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Echolyn - Suffocating The Bloom CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

4.16 | 301 ratings

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4 stars American quintet Echolyn's 1992 sophomore release, SUFFOCATING THE BLOOM, is a work of musical daring and maturity from a band rapidly come to full flower. As with the other excellent Echolyn album I've reviewed (see AS THE WORLD), the most obvious influence that comes to mind when attempting to give a sense of the group's overall sound is Gentle Giant. Echolyn draw upon a similar bag of tricks to that employed so brilliantly by their British forebears, yet they manage to steer well clear of mere imitation, and convincingly stake out their own turf in the field of aggressively progressive rock. You reap what you sow, and compositional complexity, rapidly altering time signatures, accomplished musicianship, and alternately majestic and frenetic vocal harmonies -- all embellished with lovely orchestrations -- are the heady stuff by which they fertilize and nurture their muse, and raise the rich bounty found herein.

In the interest of keeping this review to a manageable length, I'll forgo a track-by-track analysis (there is simply too much excellent material here to permit that approach), and only highlight a few of my favourites: "21" opens the album in catchy fashion with dazzlingly syncopated guitar, drums and keys that call up the ebullient spirit of Giant, and show the listener what's in store. If you don't "get" this number (which ably showcases the group's style and complexity), you may as well give up, and try something "safer." Can I interest you in some latter-day Styx or Supertramp, perhaps? C'mon -- it's going cheap....

Still here? Then lend an ear (or two) to "Winterthru," which glides, sleigh bells and all, over frozen ponds of childhood memory, with sweet, but not cloying, nostalgia. Ah, youthful wonder and enthusiasm -- seemingly lost forever now, but still to be found just beneath the surface, if we but look!

"In Every Garden," has some great, fast-paced keyboards and drumming, and pays lyrical tribute to Genesis: "In my garden, I know what I like, and I like what I grow." The introspective words wrestle with the limits of art for art's sake, and whether art can viably exist within a vacuum, independent of audience and outside influence: "I built a wall around my garden, when people started telling me what to grow.. I hate the wall and its selfish display - my garden becoming sterile in its pretentiousness."

"A Little Nonsense" finds this very talented band showing off their jazzier chops, and reminds us that "a little nonsense now and then, is relished by the wisest men." Brett Kull's guitar is particularly good on this one, and again invites favourable comparison to that of Gentle Giant.

"The Sentimental Chain" proffers a pretty little orchestral interlude, and then segues into the lush and moving "One Voice." Beautifully garnished with strings and flute, this piece (in addition to references to Christ) depicts Vincent Van Gogh, whose tortured intensity of feeling, and longing for a higher mode of expression, led to an original, enduring legacy of truth and beauty -- "one voice against the world."

"Here I Am" features amazing bass work from Thomas Hyatt, as well as some fine jazzy sax, courtesy of guest Dainis Roman.

"Catapus" is a fine instrumental in a fusion-esque vein that allows guitarist Kull to show off his virtuosity, while the twenty-eight minute song cycle "A Suite for the Everyman" is the essence of adventuresome progressive rock in its sheer scope and variety. The closing section, "Suffocating the Bloom," deals with artistic integrity (Echolyn have never been ones to compromise artistry for the mere sake of increased commercial success), and asks a question that cuts close to heart of the entire progressive rock genre: "If we sell for the sake of sales and those that want to buy, are we playing for ourselves, or just acting out a lie?"

Echolyn are a brave, challenging and unique band, and SUFFOCATING THE BLOOM is one of the strongest of a superb set of recordings. If you are a Gentle Giant fan, or an adventuresome listener in general, I urge you to purchase this fine disc. Take it home, plant it in your CD player, and enjoy a harvest of pure, unadulterated, multi-faceted prog pleasure!

Peter | 4/5 |


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