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Altura - Mercy CD (album) cover



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Cesar Inca
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Oh, how great was and still is the influence of DT on many new bands that came out during the mid and late 90s! Altura was one of those bands, with the plus of managing to handle that influence creatively and with some clear signs of originality: such a pity that it was so ephemeral. In a time when the Magna Carta label was very prolific, Altura delivered "Mercy", an astonishing album full of muscle, craft and genuine emotion. The repertoire comprised here is no less than attractive, many times reaching the exquisite. As true as it is that there's lots of metallic force in their performances, it is the clever interplaying and the solid use of textures that makes this album particularly distinct. There's also plenty of complex rhythm patterns and mood and tempo shifts, all of them performed with unbelievable precision and compelling energy. Regarding this particular point, a special mention goes to Gibson's immaculate drumming (clearly inspired on Peart and Zonder); a very special mention goes also to Lingle's superb solos and orchestrations on keyboards, which make him the main focus of the instrumental section. The presence of guitar is less predominant than on your regular metal recording, but again, it is Ervin's choice to remain a bit subdued and focus more profusely on riffs and harmonies in company with bassist Osborne. Meanwhile, Irving's vocal range and style help to build an air of emotional drive when conveying the meaningful lyrics, mostly focused on introspective items. The well constructed melodic lines that lie on the base of all songs helps the band to avoid mere frontal pyrotechnics: the musicians' abilities are displayed for the benefit of the songs themselves. The namesake track kicks off the album with the sound of an electric storm counterpointed by shattered glass, then the music begins with full splendour and passionate fire. The same fire is perpetuated in the next two songs, which are among my favourites of the whole record. The ballad 'Horizons Fade' brings the listener a gentle breeze of melancholy, something like a mixture of Journey's melodic vibration and classic Genesis' eerie romanticism. The 2+ minute long instrumental 'Continuum' displays a sonic collage of diverse musical ideas performed with fluid ease and cleverly administered excitement. The closing 10-plus minute track 'Alone' shows Altura at their most epic, bringing back the melancholy of 'Horizons Fade' while refurbishing with prog pomposity. Once you get to know and enjoy this CD, you can only regret that this was a one-shot recording: the listener's only consolation, as an old Spanish adage states, is that "a stone gives you less than that" (meaning: none would have been even worse). The bottom line is: this is a great album that should not be overlooked, let alone left forgotten.
Report this review (#30831)
Posted Friday, September 3, 2004 | Review Permalink
The T
Honorary Collaborator
2 stars ALTURA's first and last album doesn't really reach great heights with me (pun intended).

What we have here is another band just like label mates (at that time) and also-extinct LEMUR VOICE: a group whose main influence is, clearly, DREAM THEATER, and which at moments just can't find a sound of their own.

Just like their Dutch former label mates, ALTURA has no strong character. The music is not really exciting or interesting, and even though they display a good amount of playing skills in their instruments, it feels as if the band members weren't doing it with a lot of passion. The music lacks punch, lacks energy, lacks blood.

Of course, as every DT-student has to, ALTURA creates some difficult songs with sudden tempo changes, instrumental sections of long duration and solos and musical figures that prove that the musicians here are not new to their respective instruments. The problem here is not only the lack of originality (there are other bands that, while not entirely original, make more entertaining music), but the weak songwriting. With music that is not really unique, we should at least expect good melodies and choruses that make us want to sing aloud. Sadly, that's not the case, as most of the tracks in "Mercy" are difficult to remember, not so much for their complexity but for the absence of spirit, of a driving force that would turn run-of-the-mill progressive-metal songs into prog-metal anthems. There are bands that have achieved this without being overly original. ALTURA didn't.

The music, as said before, has strong resemblances with the art of DREAM THEATER but we can also hear other influences in the mix, mostly FATES WARNING, especially in the playing of Chad Gibson, drummer, whose style is similar to that of Zonder, and in the vocals of Rain Irving, which at times remind us of the powerful voice of Ray Alder. The rest of the musicians are accomplished but forgettable. The solos are great, yes, but just from a technical point of view. I can't seem to remember one that made me grip my heart like many other solos, even very simple, easy ones, do.

