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5 stars After just one listening of The End Is Beautful, I can confidently say this album is easily worth 5-stars and will become a future Echolyn classic in the same league as As The World and Mei.

Filled with poignant, beautiful and clearly very personal lyrics which are delivered by the inimitable vocals of Brett Kull and Ray Weston, TEIB provides the huge range of styles, moods, tempos and light & shade we've come to expect from Echolyn.

In the way that Mei introduced us to a chamber orchestra in support, TEIB does the same with saxophone and trumpet to good effect.

Further listenings will no doubt reveal more of the layers that typify this outstanding truly progressive band from Philadelphia. Their sound is totally unique with no obvious parallels with any bands, past or present; though their influences are hinted at on occasion.

I can barely contain my excitement at seeing them perform for the very first time in Europe in London on 3rd September.

Report this review (#42281)
Posted Tuesday, August 9, 2005 | Review Permalink
Dan Bobrowski
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Echolyn keeps progressing, adding new twists and influences into their distinctive brand of Progressive Rock. The return of Tom Hyatt on bass adds flavor and a bit of funk as the rhythm section becomes more versatile and cohessive. A little popping bottom end opens the doors for the brass section that appears on a few tracks. The clavinet on So Ready screams of Stevie Wonder and even gives a slight taste of Superstitions. This may be their most eclectic outing yet.

It took about six full listens to unlock the complexities that at first don't sound all that tricky. Some of the tunes, on the surface, came across as simplistic and a kind of step back from the challenging compositions we've come to expect from this group. There are many multi-layered instrumental pieces that aren't audible at first due to the high production quality. I tried to follow a single instrument throughout, but got caught up in the fabulous melodies and intricate undercurrents.

Make Me Sway (Which you can download for free from their website) rocks hard with Ray Weston putting forth some pure anger while vocalizing about being lied to. So Ready follows in the vein of porous relationships. Arc of Descent: Dancing in a Motel just West of Lincoln finds Brett Kull singing a very disturbing suicide note with a somewhat dreamy, pretty melody that belies the message. A very dark, hopeless and sad painting of pain and dispair. Georgia Pines uses alcohol to dull the pain of never achieving the good life, the path to glory and happiness. The punchy rhythm, hammond melody and brass accompaniment are at odds with the harsh lyrics.

Chris Buzby really shows versatility on various keyboards, keeping the heavy subject matter bouyant with sweet instrumental punctuations. Paul Ramsey, highly underrated, drums up perfect counterpoint to the Tom Hyatt's lively bass lines. Ray Weston and Brett Kull sound very fresh and compliment each other so well vocally. Kull's guitar playing is as strong and consistently inventive as ever. Hyatt, Ramsey and Buzby also chip in with background vocals.

I can't say this is my favorite Echolyn release, but it will get heavy rotation with As the World, Cowboy Poems Free and Suffocating the Bloom. It is a grower, but should appeal to anyone who enjoys fresh, innovative progressive rock.

Report this review (#45296)
Posted Friday, September 2, 2005 | Review Permalink
erik neuteboom
4 stars A few weeks ago I went to an Echolyn concert after watching their stunning DVD. Well, Echolyn blew me and the audience away, what a powerful sound and what a killer voice! On their new album "The end is beautiful" Echolyn has succeeded to capture the spirit 'on stage', what a dynamic and alternating sound and how elaborate the 8 compositions are (as the previous reviewers already pointed at).

1. Georgia pine (5.49) : A swinging rhythm and a powerful sound featuring raw vocals, evoking the early Kansas. The interplay is excellent, especially between the organ and rhythm- section. After a flashy synthesizer solo and a fiery electric guitar solo follows a break with emotional vocals and tender piano. Then heavy guitar-riffs, lush Hammond organ and again raw vocals. The music sound scaptivating and contains a lot of tension.

2. Heavy blue miles (6.48) : This composition is loaded with shifting moods and changes of accellaration, from slow with piano and fine vocals to fluent and bombastic with fiery electric guitar and floods of organ. Remarkable is the integration of brass (sax and trumpet), very distinctive are their organ-guitar interplay and the vocal hamronies (like Gentle Giant).

3. Lovesick morning (10.12) : A melancholical song (as you could expect from this title) with a slow rhythm, wailing vocals, several sound effects and trumpet play in the vein of Miles Davis. The build-up and final part are wonderful featuring a splendid solo on the lap-steel-guitar.

4. Make me sway (5:22) : Again lots of variation, from slow to mid-tempo and bombastic, all layered with lush Hammond organ, a fat guitar sound and powerful, inspired vocals. The pieces with sampled choir-Mellotron are awesome! The closing section contains a fine organ solo with propulsive drums and guitar riffs.

5. The end is beautiful (7:45) : The titletrack alternates between dreamy and fiery featuring great play on the slide-guitar and electric piano along nice vocal harmonies and strong interplay between organ and drums. The final part includes brass sounds and a fiery, very compelling guitar solo.

6. So ready (5:01) : This song starts with sounds-effects, then a lush and bombastic sound and a swinging rhtyhm featuring the distinctive Hohner D6 clavinet sound.

7. The arc of descent (Dancing in a motel just est of Lincoln) (5:46) : This track is mainly dreamy with melancholical vocals and tender piano, gradually the sound becomes more and more dramatic with dynamic interplay between drums and organ and howling electric guitar.

