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Conspiracy - The Unknown CD (album) cover

THE UNKNOWN

Conspiracy

 

Crossover Prog

3.15 | 43 ratings

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Epignosis
Special Collaborator
Eclectic Prog Team
4 stars Billy Sherwood and Chris Squire team up again to deliver something fresh and interesting. Admittedly, the music contained on this album is tame and at times pop-oriented, but the vocals are strong and the compositions tight. It's a great album with some exceptional musicianship on the part of the duo, and it remains almost consistent throughout.

"Conspiracy" The record does begin with one of the weaker tracks, however. It's full of energy and impressive vocal work, but it is a far cry from the rest of what's here. While not bad, it sounds too much like something off of Yes's Open Your Eyes. The "rapped" chorus gets old fast, and the guitar soloing is uninspired and unnecessarily long.

"Confess" Relying on acoustic guitar and rapid drumming, this song has a good melody and a strong chorus. Strangely enough, this song makes think of Collective Soul, as it's easy to imagine Ed Roland singing lead vocals.

"New World" Chris Squire delivers powerful bass work on this uplifting track. The vocal arrangements are likewise good, since the listener can hear both Squire and Sherwood individually even though they sing together. The chorus lingers a tad too long, but doesn't overstay its welcome. The final part of the song, which reminds me of "Leave It" from Yes's 90125, doesn't quite fit the rest of the song and should have been cut.

"1/2 A World Away" One of the few Squire sings lead vocals on, it ventures from lovely sentimentality to adventurous rock. Sherwood does an excellent job singing his part also, and the effects used on various parts of the refrain add more variety. The short guitar solo is a perfect fit, and moves back into the verse. This song actually has a special place in my mind since before we were married, my wife and I lived hundreds of miles away (even though the context of the song is likely much different given the bridge).

"There is No End" Kicking off with a funky, Country & Western-like guitar lick and some slide work, here we have a song that's all right. The lyrics aren't bad, but are a trifle campy.

"The Wheel" Decidedly the most solid song here, "The Wheel" is full of intriguing layers and musical textures. For once, the band is not playing as though they must get through the piece as soon as possible. The song has atmospheric keyboards and a warbling synthesizer in the introduction. The lyrics and vocal melody are excellent, and Squire does an outstanding job harmonizing. Furthermore, his bass really fills out the sound, making it thick and rich (instead of serving as more of a lead instrument). Sherwood's guitar work is prime stuff (with a striking tone), particularly that leading up to the end, which comes down to galactic sounds and some clean guitar.

"Premonitions" An above-average track, this one has a funky acoustic guitar riff and some springy clean electric guitar. The vocals throughout the verse are rich and lovely, but the chorus is what makes this song a bit cringe-inducing; quite frankly, it's goofy sounding, as is much of the instrumentation throughout.

"The Unknown" The longest track by far begins with strange vocal work and a little mandolin played over some guitar in the background. Initially, the singing is over acoustic guitar, drums, and various sounds. Joining the mandolin is a sitar, adding to the musical tapestry. Yes, the song is over eleven minutes long, but it's loaded with lyrics, lyrics about the September 11th, 2001 US terrorist attacks: "Towers of life and dreams brought down." The words undeniably show a strong feeling of vengeance, one perhaps even espousing the 2003 declaration of war in the Middle East ("Waking giant cannot be denied," "You can run away, but now we've got you dead in our sights," and "We're bringing our toys, coming over to play"). The song is also above-average, but does run on much longer than it should.

"I Could" This song is an edgier and altogether different version of "Finally" from Yes's The Ladder, which Sherwood and Squire both collaborated on. It starts off with a heavily distorted guitar, and like most of what came before, is played at an upbeat tempo. Sherwood uses another countrified guitar tone for his solos between verses. Not as good as or as colorful as "Finally," but not at all bad either.

Epignosis | 4/5 |

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