year to come and is highly recommended.

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Send comments to loserboy (BETA) | Report this review (#1766)
Posted Saturday, March 13, 2004 | Review Permalink
Steve Hegede
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars "Unfolded Like Staircase" is one of the best prog albums to come out in the 1990s. The music here is symphonic (colorful), dramatic, and majestic. It is at times soft and uneasy, and at other times aggressive and confident. Some noticeable influences include VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR's Peter HAMMILL, and GENESIS. But it also sounds like the band has dozens of other influences. The level of complexity here never reaches the levels of other modern bands like ÄNGLAGARD or DREAM THEATER, yet it's complex enough to keep the music interesting and flowing. The band is skilled at creating very memorable themes. These themes have that classic, timeless, quality which makes the album standout. Of course, "Unfolded Like Staircase" isn't always consistent. A 50-minute CD would have been perfect, but at around 70-minutes some of the later epics start to drag a bit. Overall, though, that's a minor complaint. You can expect an impressive album of modern progressive rock.

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Send comments to Steve Hegede (BETA) | Report this review (#1767)
Posted Monday, March 22, 2004 | Review Permalink
lor68
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Very influenced by the dark style of Peter HAMMILL (VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR-era), it's characterized also by interesting parts performed at such excellent "Mellotron-keyboard" and some sax-playing as well!! The dark tones of the suite are remarkable and the production is not bad, being quite modern too. Moreover the interpretation by Matthew Parmenter is more mature in comparison to his debut. The unique defect is the difficult evolution of the suite, which sometimes seems to burst out, but actually it never receives a true development and of course our expectation has been partially disillusioned, after listening to the present suite!!

It never minds, this album is recommended anyway!!

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Send comments to lor68 (BETA) | Report this review (#1768)
Posted Thursday, April 01, 2004 | Review Permalink
JapieMol@hotm
4 stars A real great album wich deserves his place between the other established Prog albums. I have to permit that thes guys realy got it. It is a real Symphonic album with al lot of tempo changes in it and it surprises me all the time. Unfolded Like staircase is a sollid album with 5 songs on it. Ofcourse some of the songs are large compositions as we know from other Progressive bands. Maybe the arragements could have been better but it has it's charme. It is logical to explain since the band has a lack of money those days I suppose. This will be confermed by the text in the booklet of the cd, when they give their thankword to Drew Meiers for the use of his saxaphone wich is used by Matthew Parmenter on this album. (I am wondering myself wich Sax he used on their last "live" record: "Into the dream...") David Sanborn's??? The lyrics are good and are on a equal level with the rest of the instruments. I can recommend this album to anyone who loves Progressive Symphonic Rock.

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Send comments to (BETA) | Report this review (#1769)
Posted Wednesday, July 28, 2004 | Review Permalink
Dan Bobrowski
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Muulti-instrumentalist Matthew Parmenter takes his bandmates along on a dark and sinister journey to into the dream of limbo on a pair of crutches just before the storm takes them to Eden. Or so the song titles tell... This is a dark album, but it never drags or grows boring. It is worthy of many repeated listenings and, for me, a great companion on a long bike ride. Instrumentally challenging and flowing. From the opening Kashmir meets Lark's Tongues riff, you are thrust into the tides of Parmenter's mind.

Parmenter harnesses his new infatuation with Peter Hammill and VDGG and melds it with his Genesis fixation and King Crimson influences and creates a powerful visionary album. Dreams and nightmares abound, but I never felt a depression from the music, rather I feel exhilarated and bouyant, like waking from a running dream, when you feel ready for battle and toss the blankets while searching for the demon's face.

Canto IV, with Dantesque imagery and a certain hopefulness in the face of darkness in lyrics like, "What I believe is emptiness" followed by "and kindness in our hearts." Being raised in the catholic religion, I understand his vision of what Limbo would be like, ""how can there possibly be, no room up there for me." I get shivers remembering the sobering lessons of my youth, with Pink Floyd like characters spewing forth hell and damnation. Being from Detroit, as I am, Parmenter may have had similar experiences as a child.

Into the Dream paints another grim picture, "why chase a rainbow? Best to give in," and "If the rapist must break free, from the deepest part of me, when judgment chains our darkest side, denials breeds a genocide." Can you get more dark and sinister? Yet Matthew ends the final movement with the return to the sea of the turtle, "I am free." Maybe a metaphor for death or an escape to heaven? Continuing on the religious lyric train, in "Before the Storm," Parmenter again speaks of Eden and lost innocence and the journey to return.

Add some Disciplline to your prog collection. Find Astray by Matthew Parmenter as well.

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Send comments to Dan Bobrowski (BETA) | Report this review (#1771)
Posted Friday, October 22, 2004 | Review Permalink
Menswear
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars In most sites that I've searched, this record does not make a good impression on listeners. And I'm here, listening it, over and over thinking: 'What do they see in this that reflects what they think?' I do not agree with most of the reviews on this record. I think Unfolded like Staircase is a troubled, desperated and intense record; but also fragile, aggressive and full of duality. They recall me of Pearl Jam/ The Cure in many ways. The tormented singing, the guitar lines. Feels familiar. And nice. Because America has a distinct sound, I think it's exciting to discover them.

The tormented singer, the rough and jolty melodies must be heard many times before complete digestion and therefore, appreciation. But when your can anticipate the melody, the songs take suddently a new face. You can concentrate less on the voice and more on the musicianship and discover the pattern of certain songs like Canto and Before the Storm part 2.

On the other hand, Matthew Parmenter is volubile at an almost extreme way. When you want to pass a message, it's preferable to restrain yourself a bit; letting it all go is sometimes jamming up the message and importants bits can be missed or simply forgotten. In this case, Parmenter should shut up more and let the music tell us what's going on. Anyway, Canto IV should please your ear immediately, if you give the MP3 a chance.

Discipline is a quite capable but non-virtuoso band. They play what they can, and it feels that they apply themselves. But they're no Echloyn or Anglagard. We are not reaching new standards here. But! they are solid at what they do without trying to 'bull' anything. The atmosphere is theatrical, just like the melodramatic attitude of Parmenter with his specific garde-robe of costumes and tragic make-up a la The Crow. Weird, but since Fish, colorful singers are rare.The music is dark, and ressembles to a walk in a park at dawn on a windy autumn day. Or gazing at winter trees on a cloudy day. Lots of reflexions on life can be heard brought on a melancolic and tragic singing.

Having never heard one song of VDGG and not even knowing what Peter Hamill sounds like, I'm really enthusiastic about this misunderstood record. I'm really surprised how low 'prog experts' thinks of this record, and I know my opinion is often more humoristic than anything else, but this album strikes hard and heavy on the dark scale. Be sure to listen over often, but it never gets boring. The feeling is gripping and could give the blues if you're fragile inside.

This is primo stuff, you have my words.

Maybe that's the key to really appreciate an album...letting the comparison out.

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Send comments to Menswear (BETA) | Report this review (#1772)
Posted Thursday, December 02, 2004 | Review Permalink
hdfisch
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Edited 09/26/05!

Actually I could only repeat what many reviewers before me said already. It's an excellent prog album and one of the best ones in the 90's in general. The overall dark sound and the use of sax in "Crutches" reminds a bit to VDGG, as well Parmenter's voice is a bit reminiscent to Hammill's one, but this is in fact all they have in common. One could also draw parallels to GENESIS with the young Peter Gabriel and sometimes to KING CRIMSON, especially in "Into The Dream ". Though the multiple 70's influences are obvious, the album does not sound too much derivative. DISCIPLINE created here very well their own original and independent style by blending all these influences perfectly together. The compositions are excellent, very intricate without being too much pretentious at any moment and nice to listen from the very first spin to many repeated ones. Moreover the performance of all musicians is really brilliant.

As a summary this is an excellent addition to any prog collection and worth an extra half star!