8. Misery, not memory (9:03) : The final composition is very alternating and loaded with heavy guitar-riffs, bombastic organ and powerful vocals. A strong part is with a swinging piano, often blended with the electric guitar. Remarkable are the 'ambient samples', the final part is again swinging featuring strong drums and inspired vocals, what an excellent and varied singer this man is!

During the years Echolyn has turned into an unique progrock band. With this album they have prooved that this USA band is on the level of other great bands like Spock's Beard.HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Report this review (#50014)
Posted Tuesday, October 4, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars Echolyn returns with a new album which is delightful. It seems that modern prog bands begin with a good album, but their newer albums often dissapoint the listener. However, Echolyn is certainly not like that! This band comes up with new ideas. They express their emothions successfully by singing and playing, and their emothions aren't always shiny and happy. Some of the songs have melancholic lyrics, and some of them are just totally honest. In short, If you favour Echolyn, I suggest you get their latest album.
Report this review (#60375)
Posted Thursday, December 15, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars I thought they were goners!?

Well, with this album, Echolyn is alive and doesn't seem to have lost of it's perk. All the elements that make them apart the others are still present and in a great amount. They still part from the herd again, giving a fresh change to the boring worn styles. Goergia Pie is a very good opening song, with the right amount of time changes and adrenaline. One thing about Echolyn is that they've never gone metal. They didn't even hardened their sound over the years. They still sound like it's 1991, with guitars and drums muffled like Pearl Jam did in Ten.

On the same path once again, vocally and musically, every song could've figured on As the World or Suffocating the Bloom, but they prove that a good recipe can be used without tasting completely the same. Some more elaborated keyboard work and (tad) higher heavyness can be tasted on Make Me Sway for example and some funky elements can be heard on So Ready.

This is not for the starter in progressive music, could get discouraged quickly; the songs are just so packed with time changes and melodies. But, for somebody who's been around the classics (Yes, Genesis, Pink Floyd....) and looking for a greater challenge: this is a great change of pace and/or will keep you digging longer than most of symphonic bands.

Why Echolyn is keeping the songs so complicated? Maybe they're also bored.

Report this review (#73282)
Posted Monday, March 27, 2006 | Review Permalink
3 stars One day, I bought "The End Is Beautiful" with some feeling and hope that I'll get a high quality music like their recent album, "Mei", a +48 minutes track!!! The moment when I bought "Mei", I was blown away because it's really a great epic. It was a good try and a successful experiment for the band.

Well, finally I found that this album was out of hope. It's truly still a good album, but "Mei" was still become the best Echolyn's album for me so far. I hope they'll comeback with a different style. As a prog fan, you can collect this album and compare it with "Mei". May be you'll find "a beautiful ending" in comparing it.

Quotes from the writer:

First, I have to tell you that these two weeks was so hard for me. I faced some complicated troubles, so I couldn't even think about music at the moment. This thing became my reason not to produce a really high quality review today. I hope I'll write the better review next time.

I also would like to dedicate all my reviews today for my teacher, Madam Lidya Herawati who helped me forget all my problems with her brilliant words and even fix some of them and gave me some great advice and a new dimension into my visions of life, until now I can back to write some review for all of you around the world. I was impressed with her goodness, kindness, and understanding. She is definitely one of a few people outside my family who I respected so much.

Unfortunately, I'm sure 100% that she doesn't know about my review that was dedicated for her and perhaps won't have a chance to read it. So do my friends, who never have any interest to read my reviews because they completely didn't ever like Progressive Music. It's really no problem for me. For me, my appreciation in this "unknown review" has been enough and I'm quite sure that the most important thing is that I appreciated her from my deepest heart. Thank you, Madam!!!

Fernandi Gunawan

Report this review (#98254)
Posted Saturday, November 11, 2006 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
4 stars The album gets started with "Georgia Pine" an energetic, fun song with a chorus that will stick in your head long after the song ends. "Heavy Blue Miles" features a lot of trumpet, sax and piano giving it a Jazz feel. The organ is also very prominant , not only on this song but throughout this record. "Lovesick Morning" is another song with a great catchy chorus, and the trumpet melodies are amazing. "Make Me Sway" is a darker song, although the chorus is lighter and smoother, I like it ! Good contrast.

The self titled song has outstanding vocals throughout and they are the highlight of this song. "So Ready" is a funky, almost Stevie Wonder type song, with sax and guitar standing out. "Arc Of Descent" gets better as it goes, although the lyrics are quite depressing. "Misery, Not Memory" the final song features lots of great hammond organ, and the song to me sounds better after the interlude part way through.

4 solid stars and highly recommended.

Report this review (#98518)
Posted Sunday, November 12, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars I really have to admit that I truly underrated THE END IS BEAUTIFUL as I heard it for the first time. Too poppish, no prog-elements, but at least pretty good chant, was my imrpession. Far from it! The CD is pure (depressive) Progressive Rock that needs some time to find a way into your heart. Not only the chant is convincing, it is the entire mood which is created by the nice work of the members on their instruments that at least got me. The lyrics are pretty, pretty good and sad.