The recording doesn't really help. On its early days, Magna Carta was home to some good bands who had to suffer atrocious recordings (SHADOW GALLERY, MAGELLAN). Here we have a not-so-great band that has to endure a mediocre production: not terrible, but it lacks the spark, the fire to make the already weak music stand out.

All in all, a decent but entirely forgettable progressive metal album. There are great bands that play in DT's style. ALTURA, at least on this album, weren't great. It seems they had "Mercy" on us and ceased to exist afterwards.

Report this review (#171842)
Posted Wednesday, May 21, 2008 | Review Permalink
4 stars A good grab is you want a break from DT.

A great grab if you want to hear good Prog Metal that is not DT.

Why do I like Altura's "Mercy" so much? It's rare enough, nieve enough, and not overly metal. It has more of a hard rock leaning. It has great moments any DT snob can enjoy and not feel threatened by... plus good enough to have a non-DT fan enjoy it for it's prog outbursts and "light but not wimpy-ness" like the band Enchant. "One By One" is great but I think "One Dimension" is the strongest song on the album. Very varied, cohesive, and extremely emotional. "Alternate Lines" gets heavy. "The Continuum" is instrumental. The album as a whole deals with strong emotional themes: growing up. Some deal with the topic of drowning and being lost in who you are. Some deal with fear. Some being stagnant or in "living Limbo". Some about learning and overcoming predetermined limitations. Very heady for a prog metal band.

The singer is much more emotional than you would think. His has some limited range... there is no screaming or shrill wails. Just proper, well sung, in tune/range tenor vocals... unlike Steve Walsh, who's a "belter"... or Brie cheese who's a bit nasal and weak.

The keys are quite good. Busy, active, and some real Hammond in a few parts! Sweet!

The drummer isn't too busy. He does a great job. His kit is quite crisp, live and open.

The bassist is nimble, holds it down, plays a 5 string, and is percussive and audible. Some little slapping in some parts. The tone is very basic and sterile. It could have been tweaked.

There isn't too much to say about the guitar. He's quite good, smooth, and he doesn't shred... thank God.

DT might have defined the genre after Helloween made "Keeper Pt II", when Fates Warning did ANYTHING, and when Queensryche did "Mindcrime"... these to me are the definitive first true Prog Metal lords, but Altura has it's own to offer. One that does not pound your head. One that does not great on you.

I hate the fact that DT must be mentioned when reviewing this album or other prog metal acts. As far as Prog Metal is concerned, I dislike that genre because of DT's status. It ruined the fact that when you enjoy bands they are always in the back of you mind because EVERYONE mentions them and uses them as a ruler, a guide, or as the friggin' gospel.

Thank you, Altura. It's a great listen. 4 solid stars for metal heads 3 for non metal lovers.

Oh... the lead singer, Rain Irving, has a solo project. Look him up.

Report this review (#617338)
Posted Tuesday, January 24, 2012 | Review Permalink
3 stars 3.5 stars really

One of the lesser known prog metal acts from the '90s is for sure americans Altura. Formed around 1993 and releasing only one album in 1996 named Mercy and then gone into oblivion. They were part of Magna Carta label who had under their wings bands like Shadow Gallery, Magellan and Enchant, among others, each one bringing something new in prog field around mid '90s, Altura was no diffrent even they had lot in common with DT same period.. To me this is pretty decent towards great prog metal with nice guitars and some great keyboards runnings. LIke I saw on the description of the band they are like DT or a lighter version of Fates Warning but little heavier then Enchant for example. All musicans had technical abilities to creat something good and the instrumental parts are more then ok. There are lots of breaks, tempo changes, duels between guitars and keyboards and an intresting voice aswell. Some intricate pieces here and the best this album has are The calling, One by one and the instrumental one, the rest are good for sure. Also there are some more melodic passages and in combination with more edgy ones the result is Altura - a band that for some reason never made it in prog metal circles, but they remain in history of prog metal with Mercy who I think at least prog metal fans give a try, worth it even is far from masterpiece. 3.5 stars, I really like this one for more then 15 years.

Report this review (#1376975)
Posted Tuesday, March 3, 2015 | Review Permalink

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