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At War With Self - Torn Between Dimensions CD (album) cover


At War With Self

Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

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5 stars i first heard about glenn snelwar from sean malone's gordian knot. upon listening to that album, i was quite intrigued by the fact that some guitar parts actually sounded . . . good. the thing is, on the credits, the name that stood out the most (besides both sean's) was ron jarzombek (sorry glenn). don't get me wrong, he's a great guitarist, he can shred like there's no tomorrow, but his lines are to "souless" and lack the feeling that i'm accustomed to. i then noticed another name, "glenn snelwar," and from that point on, any guitar part on gordian knot's self-titled album that "sounded good" was linked to this musical genius. a couple of months later, i decided to do an internet search for this glenn snelwar fellow, and was surprised that he had a project too, and at once, i added at war with self's album to my "cd-get list."

first of all, we have to review the line-up. excluding his work with gordian knot, glenn snelwar was relatively new to me, but i had high expectations from previous listenings via his website. michael manring comes next, and if you know anything about him, he is a phenomenal fretless bass player, and studied under the late jaco pastorius (the greatest bass player that ever lived). mark zonder is last on the line-up, and all i know about him is his work with fates warning, namely, the album "a pleasant shade of grey." i wouldn't hestiate to juxtapose him with dream theater's mike portnoy. so, this should give you a guage of what i expected from this cd.

upon popping it into my cd-player, i was a bit scared, that this group wouldn't meet up to my expectations, but with the first track, "the god interface," i was relieved. my god. if nothing else, this album is about 1239487 musical ideas lumped perfectly together, under the guise of being "progressive metal." there's everything from eastern or tribal influences, straightup metal, early progressive, and even some jazz. the almost seemless blending of such beloved genres was ecstacy for my ears. snelwar exceeded my expectations by ten fold, with his plethora of neat classical acoustic fills in the songs. zonder's work was as good as, if not better, than his fates warning stuff, and manring, perhaps with the chunkiest, deepest bass tone known to mankind, weaves in and out of snelwar's liens and zonder's beat. another highlight the addition of mandolins, eastern percussion, electronic ambient effects, and keyboards to various tracks gave it a "moody" feel, highlights the "texture" of each piece (for lack of better words). this is something very commendable, since conveying "moods" and feeling via an instrumental album isn't the easiest feat.

complaints you ask? by no means is this a perfect album (and for that matter, perfect albums are BAD, perfect should not exist). the mixing quality is a bit unbalanced, with manring's fretless in the foreground, zonder's drums next, and all the way in the back of the mix, snelwar's acoustic guitars. at times, you have to try and find the guitar lines, but then again, singling out certain instruments on ANY album ruins the musical quality of it. other than this, this album gets a well deserved 5/5 (since 4.5/5 doesn't exist here, 5/5 doesn't mean "perfect" by any means, just what the scale states: "essential, a masterpeice of progressive music") . . . be sure to get the next at war with self album :) . . .

Report this review (#70724)
Posted Tuesday, February 28, 2006 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
4 stars The band lists KING CRIMSON and PINK FLOYD among others as influences. You can tell because the music is intricate, intertwined and intense, but it also has some atmosphere to it. This is Glenn Snelwar's baby, you might remember him from the first GORDIAN KNOT album. He plays lead guitar among other instruments. Actually GORDIAN KNOT in my opinion is a good reference to what this trio sounds like. Michael Manring who was in McGill Manring Stevens plays fretless bass and e-bow, while the great Mark Zonder formerly from FATES WARNING is on drums.There's an interesting quote in the liner notes from someone named Dhammapada in reference to the bands name AT WAR WITH SELF. It goes like this "If a man should conquer in battle a thousand and a thousand more, and another man should conquer himself, his would be the greater victory, because the greatest of victories is the victory over oneself; and neither the gods in heaven nor the demons down below can turn into defeat the victory of such a man". This is a concept album even though it's all-instrumental.