I don't want to say this album would not have faults, for example it seems that I personally can not get into the song "Arc Of Descent (Dancing In A Motel Just West Of Lincoln)" because it seems to be too poppy for me and you may not be that wrong when blaming "Lovesick Morning" for being nearly to cheesy (though I like that song a lot) and maybe there are too less solos for some people's tastes on that disc, but

you have to hold it to the band's credit that THE END IS BEAUTIFUL is really well-structured, that the music and the lyrics are demanding (even if it does not seem to be that way when you listen to the album for the first time) and that ECHOLYN is still progressing here which is also not usual for such an "old" band (I mean they exist since 15 years and it seems to me that they have not run out of ideas and are still making good music).

I strongly recommend THE END IS BEAUTIFUL to those people who are not that heavily into prog because it is not very dissonant and to all prog heads who love complex music with beautiful melodies. Still you will hear some influences here, for example, a KING CRIMSON-like trumpets-ending in the song "Heavy Blue Miles" or a short guitar solo in the song "The End Is Beautiful" that may remind you on a solo played by STEVE HOWE of YES. However, of course ECHOLYN have their own style.

Not only the end is beautiful on this CD! Four stars!

Report this review (#104975)
Posted Saturday, December 30, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars This band continues to amaze me with their playing and song writing skills. The End is Beautiful is a great modern rock album that starts of with 'Georgia Pine', a song that doesn't pull any punches. It's a big sounding rock number with a more fuller feel to it than I recall on earlier Echolyn numbers. The wall of sound presented here could easily cover any intricacies offered by a lesser band but this is Echolyn remember and nothing, repeat nothing, will ever get in the way of their staccato style prog interjections.

With 'So Ready' we're treated to an almost funky sounding rock song that wouldn't sound out of place on some more mainstream jock's turntables. There's a dash of 70's sounding keyboard in there as well.

Ray Western has to be congratulated on his lyrics. He has a way of putting his own unique take on common themes and elevating them above most every other word-smith I've heard. Lyrically the album is dark. If Western isn't asking "where's my gun?" or singing about "wanting someone to hurt" then he's musing on things equally as nefarious. Indeed he finishes the album with the line "can't deny, that I belong to misery". But don't let that put you off! Like the music they accompany, these words are something the dwell upon and contemplate. It's all part of the package that is Echolyn and an element that, like bass player, Tom Hyatt, would be missed if it were not there. Mr Western's abilities in this area should not be overlooked. I just delight in hearing the inter-play between these musicians. These guys are just so tight and 'spot on' as a unit, it's unbelievable! I have been trying to figure how much they must practice to get up to this standard and well, it must be a lot!

I urge anyone who does not possess an Echolyn album to get one. The complexity of their offerings is guaranteed to keep you spinning Echolyn CD's over and over again. The harder you listen the more you are rewarded and that's the way it should be with a great band. Long may this group keep on recording.

Report this review (#114718)
Posted Friday, March 9, 2007 | Review Permalink
Prog Leviathan
4 stars Echolyn returns to their song-based structure and cranks out an outstanding collection of complex and melodic rock with a darker tone. The playing and arrangements are all top- notch, but most of all I am impressed by the increased variety in vocal deliveries and in the album's greatly increased production values, which sounds much more clean and layered than their previous releases. The band uses more experimentation with their instruments as well as with their compositions.

As with most Echolyn albums, this one gets better the more one listens to it; unlike other Echolyn albums, the songs aren't so similar that one isn't discouraged in getting to that point.

Report this review (#126272)
Posted Monday, June 18, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars If you expect that Echolyn - The End Is Beautiful will deliver another epic-like "Mei", then prepare to lower your expectation. TEIB is not concept-like typical symphonic prog as in Mei. TEIB tends to blend jazzier tune (Heavy Blue Miles,Lovesick Morning), swinging rock (Georgia Pine), to Symph Prog (Make Me Sway, Misery..). TEIB prolongs multiple verses of Echolyn albums all along. This ain't like retro-prog in As The World, or the AmericaProg in Cowboy Poems Free. This most recent effort is darker, heavier, sometimes giving you raw feeling of live like.

Georgia Pine - is swinging groove - driven by Paul Ramsey energetic drums, steered by Buzby's clavinet with his Hammond b3. You can expect this is great live opening. Next best section: at 03:05 - the music starts to turn into Kull's vocal tingling with background piano - slowly... melancholy..bluesy...and then back to the Hammond, with driving groove back to the fore.

Heavy Blue Miles starts as groovy rockin' number with synth, before it starts to mellow into a jazzier slower, with Sax in the background coming to the verse. Within the sax and B3 riffs lies the hypnotic refrain, "Love made me ill with lust". Or try this - "It's Ok, It's Ok - I'm not ok, I'm not ok". I actually feel this song could have developed more - by adding more sax/horns as additional layer of sound. This song is one highlight of the album - even as it is.

Other highlights of TEIB - "Make Me Sway" - which is also available as free download from their site. This is echolyn going back to "as the world", with great instrumental delivered.

Title track - The End Is Beautiful is hauntingly beautiful, bad pun intended! The lyric "Pain introduced us. I wanted someone i could hurt" is just so sadly melancholy sung by RW. This is one song you need to listen with lights off!