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Send comments to hdfisch (BETA) | Report this review (#1773)
Posted Thursday, March 17, 2005 | Review Permalink
Syzygy
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Some neo prog bands model themselves more or less exclusively on one particular classic act - think of IQ and Genesis. Others, like Discipline, call a variety of different bands to mind without sounding exactly like any of them. Discipline sound like they have never heard an album released after 1973, and the sonic palette recalls pre-LTIA King Crimson, Gabriel era Genesis and VDGG. All of this adds up to a very decent concoction - Matthew Parmenter has a voice of his own, both literally and compositionally, and he is backed by 3 very able musicians. The opener, Canto IV, is a 13 minute epic inspired by Dante's Inferno. This could be an unmitigated disaster in the hands of some, but Discipline pull it off admirably. Parmenter doesn't quite have Peter Hammill's vocal range, but he conveys the anguish of a soul in torment with similar aplomb, and also adds sax flourishes that recall Ian MacDonald in King Crimson. This track is one of the best prog songs of the past decade, and I wish I'd discovered it sooner. Perhaps inevitably, the rest of the album never quite matches up its superb opening, but it also never becomes boring. The 22 minute Into The Dream is another grand achievement, though not quite in the class of Canto IV. My one gripe with the writing is that Before The Storm goes on a bit too long - perhaps Parmenter wanted to let the rest of the band cut loose a little, but this is the only place where they sound like they're noodling. I'd give this album 4 stars, except that the excellent writing, arranging and performance are let down by an oddly flat production, perhaps because it was recorded on a tight budget. Nonetheless, it's a good addition to any prog collection.

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Send comments to Syzygy (BETA) | Report this review (#1774)
Posted Friday, March 18, 2005 | Review Permalink
Trotsky
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars I must emphasise that this is the only Discipline album I've heard, but I don't intend that to remain the case, because I really quite enjoyed it. In fact I can safely say that I rate Unfolded Like Staircase to be among the best progressive rock albums of the 90s.

After listening to the first five minutes of the opening tune Canto IV (Limbo) you might actually wonder why I made such a judgement, because up to that point Discipline sounds pretty standard ... the piece starts off atmospheric and restrained with some nice piano and guitar touches and even some grunge-influenced vocals ... but it just kind of glides by until the fifth minute and that's when the prog takes over! Everything builds up to an excellent crescendo ... round about the 8 minute mark the fourth major melody sees the Genesis influences come in and the piece closes with a brilliant outro that pulls out all the stops with nice keyboard lines and playing that calls to mind Wishbone Ash and Kansas at different times .. and its tasteful, skillful and exciting all at once ... a rare combination in modern prog bands.

The glorious Crutches starts life as simple, pleasant piano/guitar ballad for the first three minutes before evolving into a much more complicated piece (by which time it should be obvious that that is how Discipline like to do things!). What's best about this delectable slice of prog is that I can't quite compare it to anything I know ... maybe it's just the novelty of listening to a progressive rock band that seems to have adopted certain qualities of the grunge scene. The 22 minute Into The Dream (yes, one of those!) is probably the heaviest song on the album. Its intro is centered around an off-time guitar/bass riff, with a descending keyboard joining in ... an eerie riff then "settles things" before Matthew Parmenter's vocals enter. Highlights of the piece include an Eastern sounding riff that comes in at the 6 minute mark, a sparse piano and vocals segment at 9 minute mark and the tolling bells and swelling strings near the end of piece. This is continously rich music with a lovely epic feel containing moments of stunning playing (the wonderful bass playing on this song particularly caught my ear).

Before The Storm, Part 1 is yet another tune that starts off as an "orthodox" piano piece ... if I can call something so compelling orthodox, that is. The full band comes in after a couple of minute, clinching the deal on a song that has incisive lyrics and an epic melody. I really like it very much, and the interplay between the organ, strings and the biting lead guitar is definitely one of the high points of this album. The final piece, Before The Storm, Part 2 is another momentous one although it's not my favourite. Again Discipline's talent for great outros is proven with some excellent violin work as the album concludes. It's interesting that while this album is full of great playing I can hardly recall any memorable solos ... Discipline is clearly more about melody leads from guitar and keyboards. A word of caution, though ... this album has not met with much approval from friends I have recommended it to. ... 51% on the MPV scale

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Send comments to Trotsky (BETA) | Report this review (#1775)
Posted Monday, March 28, 2005 | Review Permalink
slack4justice
3 stars Unfolded Like Staircase doesn't have many powerful moments on it's own, most of it's decent moments have all been heard before in Genesis or Van Der Graaf Generator, the moods rarely reach anything captivating, and the emotions rarely reach any kind of heights. Nothing is particularly tasteful or strong in presentation other than the guitar, a lot of tasteful solos. The songs all kind of drone, and each song represents rising action that doesn't necessarily reach a climax. There is a lot of good to be found in this album, but the songwriting is very shoddy and not enthralling.

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Send comments to (BETA) | Report this review (#38918)
Posted Friday, July 08, 2005 | Review Permalink
Gatot
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Am truly amazed with the music quality produced by this four-piece American prog band. The music can summarized this way, probably: early King Crimson with vocalist's voice quality in between Peter Hammill (VdGG) / Greenslade's or Nick Barrett (Pendragon) vocalist and the music is combined with neo prog. So what would it be like? Yeah, it's a mixture of everything, I think. But, you will find there is no such single track as bad or good ones as every single track is truly excellent. If you like symphonic prog music with soaring keyboard / organ sounds which sometimes turn out to be a mellotron, you will definitely enjoy this album.

Song like the epic track "Into The Dream" (22:03) comprises multi segments with relatively long duration, individually, with keyboard-based music as main rhythm section combined tempo changes augmented with powerful mellotron inserts. The inclusion of neo prog style guitar solo has enriched the song textures. There are some soft guitar riffs but they are faraway from being a prog metal. On soft music like "Before The Storm" there is similarity in style with the music of Pendragon or Arena - the neo prog bands. The only difference is probably the accentuated vocal line and the heavier use of mellotron that remind me to the early Crimson albums.

Definitely it's a highly recommended album. Keep on proggin' ..!

Peace on earth and mercy mild - GW

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Send comments to Gatot (BETA) | Report this review (#47403)
Posted Tuesday, September 20, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars When I 1st heard this cd I would have said 3 stars as I felt the music meanders aimlessly too much and lacked a bit of structure...even for prog. But I found that the more I listened to it the better it became. This is definitely a grower lp. Eventually, when I could predict what part was coming next, I realized the subtle intricate structures and musical undertones that were subtlely interwoven with the overall music and then became aware that the overall quality musianship was quite good and interesting. I wouldn't rate them as the next King Crimson or Gentle Giant as far as complexity is concerned, but they won't dissapoint either. The tasteful blend between the 90's era of angst and the traditional era of prog make this THE prog masterpiece of the 90's.

The opening track Canto IV is a perfect example of that 90's angst and traditional prog I was referring above. A great opening track that sets the mood for this very dark cd. However, it is only a sampling of what is yet to come....

Crutches....perhaps my favorite tune on here just oozes with such bitter and desperate emotion. Parmenter's desperate cry for help is so heartwrenching it will emotionally move any listener to tears or at least a bit of sadness. A precaution to any listeners with fragile psyches, you may want to veer away from this lp until you're in a better frame of mind.

Into The Dream is the true epic tune on this cd as it spans over 20 minutes. It takes one into the mind of someone who is about to go over the edge as the person desperately tries to fight his inner demons. Parmenter's almost psychotic lyrics on this one are at times truly frightening, anfd the music that encompasses it, perfectly reflect this as it seems to spiral out of control using many tempo changes to pull this off. At 1st it is hard to keep up with, but once you grasp this tune, it is quite rewarding.

Before the Storm Part 1..I always thought this tune should have been 1st on the cd while pt 2 should have been the culmination right after Into The Dream. Perhaps my only complaint for this cd and a minor one at that, therefore a give this a full 5 stars.

