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4 stars Excellent prog rock with very melodic tendencies. Sticks close to the melodic prog metal blueprint, just with less emphasis on the metal. More like Dream Theater/Vanden Plas lite. The only gripe I have is the production is a bit too tinny for my taste. Thicken it up and you would have THE prog metal release of the year. Instead it is a very capable release worthy of any melodic rock/metal fan's ear.
Report this review (#32016)
Posted Saturday, October 23, 2004 | Review Permalink
4 stars The cool thing about the ProgArchives comes when you are introduced to a new band you otherwise would never have known existed. Such is the case with Hourglass. I'm a prog fan that enjoys longer songs because if feel it gives good bands a chance to stretch out their musical ideas better. Let's just say these guys extend things out quite a bit with 5 songs on an 80min disc with two songs being less than 5min! I've seen some refer to this as Dream Theater light. I'm not so certain as it can be as heavy as DT at times. However, most of the time they stick to a more melodic prog-metal style that is more concerned with the songs than a showcase for technical prowess. I assume that the reference to Dream Theater light can be attributed to their not being an instrumental masturbation band like DT. That's not saying they're not quality musicians, quite to the contrary. The guitarist and the drummer are definitely skilled and above average for the genre.

And now, a short word about the vocals. The vocalist fits very well in the slower parts of songs, but just doesn't quite have enough power or range to effortlessly handle the heavier sections like other vocal stalwarts in the prog-metal genre. He's got a nice voice and he's also the third singer in three albums, so I think the band also recognizes finding the right singer can be an issue. When you're used to hearing singers like Russell Allan, Jorn Lande, Devin Townsend, James Labrie, Mac, Damien Wilson, Ray Alder, and Devin Graves; you have a certain idea of how prog-metal vocals can be handled.

The opening song, The Hammer's Strike is heavier than the material from their second album. There are some great guitar riffs and drumming variety. The keyboard and guitar interplay is impressive at times. The guitarist definitely has some similarities to Petrucci in his use of fast arpeggio's and scale runs. Yet at the same time he's a more melodic soloist. The keyboardist uses a lot of piano work in the song which definitely gives the song a more unique and non-DT take. At no time does this song seem repetitive or too long. The 17min goes by very fast and the song never loses interest along the way.

The next track, Altered State opens with a great bass line with a nice burbling tone. The vocal harmonies work incredibly well on this track. They're really catchy and memorable. This would make a good single. There's some nice acoustical guitar throughout the song with some great ethereal keyboards. What's cool about this track is that it never devolves into a power ballad. The drumming is also well done on this track with the drummer performing a lot of interesting cymbals work (something I really value in a drummer). All in all this is a great, concise track.

Now for the second epic presented in multiple track fashion, the 20min Mists of Darkness. MoD starts off with a quick keyboard which transitions into another memorable and harmonious vocal centric introduction. When the guitar kicks in the song has an early 80's Foreigner like hard rock flavor before returning to a more laid back Spock's Beard like section. When the prog-metal section kicks in it is very reminiscent of Fates Warning with driving guitars and heavy drumming. In fact, all that's missing is Ray Alder's voice!

The other short track on this recording is the 4.5min Thread the Needle. This is more like your standard prog-metal number with heavy guitar riffs, distorted keyboards, and staccato vocals. This sounds a lot like Falling into Infinity era Dream Theater.

Finally the album closes with the massive 32min epic Exit Wounds. This is a more traditional epic in the sense that it has multiple parts which are relatively distinct in that you can tell when you've switched to the next part in the epic. That's both good and bad, I like epics where they are totally seamless. Then again, I like epics where I can here separate and catchy subsections. I guess on this cd you get both types. There are a lot of nice memorable, vocal harmonies; though a little repetitive during Farewell. The subject matter is war and death, which does apply in these times. The drummer really shines on this epic. He switches between military patterns and heavy passages with ease. His intricate cymbal work is quite impressive and varied; something I wish more drummers in general would take as an example.

For a new band, these guys are actually pretty impressive. There is definitely a sign of progression following their second album. If they keep getting better at this rate, they are going to be a real force in the prog-metal genre. This cd is definitely worth picking up, especially considering it is only $10. I think if you are a DT, Fates Warning, or Threshold fan you will find this recording quite enjoyable.

Report this review (#76806)
Posted Monday, May 1, 2006 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
3 stars 3.5 stars.This is a Prog-Metal album that's been getting lots of airplay in my house of late. This is a blast but at almost 80 minutes it's too long and the final 30 minutes are especially difficult because the focus seems to be on the lyrics.

The opening song "The Hammer's Strike" is over 17 minutes long. It opens with a beautiful gentle guitar melody that is joined by some light drums as the sound increases. At 1 1/2 minutes in there is this monsterous riff as well as a grinding guitar melody at which point i'm saying "Incredible !" with a big smile on my face. The grinding guitar melody would fit perfectly on FATES WARNING's "Awaken The Guardian" album, it's that good ! Eventually the melody is joined by some great background synths and everything sounds so crisp and clear. Now the melody is galloping along and vocals join in, all this takes 4 minutes.The piano is a nice touch after 11 minutes. This first song is the absolute highlight of the record. Yup it's all downhill from here (haha). "Altered State" is a mid-paced tune with crisp drums, vocals, guitar, piano and background synths. The song does get heavier. "Mists Of Darkness" is a short intro to "Washed Away" featuring waves of synths only. The vocals in "Washed Away" remind me strangely of Ian Anderson until the vocals get intense 3 minutes in. The instrumental section is really good when the vocals get aggressive. Check out the awesome guitar 8 minutes in !