All in all - TEIB manage to put Echolyn as being consistently "progressing" - or at least - altering their deliveries from album to album to give us different flavor of their music. Don't get me wrong - you can immediately tell this is Echolyn. Their harmonic, beat, and chords progression are still there on the fore, just on a different plate.

Report this review (#146388)
Posted Monday, October 22, 2007 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Echolyn's previous album, the brilliant Mei, only consisted of one song and here they return to a shorter song format although a couple are still around the ten minute mark. Echolyn play complex Symphonic Prog and particularly with their use of vocal harmonies are influenced by Gentle Giant. As might be expected the standard of musicianship is very high here, essential to follow the twists and turns of the complicated song structures that are a trademark of their sound. Drummer Paul Ramsey and Bassist Tom Hyatt are an excellent rhythm section playing off each other beautifully and playing with subtlety when necessary. Chris Buzby's Keyboards are an integral part of the Echolyn sound, much of the time having a nice retro feel with the use of Organ and electric/acoustic Piano. Brett Kull's guitar playing is also integral to their sound, rarely in your face but intricate and always inventive. He also compliments vocalist Ray Weston with some excellent harmony singing. The band isn't averse to bringing in other musicians when they feel it's required having employed string sections to good effect in the past. Here they make occasional use of Saxophone, Trumpet and Trombone.

The End Is Beautiful is not an immediate album and takes a few plays to get under your skin but its well worth persevering with. Highlights include the up tempo opener Georgia Pine and my own personal favourite Heavy Blue Miles.

The title track displays excellent use of dynamics showing that a song doesn't have to be twenty minutes long to fit in lots of moods and time changes, Echolyn doing it easily in seven and a half minutes. So Ready has a funky vibe to it though is one of the weaker tracks on the album but is more than compensated for by the following track, The Arc of Decent, a more laid back moment from the band but it builds nicely towards the end. The album closes well with the nine minute Misery, Not Memory again displaying the bands excellent grasp of the use of dynamics.

So whilst not being their best album, The End is Beautiful is a strong release and should keep fans of the band more than happy. However anyone just discovering Echolyn might be better starting with As the World or Suffocating the Bloom.

Report this review (#152931)
Posted Tuesday, November 27, 2007 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Wow! This was my introduction to Echolyn and it was a great first impression. The talent in this band is incredible. So many differnt styles are traversed on this CD played skillfully and the vocals while not stellar are right on key and not offenisve to the ears. I love the funkiness of So Ready and the title track while only 7+ minutes is truly epic in its stature. I could see the band closing a concert it with it. This is definatly an American band as there are real hard rock passages that compliment the pastoral and jazzier parts. In fact these guys invoke (or maybe the other way round) another modern American band IZZ. I love the trade offs between keybordist Buzby and guitarist Kull. Some really sweet sounds on acioustic guitar as well and great organ and paino parts as well give this an earthy flavor in parts. Really really sublime. Reminds me of really good Genesis jams with Hackett and Banks in places.

I really like this CD and look foward to getting more. Good to see that they will hitting the festival circuit again this year and will be at Calprog in October. IZZ and Echolyn on the same bill can't f-ning wait!

Report this review (#170358)
Posted Friday, May 9, 2008 | Review Permalink
3 stars This album follows on the excellent 'Mei' in somewhat the same style. These last two are heavier than any of the previous efforts. But, where 'Mei' is epic, TEIB has shorter songs. There are some nice bits and this is still a good album, but I still found it to be quite a letdown. The two best Echolyn albums for my money are 'Suffocating the Bloom' and 'Mei'. This fits in with the rest I have heard. Good but not great.
Report this review (#171981)
Posted Thursday, May 22, 2008 | Review Permalink
Eclectic Prog Team
5 stars Echolyn is a solid band with an unbelievable number of memorable tracks, and this album contains quite a few of them. I find that the musicianship is never less than stellar, and the more I listen to them, the more I appreciate their deep and thoughtful lyrics. While I do not believe the album is quite as amazing as previous efforts like Mei or Cowboy Poems Free, I think this is a grand achievement. Echolyn had already proven to be masters of the loose concept album (particularly with Cowboy Poems Free), and they pull it off again here. In general, the stunning music belies the depressing and bleak lyrical themes, which involve addiction, broken relationships, and suicide. Only a couple of the songs are somewhat less than perfect for me, but I can definitely live with that.

"Georgia Pine" A heavy Echolyn song that charges full speed ahead, this isn't what I was expecting at all! Yet the chorus satisfies in a way I also did not expect. The synthesizer and subsequent guitar solo are the highlights of the piece, and the darker part that ensues comes in almost without warning (like a sudden letdown that follows the high). The giddy music evokes the feeling of euphoria from "getting high," and lends to the song's intrigue.

"Heavy Blue Miles" Stark piano over drums and rising keyboards build until the song really gets going. The piano flourishes are great, but the subtle organ is also worthy of credit. Somewhat complex vocals jump in here and there, and the music, while by no means simplistic, might have some appeal to those new to progressive rock.

"Lovesick Morning" The longest song on the album begins with subdued drums and lightly distorted guitar. This is a slower piece with lovely piano and is probably one of the finest moments from this great American band. The vocal trade-offs are excellent (reminding me a bit of Mei), and the chorus is typical of the memorable business Echolyn is capable of crafting. The buildup in the ending is fabulous (the end really is beautiful), with a powerful host of instruments.