Cheers.....Gdub411

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Send comments to Greg W (BETA) | Report this review (#51208)
Posted Monday, October 10, 2005 | Review Permalink
greenback
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars This very good progressive rock record has many influences, especially from the major progressive rock bands of the 70's: the first one that comes to mind is definitely Van Der Graaf Generator. Indeed, the tracks are rather sad and dark, there are many sax parts, and there is the omnipresence of an organ that sounds like VDGG's; even the lead vocals have the Hammill's style, despite a pretty different and most of all much more bearable tone is involved. I prefer this record than any VDGG's one because the compositions here are more varied, more moving, more melodic, more lively and more elaborated: the omnipresence of a lightly rebel rhythmic electric guitar slightly gives the ensemble a modern King Crimson's influence, and on the other hand, the background mellotron arrangements and some delicate guitar parts evoke the early King Crimson's albums. The numerous complaining electric guitar solos provide a true HARD ROCK character to this record, reminding a bit a more timid Nektar's sound. An omnipresent rhythmic piano a la Kayak is really a strong point here: it builds a solid, melodic and not so fast rhythm that contributes to make this band unique. Some rare & pleasant modern keyboards arrangements complete this surprising anachronic work. There are some pleasant RHYTHMIC mellotron in the background! The are also some interesting acoustic guitar arrangements. The bass is very loud and bottom, and the drums do a very good job. I think this record is an acquired taste: it grew inside of me and it took about 3 listens to be fully fixed. No doubt that VDGG is substantially surpassed here. To produce such an anachronic album in 1997 was a tour de force I must admit!

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Send comments to greenback (BETA) | Report this review (#69189)
Posted Sunday, February 12, 2006 | Review Permalink
Jim Garten
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Retired Admin & Razor Guru
4 stars Many albums have been released in the last 10 years or so by bands obviously influenced by "the greats", but on too many occasions, they come across as slavish imitators with no original thought or ideas to stamp the work as their own. Happily, in Discipline (pun intended) we find a group of musicians drawing heavily from Genesis, VDGG and King Crimson, yet retaining a strong identity, especially lyrically. Throughout this release, and despite the track lengths, none of which clock in at under 13 minutes (the two part 'before the storm' is effectively a single piece), Discipline's playing is tight, considered, restrained in the power chords, but majestic in some of the mellotron passages (especially during the closing section of the excellent 'Crutches' and part 2 of 'Before the storm') and refreshingly, considering the recent dearth of "good" prog rock lyricists, the lyrical content is intelligent and driven by Parmenter's strong vocal abilities- in fact, just as you'd want in a prog rock album of the 'old school'. Musicianship is studious and of good quality, but Discipline contains no vituosi, just a driven leader (Matthew Parmenter) and his band of more than able acolytes - Jon Preston Bouda in particular impresses with his best Steve Hackett impersonation... Discipline straddle a difficult line; some fanatical symphonic prog rock listeners may find them too 'heavy' in places, whereas prog-metal fans may consider them too light, but I honestly think both 'camps' will take something away from this album, and all lovers of schools old and new should lend an ear.

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Send comments to Jim Garten (BETA) | Report this review (#74023)
Posted Tuesday, April 04, 2006 | Review Permalink
Prog-jester
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars This is a Musthave!!!

This is a very,very,very underrated album from genius band combined the styles of 70s VDGG,Genesis and Crimso - and that emerged into their own one!!!I'd give at least 20 CDs from collection for that one!!!Incredible "Limbo"(just listen to it!!!) and mellow "Before the Storm"(what a melody!)are the best tracks,but the others are great too(just listen to break in "Crutches",which starts from 9'44''!).I adore such atmosphere - dark and moody - and I see no Neo in this Prog.They are more original than some well-known sympho bands of today...and deserve every progger's attention.The felling that I got while listening to it is close to Columbus' one...I've discovered America!!!

There were many good CDs which I've experienced in last years,but only Italian prog,Anglagard(with Sinkadus and early Kaipa) and DISCIPLINE gave me such sense of Discovery.If you miss it,you'll miss a half of your prog life!!!

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Send comments to Prog-jester (BETA) | Report this review (#74202)
Posted Thursday, April 06, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars My favourite prog album of all time (so far). Four long tracks with adventurous music and lyrics. Although the tracks are long, there is a strong sense of 'discipline' in the music, and none of the instruments is allowed to dominate. Yet there is superb guitar work, and a variety of keyboard sounds to give atmosphere. The use of mellotron is particularly effective, often giving the music a sinister edge. There are plenty of changes of tempo within each piece and Matthew Parmenter's vocals are charged with emotion. My favourite moment is when part 1 of 'Before The Storm' fades to nothing to be replaced by a mellotron 'fade-in' for part 2. If you like symphonic prog, I'm sure you'll love this.

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Send comments to dmwilkie (BETA) | Report this review (#75487)
Posted Wednesday, April 19, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars Ok, I admit it, I'm a sucker for long songs. With 4 songs in 64min, you get your money's worth here. However long songs alone do not always mean there's coherent songwriting. Thankfully the music presented here is utterly fantastic. The songs are epic for more reasons than just their track times. Each song evokes an emotional trip through a dark and somewhat depressing realm with little to be found as uplifting. At times it reminds me of older Genesis and King Crimson material; but at the same time it sounds nothing like either of them. I wouldn't say the music is as intricate or as complex as other symphonic prog luminariers. Instead the music is very true to the atmosphere and the instrumentation varies enough to never become tired or redundant. The vocals are at times quite sinister and tormented sounding. No growling or snarling, just darkly passionate in tone. The delivery of the music is just fantastic. I've hardly been able to pry myself away from this CD since I bought it a month ago. My only complaint is that the bass is mixed a bit too strong on this recording.

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Send comments to adigitaldan (BETA) | Report this review (#77515)
Posted Monday, May 08, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars Listening to this great album I find difficult, now, to listen to Dream Theater..Great skilled musicians and above all a great work inspired by the dark side of VDGG, King Crimson and Genesis. Excellent guitar parts in Canto IV, played by Bouda (very good guitarist), excellent songs and also EXCELLENT sound, symphonic but not annoying (like ELP)....If you like Anglagard...now listen to this one. The band mingles melodic part with some hard prog parts, harmonic elements with peculiar tormented vocal parts that create the right atmosphere to describe the obscure and unreal side of the album. Great...not really essential, but I give 5 stars anyway..

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Send comments to Kord (BETA) | Report this review (#80963)
Posted Monday, June 12, 2006 | Review Permalink
Easy Livin
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
3 stars Going up?

The first attraction here for anyone who considers themselves to be a prog anorak is the fact that this 65 minute album has a mere four tracks, the shortest being over ten minutes. But is this really a guarantee of quality?

What we have here is a band with its roots firmly in neo-prog. They may choose to acknowledge the influence of VAN DER GRAFF GENERATOR (band leader Matthew Parmenter "thanks" them in the sleeve notes), but the more obvious sound is that of early GENESIS, as it is for so many neo-prog bands. Indeed, the opening track " Canto IV (limbo)" is a concoction of ARENA, PENDRAGON, MARILLION, and a bit of "The knife" by Genesis. There is of course no criticism intended here, these are fine bands so anyone who sounds in any way like them is off to a good start.

Unfortunately, at this stage a reality check is required. The sound may be familiar, but the track structures suffer from the disjointed diversity which blights many of the FLOWER KINGS albums. Since there are only four tracks, we can examine them individually:

"Canto IV (limbo)" opens the album with a YES like staccato section. After moving through the various styles mentioned above, we have an ELP "Stones of years" like vocal, complete with "have you.." repeating questions. The final guitar section is excellent, although I cannot help but feel the production could have brought out the sound of the guitar better.

The four part "Crutches" may be the shortest track on the album, but it still clocks in at over 13 minutes. Once again, the track has significant diversity, including a heavy mellotron backed dirge and some dominant piano.

"Into the dream" has seven sections, and at over 22 minutes is the longest track. Here the IQ similarities come to the fore, but the vocal sections are over long to the overall detriment of the piece. Toward the close of the track, Matthew Parmenter starts to sound like Jon Anderson, while adding some superb "Court of the crimson king" like mellotron.

The album closes with "Before the storm", which incorporates some strange off key singing, but also has a pleasant violin interlude.

At this stage, I should say that some reviews are easier to write than others. In this case, I readily admit that I have tended to over emphasise the negatives to the partial exclusion of the positives. This is a well performed album, with much to commend it. If the listener is prepared to acknowledge the derivative nature of much of the contents, and to hear the album on that basis, they will be rewarded with some fine prog music.