"The God Interface" opens with synths as piano joins in before drums, acoustic guitar and bass create a full sound. A calm with acoustic guitar and drums a minute in.Those spacey, haunting synths continue. Heaviness before 2 minutes. It settles as mandolin joins in. Bass and electric guitar before 3 minutes as it picks up again. Great song ! "Torn Between Dimensions" is dark with bass, acoustic guitar, keys and drums. It gets heavier and more aggressive before a minute. It settles again to a brighter mood this time.Yes torn between dimensions. The contrasts continue. Gorgeous guitar 3 minutes in. Very intelligent music. "A Gap In The Stream Of Mind Part One" is fuller right away with electric guitar, drums and keys. A fairly heavy rhythm actually before it calms down after a minute. The tempo picks up again with some nice guitar. It gets pretty intense. "Grasping At Nothing" has a good intro. It settles right down a minute in. Intricate and tasteful. Some good bass 2 minutes in. Piano joins in. It's heavier 3 minutes in. Nice.

"Coming Home" is acoustic and intricate as synths create atmosphere. Keys come in. A very acoustic track. "The Event Horizon" is heavy with some strings which work very well. Zonder is amazing as usual. A cool and intense song. "A Gap In The Stream Of Mind Part Two" is the longest song at just under 8 minutes. Dark with this heavy undercurrent. Kind of eerie actually. It gets heavier before 2 minutes. Contrast continues. This is spooky throughout but the ending is really haunting. Killer tune and my favourite along with the title track. "Run" is the heaviest yet ! Riffs galore and when they stop the guitar starts to grind away while the drums pound. I like when it settles later. Beautiful, then it kicks back in. "A Gap In The Stream Of the Mind Part Three" is 2 minutes of transcending and moving music. "At War With Self" is uptempo to start, synths before a minute then it kicks back in. The contrasts continue. I like the guitar 4 1/2 minutes in.

I really like this style of music and this one's a winner. Easily 4 stars.

Report this review (#93806)
Posted Sunday, October 8, 2006 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars "Torn Between Dimensions" is the debut full-length studio album by US, Indianapolis, Indiana based progressive rock/metal act At War With Self. The album was released through the Free Electric Sound label in February 2005. At War With Self was founded in 2002 by multi-instrumentalist Glenn Snelwar (also known for his work with Gordian Knot) and is essentially a one-man project. "Torn Between Dimensions" does however feature session work by drummer Mark Zonder (Fates Warning, Warlord, Slavior) and bassist Michael Manring (Windham Hill, Jeff Loomis, Jim Matheos...among others).

And with a trio like that playing together it's no wonder the musical performances on the album are of a high quality. Stylistically the music on the album is instrumental progressive rock/metal with strong jazz rock/fusion leanings and more than one nod towards latin music. While At War With Self is widely considered a metal oriented act, the metal elements are limited to some heavy riffing and occasional distorted guitar sections. A couple of darker tinged tracks also contribute to the metal sound, but it's actually 90s Al Di Meola releases like "Orange And Blue (1994)" and "The Infinite Desire (1998)", that I'm mostly reminded of. So there are as many latin influenced acoustic guitar sections, jazzy guitar solos, fusion influenced drumming, and ambient keyboards featured on "Torn Between Dimensions", as there are heavy distorted riffs.

The balance between the different stylistic elements is an important element in At War With Self's sound. At times the dynamic music works well and other times the transitions between sections are a bit more awkward sounding. There's is no doubt that Glenn Snelwar is both a skilled musician and a skilled composer when it comes to the techncial aspect of playing and writing music, but listening to "Torn Between Dimensions" there's very little on the album that really grabs me and pulls me in. I find myself more interested in the music from a musician's point of view than from a music listener's point of view, and although that sort of "musician's music" is always interesting from a technical perspective, the music generally lacks emotional impact and memorability.

The sound production is also a bit disjointed and although all instruments individually feature a relatively good sound (the distorted guitar tone isn't that well sounding though), the instruments don't always work well together in the mix. So "Torn Between Dimensions" is an album with quality assets and some issues and therefore a 3 star (60%) rating is warranted.

Report this review (#1713817)
Posted Monday, April 24, 2017 | Review Permalink

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