"Make Me Sway" A bitter song with gritty guitars and just as gritty an organ, it's loud and boisterous. Ray Weston's voice is vitriolic, singing somewhat esoteric lyrics about being lied to (but isn't that what many of us want- to be lied to?).

"The End is Beautiful" The introduction to the title track begins with maddening organ, drums, and granular bass. Despite such varied and excellent-crafted music, the lyrics regard the pain of a relationship plagued with one partner's addictions (which is apparently the overriding theme of the album). The lead guitar is absolutely gorgeous, and along with the vocals of the titular segment, this is another crowning moment for Echolyn. The chorus is nothing less than fascinating.

"So Ready" A funkier track with a nice bass groove and brass carrying on in the instrumental section, this rocker contains a bluesy and entertaining guitar solo.

"The Arc of Descent (Dancing in a Motel Just West of Lincoln)" After a darkly stunning guitar wash in the beginning, Brett Kull's soft and subdued voice is very disturbing given that he is singing about an impending suicide. Even the upbeat and pleasing music cloak the disheartening subject matter. The title comes from a line in "Lovesick Morning," giving credence to the notion of this being a loose concept album. It's no longer easy after hearing this song to look at the lonely and the depressed people in my life and not wonder if that's the last time I'll be seeing them.

"Misery, Not Memory" Heavy organ and drums begin this forceful closer. The music is layered and textured, although not as seamless as some of the other pieces. The lyrics reference Pink Floyd's 1979 double album ("Past side three of The Wall), discussing the complete decadence and unhealthiness of the protagonist (if there is indeed one protagonist). The song ends with a disembodied, almost ghostly voice and old guitar behind a thin wall of noise. After such a harrowing but memorable journey, do our mistakes eventually ruin life for us and others? And we left to wonder, just how is the end beautiful at all?

Report this review (#221429)
Posted Tuesday, June 16, 2009 | Review Permalink
Crossover & JR/F/Canterbury Teams
5 stars The End Is Beautiful is like an ogre... I mean an onion... it has layers. On the surface, it may sound like somewhat standard songs. But the more you listen to it... and I mean really listen to it... the more these layers unfold, and the majesty of the songs are revealed.

There is much written here that Echolyn is merely a Gentle Giant clone. But while there is clear evidence that they are influenced by GG, they are by no means a clone. Echolyn's music is some of the most unique in the prog world, with the unusual distiction of also being easy on the ears. It is that quality, I believe, that lulls many listeners into the assumption that the music is not highly complex. But delve down into it, and it is.

From the opening Georgia Pine, to the final track, you get amazing compositions of compound time signatures, swirling harmonies, and intricately entwined instumental arrangements. Even slow ballads, like Lovesick Morning is deceptively deep in those respects.

And So Ready is one of the steamiest hard rock tunes ever.

Don't pass this one by. And don't just listen once and put it away.

Report this review (#236514)
Posted Wednesday, September 2, 2009 | Review Permalink
4 stars One of the best albums from Echolyn, not as good as "Suffocating the Bloom", but close to their music edge of the nineties anyway...the unique- minor defect - is due to the fact that is a sort of solo album, mainly from Brett Kull , especially talking about the point of view of his composition... however the psichedelic tunes as well as the immediate avant gard pop songs (sometimes in the vein of "Mei" or also "Cowboy Poems free"), where the virtuosic features are not the main target, don't affect the good output of the album. I should say that's definitively their most original side, even though the whole album is more guitar oriented, by means of 13 short songs..well the lyrics are a little bit melancholy, obviously not sad, but quite reflective and intelligent too; as for all these reasons the present album can be recommended to the old fans and the new listener as well...for instance "Georgia pine" is a quite powerful tune, enriched with a remarkable guitar solo and a good "support" at the Hammond organ too...ok the piano is gentle but not so important within the composition, but nevermind! "Heavy blue miles" for example is a convincing episode along with its interesting changes in the mood or the various accelerated rhtymical patterns as well, without forgetting the chorus inside "The End is Beautiful", another interesting title track and the definitive "trademark" by Echolin...LONG LIVE ECHOLYN!!
Report this review (#257314)
Posted Tuesday, December 22, 2009 | Review Permalink
4 stars I have only just discovered Echolyn in the last month in spite of them having been in existence for 20 years. What's more, so far I have only heard this album and I write this without reference to any of their other work. In some regards, it seems unnecessary to do so. This album is so good, to my ears, that it stands perfectly well on its own as a classic of 21st Century progressive music - as young as our century may be.