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Send comments to Easy Livin (BETA) | Report this review (#87506)
Posted Thursday, August 17, 2006 | Review Permalink
Tarcisio Moura
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars I really have to think too much to buy this CDm, since I read the other reviews and I must admit that, even if I'm a prog fan for over 30 years, I heard very little Van Der Graaf Generator music and I was never the biggest King Crimson fan. Having said that, I algo should point I respect both bands very much. So when I finally did get the CD I was quite surprised how good it sounded. Yes, most reviewrs are rihgt: the King Crimson\VDGG\early Genesis influenes are enormous. Still they don't just made a copy of those bands. There are some differences, or should I say,they really made their own sound out of their obvious heroes. The guitar solos for instance have nothing to do with the aforementioned bands and it gives Discipline a quite melodic and bright side to an otherwise very dark album.

The CD is not really perfect, in a classic way to judge it as a essential masterpiece, although it comes really close to that, in my humble opinion. The first song, Canto IV (limbo), deserves a five star rate in any way, it's just gorgeous. Everything fits perfectly: the songwriting, voice, instruments, arrangements... The other 3 songs are excellent too, but for some reason they seem disjoined at some points. A minor flaw, anyway, for I keep coming back to this CD over and over again. and since I got a collection of over 1000 CDs to pick up, this is no small feat.

Matthew Parmenter is a truely gifted singer and songwriter, and the band has musicians of rare calibre. If the next releases are as good as this one, it's surely a band to keep an eye on. The chemistry works and maybe they need a lttle more time to fully develop their potential. Which, I should point out again, is huge. Highly recommended.

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Send comments to Tarcisio Moura (BETA) | Report this review (#88433)
Posted Tuesday, August 29, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars Usualy I do'nt review an album before I have it for few years. In this case I broke the rule though I heared it few dosens of time. The reason is I realy fell in love with this album. All 4 tracks are great epics. The music is versatile but also melodic and it realy moves me. I think it is in the standart of the great 70's masterpieces such as Foxtrot, Close to the edge or Wish you were here and therefore I highly recomend it to anyone who loves prog from Camel to King crimson, from Genesis to VDGG. Every additional word is unnecessary, just try it !

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Send comments to omri (BETA) | Report this review (#93695)
Posted Saturday, October 07, 2006 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars In the liner notes Matthew Parmenter thanks Jan-Erik from ANEKDOTEN for introducing him to Peter Hammill and VDGG. Certainly VDGG comes to mind when listening to this dark and moody record, mainly because of Matthew's Hammill-like vocals. I was also reminded of KING CRIMSON and ANEKDOTEN.

"Canto IV (limbo)" is such a great song with a melody of piano, guitars and drums for the first two minutes and then becoming quite pastoral with gentle vocals, mellotron and guitar.The chorus is intense, led by theatrical vocals. "Crutches" features strummed acoustic guitar and vocals, drums and piano come in as things become more uptempo.The tempo changes continue and there is a flood of mellotron towards the end of the song.

"Into The Dream" has a rather dark intro, and that mood continues through the song. There is such a great, gloomy melody after 5 minutes, and more beautiful mellotron after 10 minutes.This song has some ANEKDOTEN references. "Before The Storm" opens with piano and softer vocals that gets angry with organ. This song has lots of mood shifts and tempo changes.There is violin, mellotron, jazzy guitar as well as heavy guitar. This is a real ride in the mind of someone on the edge of losing it.

I really think this is a must have for prog fans, a beautiful dark album.

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Send comments to Mellotron Storm (BETA) | Report this review (#101450)
Posted Saturday, December 02, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars I entirely agree with the bio note on Discipline. The Album's atmosphere varies from tense, dramatic vocal/instrumental parts to slowlier and simpler, but equally enjoyable tunes. Songs are aptly balanced, both in length and in the distribution of the more and the less progressive elements. Sheer fun to listen, with lots of Hamill's infulence - so Van Der Graaf Generator's fans should be even more pleased.

I think I should add that this is the kind of music prog rock needs in the new millenium. The album has its clearly visible inspirations, but sounds very fresh. I just wonder what could be their next studio album like.

The band is mostly promising, it's a shame they haven't released any studio albums following this one.

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Send comments to Lakesfield (BETA) | Report this review (#111160)
Posted Friday, February 09, 2007 | Review Permalink
Matti
COLLABORATOR
Neo-Prog Team
3 stars First I want to say that this once I gave clearly more stars than I personally enjoy this album. That's because I can't spot any major faults technically, and artistically this is indeed quite deep and ambitious prog work from USA. For lovers of dark and depressed prog this is surely worth recommendation. Well, I love e.g. 'Plague of the Lighthouse Keeper' by VdGG and Peter Hammill's divings into the angst in general (not ALL of it), but here I feel I'm not really getting anything in return, as is the case with prog metal too. It just brings me down, without lifting up in catharsis. Maybe the main problem is Matthew Parmenter's (who writes the music and plays several instruments) angst-driven, depressed and stuffy vocals. With a better singer I might enjoy this music in all its powerful darkness.

All the tracks are very progressive, often multi-part compositions - but not much different from each other. And it's over an hour long, so it is a demanding album anyhow. In the leaflet Parmenter thanks someone for introducing Van der Graaf Generator to him, and the appreciation to VdGG really shows. But the magic and extraordinary dark beauty of VdGG is absent. Though I can't say this is prog metal - the sound is very 70's with mellotrons and reeds - I guess the listeners of that genre are more potential enjoyers than for example Symphonic Prog or Art Rock lovers.

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Send comments to Matti (BETA) | Report this review (#121767)
Posted Saturday, May 12, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars I listened to this album some time ago and then turned back towards their first release. Afterwards I got the live album and now I'm pretty sure that "Unfolded Like Staircase" delivers everything that a five-star album needs. The only disadvantage is that the enormous potential that Discipline presents has brutally ended and there is no chance for a continuation of the brilliant musicianship found here (however, there might be something of Discipline in Permenter's solo album). "Unfolded..." shows much more maturity than its predecessor. The most remarkable thing in my opinion was the skill and flexibility with which they manipulate the mood of a song. And songs are quite long and give a lot of room for the musicians, so you'll find a nice balance between soloes, sung and melodic parts. "Canto IV (Limbo)" is especially interesting in this respect and makes you feel like you're on a journey through musical complexity. All in all, "Unfolded Like Staircase" works and calls for support. If it had been recorded in 1970s, it might have been considered an absolute classic.

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Send comments to Ampersand (BETA) | Report this review (#122930)
Posted Monday, May 21, 2007 | Review Permalink
NJprogfan
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars AHH! An American semi-classic from the 90's, now how many times could you say that? Discipline play a quasi mix of Van Der Graff Generator like prog with a dab of Neo. Piano is dominate but not overly. Horns come into play, but only to color. Guitar, bass and drums sound very modern, but not out of the realm of classic prog. Mucho lyrics to the point of overkill, but they're deep, introspective and well sung. A rare type of prog from these US shores, unique yet with a touch of retro. Intrigued? Well, I'm standing on my soapbox and telling the world it's worth a try. I can honestly say that it's never boring but because of the label it's gotten on this site people may stay away from it. They play too broad a type of prog to be pidgeonholed in the Neo class. More art rock with a dabble of symph with a sprinkle of Neo. How's that? Give them a try, won't you? A class of 90's prog album that is in the top 25 easily. Not a masterpiece mind you, but really, really close.

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Send comments to NJprogfan (BETA) | Report this review (#130265)
Posted Wednesday, July 25, 2007 | Review Permalink
3 stars 3.5 stars really.

In anticipation of their reformation at Nearfest this year, I pulled out this album again and decided it was time to review it. On first glance it seems like the kind of thing I would love; powerful guitar, mellotron drenched, complex lengthy songs with multiple secions, affected and tortured vocals evoking both Hammill and Gabriel at different times. But, but but.

In spite of the VDGG comparisons I've heard and that are sometimes present, the music is indeed far closer to neo prog than to the kind of experimental strangeness that VDGG excelled at in their heyday. Heavy neoprog to be sure, with a bit more retro sound than many of those bands (since they use a real mellotron and piano, as opposed to sampled ones), but still leaning heavily on that late 70's Genesis type sound.