The vocals really shine in "Silent Suffering", there is a beautiful long guitar solo and later there is an emotional melody, as well as passionate vocals with scorching guitar. "Thread The Needle" features another grinding guitar melody to open with heavy riffs on this dark song. "Farewell" is a lighter, catchy, upbeat tune reminding me of some of ENCHANT's songs. "The Soldier" is a mellow song that gets angry. The next four songs look at the supposed death of the soldier from four different perspectives. These four and the final tune are where I feel the record loses it musically. If your into concept albums you may not feel as I do, but I think for the sake of the story the band has lost the amazing guitars and heaviness of the early part of the album. "The Unbeliever" is the exception, with the complex drumming and great guitar work, that all add to this dark, heavy song.

Overall this is highly recommended if your a Prog-Metal fan but I can't pull the trigger on 4 stars because of the length and the final 30 plus minutes which drag for me.

Report this review (#102222)
Posted Saturday, December 9, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars Hourglass is an American prog metal band hailing form of all places Utah, the land of Mormons and tabernacles. But Utah is also home to a man named Brick Williams, a hugely talented guitarist and songwriter, who has been on a musical journey that has been quite a roller coaster ride. Brick is the main man behind the project (producing, writing the lyrics and the bulk of the music) but has always tried to maintain Hourglass as a proper band and has gone through many different band mates while trying to realize his vision and be able to gig. Many of the other players were friends from school while some were from around the Utah music scene. To date, Subconscious is their crowning achievement and a great album.

Dream Theater comparisons are unavoidable. Brick certainly channels Petrucci and it could be argued that he is on par with him. His guitar is the main feature of this 79 minute album but this is no shred fest. This is the type of metal for those who like some but not a lot of the hard stuff. The songs vary tempo all through the album and Brick puts his guitar through the whole gamut in order to keep things fresh, melodic and catchy. John Dunston is a good drummer but plays with a restraint that Portnoy does not. The keys are not as prominent as a typical DT album, but are well done and the piano shows up nicely in a few areas. There are only five songs on the album, two short ones and three epics. The hope may have been for the two short ones to get a little radio play and they are certainly better than much of what you hear nowadays. I don't feel any drag in the epics. Williams has plenty of ideas to keep things moving along. The ending piece, a monster at 32 minutes, is about men going off to war and has six parts. It revisits a musical theme or two throughout and has an emotional aspect to it if you follow along to the lyrics. Cody Walker is a capable singer but will not be up for any awards. He sings nicely and has a good voice but the music could use a singer with a little more power. I don't mind his effort here but others may have an issue. He has since left the band. And a previous reviewer had a gripe with the production which I do not share. No problems for me on that front.

A new double album for the band is due out shortly. It has been four years in the making and has been a struggle for Williams to get out with personnel changes and the many other obstacles the music industry presents to bands that are not established. But Williams shows on Subconscious how big a talent he is and I expect the new album to surpass this one. Not an easy chore but the guy has chops. If you are a DT fan, this album certainly puts TOT, Octavarium and Systematic Chaos in the dust, while not being on the level of 6DOIT. I have probably over referenced our friends in DT here, Hourglass is certainly not a rip off and deserves a wider audience. Fans of prog metal that mixes things up and keeps good melodies while not going over the top should check this out. Good stuff.

Report this review (#187418)
Posted Thursday, October 30, 2008 | Review Permalink
3 stars 3.5 for sure

Hourglass third studio album from 2004 named Subconcious is another worthy in any way progressive metal album. I was quite pleasent surprised about their previous release, this one is no diffrent. Progressive metal very well played, even the originality lacks, but is not a bad thing after all, they manage to come with a good album from start to finish. The album is very lenghy over 79 min of music , divided in 2 big sections Mists of Darkness and Exit Wounds , both sections devided again in small pieces clocking as a whole around almost one hour + 2 pieces from their own, title track and Altered State. So, progressive metal well performed, where the skills of the musicians are very prodominant, specialy on opening track almost 18 min of solid and quite well composed track, from gentle guitar parts to bursting moments, arrangements are top notch here, the guitar and drum passages are worth for sure to be heared by any prog metal listner, excellent parts. All album is technical, but never being to technical to become boring, is very well melted with more gentle, mellow parts to give a realy great result. The voice is pleasent and fits very well into this kind of music. Forte tracks are The Hammer's Strike , The unbeliver, very strong musicianship very similar with Dream Theater btw. So, 3 stars for this album, rounded to 3.5 , good towards great, prog metal listners will find this album a great discovery for sure.

Report this review (#542393)
Posted Wednesday, October 5, 2011 | Review Permalink

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