The eight tracks comprising this work offer as good an hour of listening as anything I have heard in recent years, that's how impressed I am. Moreover, each track has a distinct identity, or individuality if you will. None of them overstays their welcome, the longest clocking in at just over 10 minutes. Not that I'm averse to the long-form song you understand, rather, what Echolyn do here is let each track breath sufficiently to assert its personality and uniqueness before moving on to another character in the set thereby sustaining your interest and anticipation. In this sense, 'The End Is Beautiful' has a dramatic structure and unfolds its narrative musically and lyrically without ever approaching anything yuo might term a 'concept'. The songs seem to concern themselves with some pretty murky corners of existence: Loneliness, loss, despair, doomed relationships, addiction (largely it would appear to love), love won and love lost, sorrow and isolation. However, there's nothing in the music that reflects this by being morose or melancholic, quite the opposite really. Musically, Echolyn present us with an optimistic sound merely tinged with sadness in places. The songs are as full of energy and beauty as they are about life's unpleasant challenges. One lyric, from the closing track 'Misery Not Memory' exemplifies this ideally for me:

Wake like a Quaker Full of promise I'm afraid I'll kill again Chose the life that's poisoned me Leave it all to misery Leave it all to misery Can't deny That I belong to misery

The album opens with Georgia Pine, bursting in with a drum break which almost feels like it is going to become 'Stargazer' from Rainbow Rising before quickly finding its feet and galloping along to the wonderful 'I'm gonna get high as a Georgia Pine' chorus - all hammond organ, handclaps and harmonies. But this belies the song's menacing underbelly. It's kind of, 'look at as all getting along merrily but underneath we're a skulking hoard of hate and regret'. Having got the blood moving, 'Heavy Blue Miles' continues to hurl us along on a wave of rich and swelling measures into a delicate piano-led verse that repeatedly threatens danger before developing into a genre-bending mid-section that defies description. Superb. What I will say about these two openers, and this is characteristic of the whole album, is the intricacy of the arrangements is startlingly good. The level of detail in every aspect of the production is staggering. Moreover, both opening tracks are given a further dimension in the form of some fantastic brass arrangements by Chris Buzby played by Mark Gallagher (Alto & Baritone sax), Eric Aplet (Trumpet) and Phil Kaufman (Trombone).

'Lovesick Morning' is the longest track on the album and takes us into stiller, deeper waters. The chorus here is gorgeous and a standout moment in another rich, complex tapestry of sound that the band create with more wonderful horn accompaniment. I'd like to make mention of drummer, Paul Ramsey. His kit work is extraordinary varying from subtle phrasing to hold the beat down, keeping the root rhythm clear and interesting to giant, clattering accents and fills which compliment the variety in the arrangements perfectly. I think this true of the whole work to be fair, the musicianship is of the very highest order and the band accomplish that balance between individual virtuosity and collective coherence with panache.

Ray Weston (for i assume it is him) gets his chance to shine vocally on the angry 'Make Me Sway', bellowing his guts out through a rolling and jabbing pugilist of a number. The title track follows and is in total contrast to everything so far being led along by Tom Hyatt's funky little bass figures that resolve into some sonically taut sections that sound like The Doobie Brothers enduring colonic irrigation. For me the most challenging piece on the album. More funky bass and almost Motown-like Clavinet excursions in the next track, 'So Ready'. 'Arc of Descent' follows and is something of a keynote number for the album's themes and styles being an unnerving mix of acoustic and electric passages about a man alone contemplating taking his own life in a motel room. Final track, 'Misery, Not Memory' takes all of the elements of the album so far and wraps them in an uptempo, accessible, foot-tapping sort of groove driven by more of Buzby's hammond playing until dropping breathlessly into an ethereal whirl of sounds before reprising the refrain and hurtling into its final measures. Something haunting remains as the message of this song seeps through beyond its closing notes. Something to do with life's transience and the wreckage of substance misuse. Deep.

Deep, but never 'up itself' (unlike your reviewer) this is a fine, fine album. American purveyors of progressive music are, as a general rule, not as pervasive as we Europeans (for I am one). Perhaps there's something lacking in their history and culture; not enough pixies and elves and trolls to engage their imaginations and fears as children. Because, by and large, I can count on one hand the American bands who genuinely write such accomplished, involved, delicate, complex music as this. Without a doubt, The End Is Beautiful put Echolyn right up there with the very best of European progsters but have a clear identity, flavour, and style all of their own. This may be the only album i have heard by them but it is a certainty that I shall be acquiring more. if you haven't tried them, I wholeheartedly recommend that you do so and start with this.

Report this review (#258639)
Posted Thursday, December 31, 2009 | Review Permalink
4 stars Echolyn are a band that I have come to love over time. I feel that they just get better with each successive album (although I do feel "Mei" is a masterpiece and therefore better than this album). Echolyn has a very unique sound that is hard to categorize. I would say that there is some passing similarity to Gentle Giant, although that influence to me is more apparent in their earlier work. What we have here is a collection of very quirky, fun songs that have hidden layers of complexity. I just have so much fun listening to their music because there is just an infectious groove to their music. I can't get enough of it.

The album begins with "Georgia Pine" which starts the album rocking hard. Gritty organ and heavy guitars driving this song along. It is really tons of fun to listen to. The fun doesn't stop there, though. "Heavy Blue Miles" is a song with an almost jazzy feel due to the inclusion of some horns. This song really showcases the groove I mentioned before. I just can't help but bop my head to this music. It is such a fun and funky song! I love it. There is even a bit of vocal interplay that they are well known for towards the end of the song. I just can't get enough of that, whether it come from Gentle Giant, Spock's Beard or here from Echolyn.