The first track is the one that I enjoy the most, being probably the most complex and cohesive (the only one that doesn't have sub sections....perhaps this has something to do with it?). The guitar work is outstanding throughout this song and it is more guitar driven than the other tracks (though the guitar is always a strong feature on this album). The second track has some great mellotron sections and the keyboards are a bit more dominant, but the complexity and diversity are beginning to seem more disjointed now. The third epic track (all tracks are over 13 minutes, with this one being the longest at 22 minutes) seemed like it would be a hit for me, since I am partial to epic tracks. But for some reason, it doesn't seem to jell for me, even after repeated listens. I think part of the problem here, and on the album as a whole for that matter, is the wordiness. There is never a break from the vocals, at least until the last 2 or 3 minutes. And that, in turn, seems like it is too drawn out as they recap musical bits from earlier in the song to create a suitably dramatic and prog ending. It's not that the singing is bad, far from it. Parmenter makes great use of his voice, has decent range, and keep the melodies interesting and dynamic. But it just seems like the whole song is there to support the vocals, with the music seeming much less focused as a result. The individual parts are decent, and everything flows together well enough, but there doesn't seem to be much of a musical connection to the various parts. So, oddly enough, this becomes my least favorite track. The final song, or rather, two tracks separated by a short pause (the calm before the storm, I presume), has an interesting melody for the chorus (not really a chorus, but a repeating line that show up a few times) and some nice piano work throughout. Once again we have a few seemingly disparate sections leading to a final run through of the initial section. The song ends with a long fadeout that, while not bad, does seem to drag just a little bit too long.

This all sound somewhat negative, but this really is a pretty good album. I can imagine that in 1997, the year of its release, it was praised a good deal. But almost 11 years later, it seems a bit derivative and not terribly special. I think the thing that hurts the album most for me is that the initial enjoyment wears off as the tone and style of the music remains the same throughout. There is a reliance on minor keys and (over) emotive vocals that tends to wear as the album progresses. Probably why the first track always seems like the best one to me. Still, this is well executed heavy prog with neo leanings. All the musicians are first rate and I do like Parmenter's vocals and lyrics (even if I do think there are a bit too much of both, especially in the longest track). I suspect that I will enjoy this band more live, but we shall see. In general, if you like the heavier, darker side of neo prog this is good album to have. If you want something completely new and inventive, this might not do it for you. Overall, a difficult rating for me, but I'm going with 3.5 rounded down to three as this is not quite essential but is also quite good overall.

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Send comments to infandous (BETA) | Report this review (#157626)
Posted Friday, January 04, 2008 | Review Permalink
Cesar Inca
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars Discipline's sophomore release is a step forward from the sort of effort displayed in the excellent debut album "Push & Profit": while this aforesaid item found the band digging deep into the realms and textures of their eclectic approach to the prog genre (including excursions in folk-rock and light spirited rock'n'roll), "Unfolded Like Staircase" shows a clearer focus on the idea of stylistic cohesiveness. In this way, the repertoire "Unfolded" enhances the Van der Graff (75-76 era) and Genesis (70-72 era) references, plus touches of Scandinavian-style Crimsonesque nuances (mostly, harmonic progressions, dense mellotronic atmospheres and some guitar solos), all of them provided under a framework that states a compromise between vintage prog and neo-prog. In many ways, this Discipline master opus is very much related to what bands such as Versus X, Scythe, High Wheel and Cliffhanger were doing at the time. The band's sound is tighter and stronger, despite the fact that the ensemble had been reduced to a quartet after the keyboardist's departure. Anyway, there is the enthusiastic and talented Matthew Parmenter to fill in quite effectively, together with his usual roles on sax and violin (the latter is his best input, actually). The fact that the material is ambitious in structure and length is an external symptom of the sort of vision that the band was genuinely aiming at. Most of this material had already been tried in concerts, so the album was, at least in an "abstract" sense, ready to be recorded as a 5- or 4-piece band. The opener "Canto IV (Limbo)" is a major Discipline classic. Starting with a martial, pompous mood, the main body is a slow section properly filled with the drama and irony of a soul lost in Limbo just because he happened to be a nice guy who died before the arrival of Jesus Christ. This spirit of disappointment is developed into varying moods and tempos, ultimately leading to an expanded reprise of the opening motif. 'Crutches' starts on a more solemn note, with soft acoustic guitar strums providing the basis for the joining of the whole ensemble. This piece is very vandergraffian in itself, stating a mixture of the acid splendor of "Godbluff" and the existentialist magic of Hammill's "Chameleon" and "Silent Corner" albums. The use of mild passages among the tough instrumental excursions is definite proof of the band's ability to create a successful amalgam of variations with cohesive fluidity. The 22+ minute long 'Into the Dream' is the longest track in the album, and it really provides room for the band to indulge in consistent series of motifs, all linked in a generally sustained mood of constrained anger. This piece may sound like a midway between what Landberk did in their first two albums and the deep darkness created by Areknamés in the new millennium. The recurrent moods of 'Into the Dream' bear a controlled density: for instance, the guitar solos are not totally highlighted, and the mellotron layers are only partially menacing. This trick allows transitions to flow naturally; it also allows Parmenter to deliver the piece's abundant lyrics with a bigger ease than needed when the mood variations are more dramatic (say, Genesis' 'Supper's Ready' or IQ's 'Harvest of Souls'). The only moments of exclusive instrumental splendor are reserved for the coda, which actually delivers a very melodic closure for the penultimate and final sections. 'Before the Storm' closes down the album in a successful attempt to retake the sort of density elaborated in 'Crutches'. The case of 'Before the Storm' is patently devoted to deliver a clear compositional focus, so the trick is now to use a recurrent motif now and then (on piano or mellotron). This piece also includes an extended instrumental coda, featuring a magnificent violin solo that merges its vibrant flows with the mellotron layers. General balance: "Unfolded Like Staircase" is one of the ultimate prog opuses from the late 90s, and also, the ultimate album of one of the best American prog bands that took part of the 90s prog revival.

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Send comments to Cesar Inca (BETA) | Report this review (#184874)
Posted Monday, October 06, 2008 | Review Permalink
ZowieZiggy
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Discipline plays an effective mix of symphonic (Yes, Genesis) and eclectic prog (Graaf, Crimson). Their debut album was good, but it is obvious that when they recorded this Staircase, the band was more inspired.

The opening number Canto V is as tortured as it can be (I have to say that Mathew on the vocals is quite good) and the sax is definitely heading towards VDGG. As its glorious predecessor, there will be quieter and more melodic passages; but there is the great addition of a fantastic guitar solo: full of passion and emotion. It ends as a very bombastic manner: an explosion of keys and crying guitar. This is an excellent start.

The shorter song of this album is Crutches. It clocks at over thirteen minutes.This song is leading us more in the Crimson / Graaf territories. The music is less accessible. But once you have been listening to this track a few times, the magic operates and you get hooked at these hectic and passionate vocals, which are again a highlight on this track. The finale, as during the opener, is again on the symphonic mood.

When I reached the third song (and epic), I have to admit that the band is maybe too close from these sounds we all love. A bit like the very good Araknamés this band is stuck with their models although the addition of some enjoyable mellotron breaks this feeling somehow. With Into The Dream, Discipline fully switched to ITCOTCK, which is fine with me. The closing part is a jewel of symphony (for the third time).

The closing track (Before The Storm) has this cold beauty of some solo work from Peter (Hammill). It is delicate, subtle and poignant. It still will evolve towards a fully Graaf inspired song after some four minutes and it turns into a very dark atmosphere (you know like .). The loop has been looped I guess. For the fourth time in a row, Discipline will provide a brilliant closing part to this song.

Since I have to refer so much to some great old bands, you might understand that this album is not very original per se, but it combines lots of great elements of the heydays of prog music. Each fan that is willing to remind this period should be highly interested in such a recording. As I am.

I couldn't find a weak track, not even a weak part during this album. Four stars is the rate.

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Send comments to ZowieZiggy (BETA) | Report this review (#185250)
Posted Friday, October 10, 2008 | Review Permalink
5 stars Yeah!