"Lovesick Morning" has a much more melancholy feel to it. I don't know why, but some of the vocal harmonies remind me of The Beatles. There is even some really cool trumpet played on this song. It has a groove as well, but it is laidback and has a feeling of sadness about it. It is really a great piece of music. The first time I heard this song, I'll admit I was bored by it, but now I see its brilliance and consider it one of the best tracks on the album. With "Make Me Sway" things get heavy again with crunchy guitars and gritty organ work. The vocal harmonies on the chorus are really wonderful and lift up this song to a whole new level.

The title track, "The End Is Beautiful" is a wonderful track. It is one of my favorites by this band. I love the different moods throughout the track. At the beginning, throughout the chorus, there is a more laidback, almost jazzy feel. There are moments of harder rock spread out through the track. This all leads to the majestic chorus, led to by a sublime guitar solo. It is hauntingly beautiful and complex. So, stunning and wonderful. It is beautiful indeed. "So Ready" is just extremely groovy fun. It starts off with some excellent vocal arrangements. There is just something so funky and cool about this song, I can't even describe it accurately. The horns and the guitar are especially awesome in this song and add to the funky feel of it all.

"The Arc Of Descent" is a darker song that has a very haunting feel to it. It still contains all the typical elements you would expect from Echolyn: complex arrangements, great vocal harmonies, and highly skillful playing of instruments. Even though this is probably the weakest track on the album in my opinion, it still has its charm. "Misery, Not Memory" is an excellent closer that starts off the gate rocking hard with some great guitar and organ. There is a lot of complexity on display here creating some fantastic sections of prog rock. There some incredibly jazzy sections that are just so much fun to listen to. There is even an ambient section in the middle of the song. Usually I'm not a fan of these, but here it is done well.

So, in conclusion, this album is an absolute blast to listen to. There are so many great moments throughout the album. The music has a great groove to it and is downright funky in spots. This band has truly crafted their own unique, original sound. They take some cues from Gentle Giant, but they are far removed from being a sound-alike. The music is creative, fun, energetic, and complex. All the elements necessary for an excellent album. It is just a hair short of being a 5-star album for me (I'm trying to reserve 5-star ratings to the truly special albums). So, I highly recommend this album to all prog fans.

Report this review (#379698)
Posted Thursday, January 13, 2011 | Review Permalink
3 stars "Echolyn" has never been my favourite band and this album is not the best one they have released. But it is still a decent one.

Same approach as usual: complex interplays but no great instrumental parts; decent vocals but no passionate ones to be distinguished. To summarize my opinion: "Echolyn" is a band that features skilled musicians who are playing an averagely complex music which could have sit better in the "Eclectic" section of this site.

To tell you my truth, symphony is quite an alien to their style. This album holds funky items which are far from the idea I have of the symph genre ("Heavy Blue Miles" or "So Ready"). I am quite disappointed by the evolution of the band. After the very good "Suffocating the Bloom" they have released only average to good albums as far as I am concerned.

I understand that it is not easy to survive as a US prog band; and this last album to date won't shake my mind. Some heavy stuff ("Make Me Sway") which is somewhat "Kansas" related; some jazzy ? symphonic mood with the title track (one of the best song available); and another attempt of heavy mix with "Misery, Not Memory" which closes this album. It won't be a dear one for sure!

Is this enough for me to recommend you this album? I guess not. But it is maybe due to the fact that I have listened to so many good to great albums in my long life.

Five out of ten; updated to three stars for this one. To their credit, I have to leave them some sort of genuine and personal sound but no more.

Report this review (#388830)
Posted Friday, January 28, 2011 | Review Permalink
2 stars In choosing to move to The End is Beautiful after having been highly impressed by Mei, I made two flawed assumptions. Firstly, that if Mei was so great then logic should follow that an album with a similarly high rating should be of the same calibre. Second, it would likely be in my best interest to continue my exploration with the latter portion of Echolyn's career as it should be musically most similar to the Echolyn I know and love.

It should be abundantly clear that I am not a big fan of this album. There are most certainly parts of this album I like, but the highly erratic nature of the band means that these good parts are mixed in almost indiscriminately with the bad. Not unlike Octane by Spock's Beard. The parts I like tend to be mostly when the band is light hearted and playful as opposed to snarling and dissonant. Dissonance by the way appears to be one of the calling cards of Echolyn; something which wasn't quite as apparent on Mei, but is on "as the World" and "The End is Beautiful."

This is by the way, a concept album, and the end in question is the end of a relationship; on this front Echolyn have crafted some piercingly accurate lyrics. I first heard it when I was still dealing with a breakup of my own and I almost threw up during the title track because it hit so close to home.

Luckily I think the more completely good tracks err towards the longer ones "Lovesick Morning," "Misery, Not Memory" and "The End is Beautiful" itself. All have more than a passing resemblance to the grandiose and captivating passages of mei. They are in my opinion not quite strong enough to carry the entirety of the album. As a result, I tend to listen to this album sparingly. For the record, the tracks I dislike the most is the lead track "Georgia Pine" and "Make Me Sway."

Like most things in life it is worth trying this album out. You just might find it to your tastes even if I didn't. It seems many others have. Perhaps I may come to like it more in time. I am certainly willing to accept that I got off on the wrong foot with it. For now though my opinion stands relatively firm. I give it two stars out of a potential five.

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Posted Tuesday, February 15, 2011 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
2 stars The song "The End Is Beautiful" is amazing, a near-perfect song and my favorite Echolyn song ever, but one song cannot salvage an entire album and overall I find this album as inaccessible and unengaging as every other Echolyn album I've ever heard--and the themes and melodies seem only to repeat themselves over the course of the band's career. I have tried so many of their albums and just cannot pierce their "code," yet I keep trying for the sake of so many reviewers who love their music as well as for the sake of my own long-standing aversion to the music of what has become a now-favorite band of mine, GENTLE GIANT. But I can't seem to get there--in spite of the title song.
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Posted Wednesday, February 23, 2011 | Review Permalink
5 stars I found this to be shocking, this album, a stunning combination of accessibility with traces of complex prog influences, a unique balance of simple and complex, catchy and chaotic, a unique example in the world of prog, and indeed music in general.

"Georgia Pine" is a fantastic starter to this kind of album. It's catchy, it's full of energy, but it's not going to be a radio-friendly track at all. It's a fantastic blend of progressive elements and catchy radio-friendly jams that's just cool and fun and brilliant. "Heavy Blue Miles" on the other hand has unique melodies that are still fun to listen to, but the verses are much softer than its interconnecting parts, an unusually structured song, but in a good way.

"Lovesick Morning" is a 10+ minute ballad, essentially, not too overproduced or complicated, and is essentially a culmination of this Spock's Beard-esque pop prog sound that actually works really well, while "Make Me Sway" is a funky, groove-backed track that swings and syncopates and grooves like no other. All of these songs, even only halfway through the album, are a culmination of Echolyn's sound that had potential in the 90's, but never developed to the point of my liking until the turn of the 21st century with "Cowboy Poems Free".

And it's been a problem once I discovered bands that were rooted in progressive rock from day one, but were also capable of producing catchy, listenable, driving-friendly tracks. It's a compromise that actually benefits both and harms neither, a best of both worlds, and obviously as a fan of progressive rock music, I've never been a fan of the mainstream, for many reasons. And yet, I'm still unashamed for finding a song with a catchy pop lyric or melody and just grooving and bopping out to it in my car. There's a time and place for serious music, and also a time and place for music that just makes you feel good.

And here, I've never come across a bunch of songs that are able to combine both ideals in a seamless and almost effortless form. Sure, the title track is a bit of a dark subject lyrically at times, but it still develops into a nice jam. "So Ready" starts in an unusual psuedo-a capella fashion that, once again, settles into a funky, rock organ-driven groove and another catchy chorus. "Arc Of Dissent" changes it up a bit, with a nice, floating waltz-like ballad, while "Misery, Not Memory" close out the album in a typical symph prog fashion in bombastic fashion, filled with driving energy and ceaseless passion. In short, a brilliant finish to a brilliant album.

Report this review (#1452569)
Posted Thursday, August 13, 2015 | Review Permalink
4 stars I'm always more than a little suspicious when a reviewer says, "You have to listen to this cd a few times before you like it." It usually means that they needed time to convince themselves that they did not make a sub-par purchase, so watch out for th those cd's as a general rule.

And yet, I think it's a testament to the complexity and multi-textured quality of Echolyn's unique brand of progressive music that each album DOES sound better every time you put it on. Personally, I've liked every Echolyn cd I ever heard on the first listen; their music always contains enough melodic hooks, tight musicianship, and thought-provoking lyrics to give you the first impression that the cd is pretty good. But subsequent spins reveal the genius and cleverness that only true masters can produce.

"The End Is Beautiful" continues the diverse catalog of published music that Echolyn has graced us with for almost 30 years. This time it's not the 1970's retro-prog of "As The World", or the Americana folk-prog of "Cowboy Poems Free" (still my favorite!), or the contemplative symphonic prog of "Mei". This most recent effort is darker, somewhat heavier, sometimes even "urban"-sounding, with a more raw "live in the studio" feel to it, confidently driven along by the up-front drumming of Paul Ramsey. Their caustic lyrics of abuse, regret, death and despair on this cd make the musings of the late Kevin Gilbert and Shaun Guerin sound almost cheerful!

But don't get the idea that this is dark prog like Anekdoten or Tool or the like. You can still count on the melancholy love songs (albeit with UNhappy endings!) sung beautifully by Brett Kull and Ray Weston. Some of the great vocal harmonies and major chord progressions that occur in the refrains sort of contradict the unkind lyrics they're singing. And Chris Buzby gives the darker subject matter some welcome light with his typically inventive keyboard touches that accompany his heavier use of Hammond organ throughout this cd. There's even some small brass band sounds that creep in on some of the tunes - cool and different!

I love the second-guessing refrain in "Heavy Blue Miles" ("It's O.K., I'm not O.K..."), the sweeter songs "Lovesick Morning" and "Arc of Descent", and the great instrumental sections of "Make Me Sway" and "Misery Not Memory".

This is a great rock album in the progressive genre - "progressive" both in the choice of instrumentation as well as in the way new ground is broken. It's time to admit that Echolyn's songwriting is clearly some of the best in the world today, and combined with their virtuosity, it sets them apart as one of the premier progressive rock bands around.

The end might be beautiful, but this part of the Echolyn journey is pretty awesome too.....Give it a spin.

4-1/2 stars

Report this review (#2441948)
Posted Thursday, August 27, 2020 | Review Permalink

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