That's how modern prog should sound like; that's the way it sounds. Take an explosive mix of ANEKDOTEN, ANGLAGARD, DJAM KARET, VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR, even some U.K., add NEAL MORSE a little, flavour with some prog metal passages... Ready? Now set it on the fire! Be careful: this stuff is not for easy listening. Four long pieces (+ one very short, just 5 minutes!) really squeeze you out to the last drop. Complex music, intriguing voice, ever-changing rhythm texture that is hard to follow (Matthew Kennedy on bass works wonders) make this album a true masterpiece of 90th era progressive music. Highly recommended!

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Send comments to groon (BETA) | Report this review (#201851)
Posted Thursday, February 05, 2009 | Review Permalink
Ivan_Melgar_M
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Symphonic Prog Specialist
5 stars Despite I'm a huge fan of DISCIPLINE, I've been avoiding the chance to review "Unfolded like Staircase", not because it's quality, which in my opinion is simply outstanding, but because it's complexity and how difficult it gets to express in words what you listen in the album, a prove of this is that most reviews on this page are extremely short, despite the high ratings, something that demonstrates, that the problem is common.

Just to start, I believe it's impossible to talk about influences with coherence, because the album is a paradox, the listener is bombarded by sounds of the 70's and 80's but you can't precise which is which, being that their approach is as unique as Matthew Parmenter's personality.

Every person who has read some of my reviews, will know I'm not precisely a fan of KING CRIMSON or VDGG, and at the first listen you notice the spirit of both bands is present in this album, but taken in such a different way that you can't point one coincidence at all and I love it from start to end, in the same way I'm a fan of GENESIS, but except in the melancholic and dark use of the Mellotron, you can't precise what comes fom the Charterhouse School band, "Unfolded like Staircase" is a puzzle that I enjoy trying to decipher.

The album starts with "Canto IV (Limbo)", the breathtaking moment in which I can point a clear KING CRIMSON (Lark's Tongues in Aspic) influence, but after a short wind passage, changes into something much less complex and more melodic that flows gently.

The obscure, almost depressive voice of Mathew Parmenter is just perfect to create the heavy mist effect that floats over the head of the listener, like the song points in the title with the word Limbo, a place between nowhere or more properly "an intermediate, transitional, or midway state or place" where rules of physics seem not to apply.

But this not all, the radical changes, the almost terrifying violin sections, the aggressive guitar, everything makes of "Canto IV" thirteen minutes of the purest expression of art Progressive Rock can present us. I won't even attempt to describe the multiple parts listed in this track, this just would kill the beauty, follow my advice, some things must not be enjoyed without an exhaustive description.

"Crutches" marks a radical change, after a softer and acoustic introduction where Matthew demonstrates the ductility of his voice with just a guitar, almost in the vein of a hard neo Prog band, the music starts to go "in Crescendo", but seems to never explode in an absolute climax, until the guitar by Jon Preston Bouda, perfectly supported by the rhythm section formed by Matthew Kennedy and Paul Dzendzel, prove us they can rock, even if in this case just for a short period to allow the heavy mist of mystery descend over us again, simply contradictory and perfectly developed, dramatic to an extreme, and at the end, this is what Prog is about, to expect the unexpected.

I don't know if "Into the Dream" is the central piece (because everything is central here), but is the longest epic of the album, 22:03 minutes of pure Progressive Rock, again almost chaotic and depressive is almost impossible to describe, changes from complex and dissonant to melodic and coherent in a matter of seconds, and not only one time, all along the track, in some moments while the keyboards add that strong and heavy melody, the rest of the instruments hit us with all the strength they are capable of, while the vocals keep the perfect balance between one world and the other.

"The album ends with "Before the Storm", another long fifteen minutes Suite that begins with a beautiful piano and vocals melody, after a couple minutes seems that they are holding themselves to avoid the burst of power strength that apparently we can expect, until they seem to loose a bit (just a bit) the power is controlled, as if they were giving us the first pieces of a work that the band is building step by step.

But then a Baroque organ break announces the first change in the vein of ÄNGLAGĹRD meets KING CRIMSON and GENESIS but with a moody violin in the background, but still everything is progressive, they don't run, the band take their time to do what they pretend.

But again, by surprise the beast is let free, guitar, keys, bass and drums are allowed to slap us in the face with pure power for another short period of time before they fall into that place between to universes they have taken us before.

This guys are masters of timing, they know precisely what to do and what is even harder, when to do it, because the song flows until the end with this illogical logic that only an expert band is capable of creating.

Four tracks, four hits, no fillers, no boring moments neither further questions or empty words, 5 stars is my rating, because if this is not an essential masterpiece of Progressive Rock, I don't know what the expression means.

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Send comments to Ivan_Melgar_M (BETA) | Report this review (#215260)
Posted Tuesday, May 12, 2009 | Review Permalink
Slartibartfast
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars What if old Genesis and old Kansas got together and had a child...

I've been listening to this album for about a month and was at a loss at how to describe it and that's about as good as it gets. Sure the kid is smaller (a quartet) and can't play flute, but that description seems to fit the music as good as anything. The guitarist does remind me more stylistically of Rich Williams than Steve Hackett. This child takes after it's father more so than it's mother, even to the point of it's core member, Michael Parmenter doing costumes for live performances from what I've read. You get four complex pieces, three of which are subdivided. Parmenter does the keyboards, which do dominate the music, but not in a bad way, along with a few other instruments, including violin. It's a lyrically intense album that has no campy moments.

This 1997 album appears to be the end of the line for this outfit unfortunately, so on the bright side, if it clicks with you, there's not a lot of titles to get to collect everything. Have to round this one up on the rating.

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Send comments to Slartibartfast (BETA) | Report this review (#231115)
Posted Tuesday, August 11, 2009 | Review Permalink
4 stars An outstanding album, nearly five stars! First off, like many others, I will compare the band to one of their biggest influences, Van Der Graaf Generator. They definitely draw a lot of inspiration from VDGG in their use of dark concepts and dynamic vocals, but stylistically they lack some of the things that make VDGG so polarizing for Prog fans. They are a more normal, guitar oriented band, and while they have a dynamic vocalist similar to Hammill, it lacks the hard to explain quality that makes Hammill so excellent to some and off-putting to others. I myself am a big fan of Hammill and discovered this band because of their VDGG influence, but I can honestly say I expect non-VDGG lovers to enjoy it just as much. I even have a couple friends who dont like VDGG but liked this album. It would be misleading, however, to make it seem as though VDGG were their only major influence. They certainly draw influences from the 70's prog giants like KC and Genesis, but stylistically do not expect them it to sound like Yes or Genesis just because they are included in symphonic prog. This album is at times very dark and emotional and is unlike most other symphonic prog. All of the songs are quite long, but they dont drag on like band was just trying to fill an album side (sorry TFTO fans). The music always keeps your interest and has many powerful emotional themes. I wont get too much into trying to describe the music and instruments, because I find it very hard to do and those descriptions arent usually very useful. Just take my advice and that of others on this site that this is a fantastic album that will be surely enjoyed by any prog listener who can handle some dark and emotional music. Not quite an essential masterpiece, but nonetheless an excellent album.

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Send comments to rpe9p (BETA) | Report this review (#231988)
Posted Sunday, August 16, 2009 | Review Permalink
Negoba
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Angst and More Angst Fuels Excellent Vocal Neoprog

Discipline's UNFOLDED LIKE STAIRCASE is an album I badly want to give 4.5 stars. It's almost, but not quite, a masterpiece. It starts with the astounding "Limbo / Canto IV" which may be the best neo-prog song ever written. However, the remaining 50+ minutes of music don't quite communicate as well as the first song, and fall into the good to excellent category. Lead singer Matthew Parmenter is a master of theatric vocals, clearly heavily influenced by Peter Hammill. The music is straight out of the prog play book, with all songs being epic length, a few allusions to classic Genesis pieces, and complex song structure. The guitars are well played but the tonality could have used some tweaking into something a little less ordinary. A few more strong melodic themes to anchor the later pieces would have turned this into a monster. It's close already. Unfortunately, at this time at PA, it's bewilderingly classified symphonic or it would have its rightful place high on the neoprog charts.

On the lead track, Parmenter's sense of melody comes strongly into play, making the lyrics easier to follow and making it easier for this listener to dive into the story being told. I feel like the musical techniques really combine to serve the song and the message rather than the other way around. The jarring rhythms and painful emotional vocal delivery communicate the existential angst perfectally. Some have claimed Parmenter's theatrics are too much, but when playing the part of the lost soul kept out of heaven, it works perfectly.

The remaining three songs are not bad at all. Part of the problem is that the album is so dark and heavy, that the listener is a bit worn out by the end. The songs get progressively longer, the lyrics a little denser, and the song structures more challenging. This is in a relative sense, for the entire album is full of juxtaposition, complex time signatures, and dissonant tonalities. It's just that by the end, things feel a bit overlong.

Two main positives emerge from this album. One, Matthew Parmenter was one of the best neo-prog vocalists out there, merging Hammill and Fish into an evocative, full tone that oozes pain. His note choice is challenging, in fact sometimes too much so. Some of the phrasing he pulls off while simultaneously playing keys is truly impressive. The other related positive is that the entire band is not afraid to dive head first into the kind of difficult pieces that make prog what it is. These guys are clearly some of us, huge fans of the genre working from a vocabulary that is near to all of our hearts.

I fully recommend the album. "Limbo / Canto IV" is, to me, part of the prog canon. The phenomenal album artwork must be mentioned as well, one of the few that I would put up on my wall even as an adult. I wish they had continued to evolve and improve from here. There are more works to explore, but this is the peak.

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Send comments to Negoba (BETA) | Report this review (#244401)
Posted Monday, October 12, 2009 | Review Permalink
5 stars A genuine masterpiece. This is a a really special album that stands out from the rest. While various reviewers see different groups influencing Discipline, I basically see two: Van Der Graaf Generator and Genesis. But this album is as good as anything either of those groups put out, which is obviously saying something. My favorite song on the album is Crutches, but every song is good. I also like Push and Profit, their earlier album. How sad that this group broke up (although I guess they still do some concerts). Thankfully, Mathew Parmenter still produces his solo music, which is quite good and fills the gap a bit, but i don't think he hits the heights of this album.

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Send comments to Rip Van ProgWinkle (BETA) | Report this review (#254216)
Posted Thursday, December 03, 2009 | Review Permalink
Marty McFly
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Errors and Omissions Team
5 stars When you're listening this, you simply hear (almost with capital H) that this album is special. In something, nothing so particular, but it is special. I won't overrate this album too much when I say that this album has everything. Starting from melancholic cover, Matthew Parmenter, solid length (full of good songs) and of course music genres that defies gravity, Ambient, Blues, Symphonic, Neo-Prog, Rock'n'Roll, Blues, Heavy Prog, Ballad like song etc.

Of course that this album is difficult to review, it's also must-have as some might already said to you. But above all, it's simply pleasant album with no bad note, chord, tune or anything that can lower the rating. And added to this fact, "Unfolded Like Staircase" has many tricks up in sleeve. There are also similarities with Matt's later solo work, especially type of singing presented in Canto IV, even the music is completely different.

Epic track is true epic, not like Spock's Beard epics that are good [yes, I worship them every day], but not good so much, or even in a way that Into the Dream shines. Oh my Prog, how can they manage to have so pleasant, interesting and yet variable music, that's mystery to me.

And everything here is dipped in Mellotron, so we're happy, aren't we ?

5(+), unless proof that there's something bad is given.

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Send comments to Marty McFly (BETA) | Report this review (#275298)
Posted Monday, March 29, 2010 | Review Permalink
4 stars A perfect marriage between VDGG and Genesis.

This albums has got a lot of reviews so please allow me to be brief. For in debt analysis, go to the other reviews.

Discipline is one of the better symphonic prog bands from USA at the moment. This albums proves why. Matthew Parmenter & Co operates on the more somber, pastoral end of the prog rock spectrum. Matthew's vocals is at times pretty much down the Peter Hammel's alley. Which is a good thing in my books. The songs here is also symphonic and complex. The best song is Before The Storm which is more VDGG than Genesis. Genesis though is revisited at the opener Canto IV. The rest combines the best of two worlds at the same time as the trademark Discipline is stamped all over the songs. They have their identity and it is a strong identity.

The quality is great throughout and Unfolded Like Staircase is one of the greatest post 1980 US prog albums. I don't think many would disagree with that.

4 stars

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Send comments to toroddfuglesteg (BETA) | Report this review (#299254)
Posted Wednesday, September 15, 2010 | Review Permalink
VanVanVan
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars In my opinion this is one of if not the best symphonic prog albums of the 90s that I've ever heard. The two biggest influences here are probably Genesis and Van der Graaf generator, but I can definitely hear some King Crimson as well. Of course, there's also quite a bit of neo-prog influence along the lines of Marillion and IQ, but don't worry, this is no copycat album.

The album starts off very strong, with the powerful opening notes of "Canto IV (Limbo)" hitting the listener like a sledgehammer right away. The track continues to be probably the best on the album, going through several dynamic motifs and finishing with one of my favorite finales in prog. "Crutches" begins a bit more sedately, but it quickly builds intensity and is quite a good epic in its own right despite the fact that it's stuck between two more powerful tracks. The latter of these, "Into the Dream" has pretty much everything you'd expect from a 20+ minute epic; it's no "Supper's Ready," but it's very, very good progressive songwriting.

The album concludes with "Before the Storm," which is a bit more downtempo, but works very well as a finale. In addition, the introduction to the song, which features Matthew Parmenter on solo piano and vocals, is some of the most beautiful music in the modern prog canon. The song builds in intensity from there and is a worthy closer to this great album. A masterpiece of modern progressive rock.

5/5

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Send comments to VanVanVan (BETA) | Report this review (#469637)
Posted Saturday, June 25, 2011 | Review Permalink
5 stars U.S. answer to VDGG?

I'm listening to this album in my car for days and I can not stop! The second album by Discipline is one of the best records of contemporary progressive rock, highly influenced by the style of Van Der Graaf Generator, with more guitar, a less use of wind instruments, and the typical gothic atmosphere of the legendary band of Peter Hammill. Parmenter (who plays the violin from time to time) does not have the vocal talents of Peter Hammill, but is a good singer, with undoubted skills of interpretation that can fill some technical problems. The style of the band is characterized also by pure rock elements (the guitar played by Bouda is almost everywhere) and sound at times very hard and essential.

Inspired by the greatest poem in history, Dante's "Divina Commedia", namely the fifth canto of Inferno, the opening track, (Canto V) In Limbo, is an excellent song, with ever- changing dynamics, never taken for granted, which Bouda ennobles a great introduction and a memorable final, with excellent guitar solos. Crutches is the second masterpiece: the beautiful opening melody of "The Carrot" soon evolves into a complex composition characterized by large use of tempo changes and nightmarish atmospheres, very close to VDGG. The final section, very beautiful, is a variation on the theme of the opening melody.

The nightmarish atmosphere continues with Into The Dream, the most complex song of the album (I had to hear this track at least six or seven times to appreciate it), a long and varied epic of 22 minutes, and the closing Before The Storm which, similar to Crutches, begins with a beautiful melody (Parmenter here sings accompanied only by piano), and then evolves into complex sound experiments.

If you're a fan of VDGG, surely you will like the album. In my opinion, however, recommended for all lovers of prog. Rating: 9 / 10.

Best song: (Canto V) In Limbo

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Send comments to Dark Nazgul (BETA) | Report this review (#528872)
Posted Wednesday, September 21, 2011 | Review Permalink
Epignosis
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Eclectic Prog Team
2 stars Unfolded Like Staircase is a symphonic Van der Graaf Generator; indeed, Matthew Parmenter sounds very much like Peter Hammill and the compositions share several similarities with the aforementioned group. I regard this album as one of those "prog masterpieces" that haphazardly combines musical passages without much regard to compositional context. But even when there is, I cannot say what the band comes up with pleases me. Overall, it boils down to this: I don't admire the compositions, even if they are performed remarkably well. Unlike the music from a band such as Ritual, which too is mired in a symphonic quirkiness, I find it hard to follow or be viscerally absorbed by; indeed, I never anticipate hearing this album. However, if the reader fantasizes that Van der Graaf Generator were inspired by Genesis, Yes, or Kansas, this is without a doubt essential listening; for me, I am less than enthusiastic. I may yet warm up to it, though I doubt it; I've had this album for years and I just can't feel what a great many others are evidently feeling.

"Canto IV (Limbo)" After a raucous opening, piano, bass, electric guitar, drums and saxophone offer a slightly discordant bit introduction. Soon the rowdy introduction just ceases and the slower, plodding vocal section emerges. I quite enjoy the heavier, Van der Graaf Generator-like chorus. The instrumental passages that follow are exciting and have a degree of flow, something the rest of the album lacks. However, the thudding vocal section with the various lead instruments in the background I just don't adore. The guitar solos are likeable, managing a degree of restraint in both volume and style while still managing to impress.

"Crutches" Here is an angst-ridden song that alternates between heavier bits and quiet sections. The vocals are biting, but I find they grate and distract from the music, which in most cases, I don't believe should happen. And when the music performs without the vocalist, it is not nearly as impressive as when it was carrying on underneath the singer! The instrumental latter bit is more appealing though even if a tad incoherent for my tastes.

"Into the Dream" The epic of the album lacks a cohesiveness for me. The bass playing, however, is the most exciting aspect- well done! The rest of the music fades into background music to me every time, even the overbearing vocals. I have difficultly describing this track because no matter how many times I sit through it, it just seems like an amalgamation of sounds and passages that don't work together. For a while, the vocalist sounds less like Peter Hammill and more like Layne Staley. Mellotron backs (or almost overpowers) an acoustic guitar solo. The rest of the piece- I feel I must apologize- seems to me to be neo-prog platitudes that do not seek to move the listener.

"Before the Storm (Part 1)" Piano opens the first of a two-part piece. This is a highly structured piece very much in the vein of Peter Hammill's main crew. It even has a light organ bit before the guitar-led instrumental section.

"Before the Storm (Part 2)" The band explodes into full heavy rock symphonic mode, and while each instrument has a distinct voice, the parts blend into something coherent finally. The unruly vocals throw things off though, wavering between a progressive rock and nasty grunge style falsetto. The brass comes to the fore (under the vocals of course), but overall the composition is just another one of those pieces that remains hard to follow no matter how many times I listen to it.

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Send comments to Epignosis (BETA) | Report this review (#623220)
Posted Monday, January 30, 2012 | Review Permalink
Warthur
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars Discipline's Unfolded Like Staircase sounds like what might happen if Subterranea-era IQ were fused body and soul with Godbluff-era Van der Graaf Generator to perform their own take on Anglagard's Hybris - but even that comparison doesn't quite capture the unique sound Discipline bring to bear on this magnificent album.

With song structures and an overall album structure reminiscent of the golden age of prog, a frontman in the form of Matthew Parmenter who is able to get really into the dramatic, emotional lyrics presented, much like Peter Nicholls or Peter Hammill can at their best, and excellent musical performances from everyone concerned, the album takes the listener on a musical journey every bit as tempestuous as you might expect with song titles like Before the Storm. Whether you slide it into the neo-prog category because of the accessible nature and the occasional bit reminiscent of IQ, or symphonic due to the expansive song structure and the mildly greater level of complexity compared to typical neo-prog, Unfolded Like Staircase is one of the greatest prog masterpieces of the 1990s.

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Send comments to Warthur (BETA) | Report this review (#630130)
Posted Saturday, February 11, 2012 | Review Permalink
5 stars After getting turned on to this wonderful group last year with their most recent release, I got curious what their back catalog sounded like. To Shatter All Accord set the bar tremendously high, so I wasn't sure if I could expect the same level of "wow" factor from this one. I really do need to stop making such rash assumptions, because let me tell you, this album is a magnanimous hour and change of progressive rock at its very finest. Every track strikes an amazing balance between technical execution and emotional depth. The level of performance by each member is startling, as they demonstrate their level of musical talent without becoming unnecessarily flashy. Since the tracks are lengthier, they have enough time to develop a unique mood, present contrasting passages to evolve the overall picture, and reach a broad spectrum of emotions, positive or negative, and everywhere in between.

Canto IV (Limbo) starts off the album with energy and conviction. The seamless alternation between scathing vocals and intriguing instrumental breaks shows this band not only is aware of their individual and collective talents, but know how to balance them perfectly. The song is very well organized and leaves you intrigued for more. Luckily we're only 25% through, roughly.

Crutches is a highly emotive piece with terrific range. The mood evokes is gloomy, desperate, and claustrophobic. The scathing vocal delivery is truly haunting and inspiring. The piano and vocal parts come to the foreground in a gripping break before a more active and energetic end.

Into the Dream is the longest, most varied track on the album. It demonstrates a level of comfortability exploiting lengthier solo passages delineated by an ever-evolving narrative that I haven't heard very often, even by the time-honored greats from the 70s. It flows well enough to intrigue and please on first listen, but its subtle density promises great reward with each new listen. Every time it has offered something new and unique, and I can't stress enough just how high the quality of performance and attention to detail in each passage truly is. As if that wasn't enough, the song's narrative is a veritable cornucopia of chilling imagery and thought-provoking subtext to leave you speechless each time you hear and process its intense lyrics.

Before the Storm is an epic closer that follows a more uplifting path than the preceding track. It starts off more calm and reflective than the other songs, as though giving you pause in the eye of a storm, which inevitably does come. After the intense bombast of instruments spiked once again with the harsh, emotive vocal delivery we are now all too familiar with, the storm passes, and a sense of peace enters as the vocal style changes to one reminiscent of singing to a lover, reflected by the line "let's make love tonight." Very tastefully introduced, I might add. Then the instruments re-enter and bring the energy back up in a positive light. You're guaranteed to smile as this passage begins, heralding the happiest moment of the album. This emotional high only builds as the opening chorus is recapitulated, augmented by a soaring sax line and supported by the full band playing together with high energy and superior balance. The mood is sustained all the way to its eventual fade, leaving the listener unspeakably satisfied and much richer for the experience.

I can't stress enough just how wonderful an album this is. A top 10 in my book crafted by a top 5 band. The fact that it isn't more well-known is to me nothing short of criminal. It's a critical musical achievement, and I can't recommend it highly enough. 5 undeniably deserved stars.

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Send comments to Neo-Romantic (BETA) | Report this review (#946726)
Posted Saturday, April 20, 2013 | Review Permalink
3 stars Unfolded Like Staircase is a relatively unknown album that seems to have gotten a lot of praise from multiple sources, which is the main reason I decided to look into it. Suffice it to say the first thing I noticed was the overbearing sound and style of multiple classic prog groups the album seems to carry. This seems to carry the intensity and theatrics of Van Def Graff Generator, and the symphonic atmosphere of Genesis. An odd combination for sure, but it seems to work for these guys, who still manage to have a unique sound.

The album carries a heavy, symphonic edge with an overall dark atmosphere filled with Mellotron. Keyboard and guitar seem to have a balanced role. The Genesis and VDGG influences are instantly noticeable, so much so that this truly sounds like a classic prog album with a modern twist in sound and production.

The song-writing overall is pretty good; the songs are very structurally diverse and for the most part have quite a few good ideas. Unfortunately, the album is a bit long and inconsistent. The opening 'Canto IV' is probably the strongest and is filled with great riffs and melodies, including a motif from 'Dance On a Volcano' from Genesis. The same could be said about the following song, 'Cruches,' but the following tracks seem to suffer from either excessive length or poor ideas. 'Into the Dream' could have been shortened to 12- minutes and would have been much more effective. For this reason, I believe if this album has any faults, it isn't due to the lack of strong melodies and ideas, but rather the poor use and combination of these ideas. Usually I prefer through-composed music, but the songs generally don't seem to have any idea or motif that is repeated constantly throughout, meaning the songs often seem like they aren't going anywhere.

Overall, this is a good album, though I don't believe it quite meets the level of praise it receives. This is definitely an album for fans of classic prog, especially Van Der Graff Generator and Genesis. While I believe there are plenty of better modern prog albums, this is certainly one that is worth a listen.

6/10

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Send comments to Mr. Mustard (BETA) | Report this review (#1003580)
Posted Tuesday, July 23, 2013 | Review Permalink

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