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Echolyn - Mei CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

4.13 | 329 ratings

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Cesar Inca
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars I'd like to start this review, if that's OK with you, stating a few basic truths about the "Mei" album from my humble point of view - 1) this is one of the best recordings in Echolyn's career; 2) this is one of the most beautiful prog releases for the new millennium; 3) this is destined to be a prog classic when our times are looked at from a certain perspective in the future. Well, what Echolyn has brought us with this terrific album is a lesson in how to create sonic magic in a fully integrated 50-minute long piece of music, an integrated harmony between softer and harder sections sustained on shades of density and colours of emotion. In "Mei", the band sets its path across new progressive pastures, in this way tracing a twist out of the solid consistency that had been laid down along the sequence of the three studio albums released during their first era. To some degree, "Cowboy Poems Free" album stated a robust renewal of vintage Echolyn - their typical melodic sensibility had been enriched via the inception of lots of R'n'B and old fashioned American hard rock nuances that served as a source of refreshment and refurbishment. But the level of refurbishment that we find in each and every ounce of the music comprised in the "Mei" suite is really something else in the most radical sense of the word 'else' - sure, you can recognize the main features of this splendid phoenix bird, but the fact is that it is reborn into a new life, a life purely based on textures, layers and ambiences, each one of them properly located in its place, all of them forming a powerful amalgam that dignifies adjectives such as 'majestic' and 'exquisite'. The band actually sounds quite strong in the language of rock, yet this can hardly be designated as a hard rock album; the melodies and harmonic arrangements are usually recognizable, yet the thing is far from being plainly catchy; most of the particular sections turn out to be somewhat accessible, yet this is definitely the Echolyn album with which the uninitiated better not get started with the band. The reason for the latter lies on the stylistic peculiarity that this album portrays in itself - a priori, it would take to get acquainted and genuinely enjoy their previous material in order to assimilate and properly enjoy this one. As I said before, density and deep emotion are the recurring materials of which the lyrics and music are made of, so it is no wonder that the final result should appear clearly intense without reaching the stage of aggressiveness. No matter how loud do the organ chords or synth solos sound in places, no matter how much anger is displayed in some of Ray Weston's lines, no matter how electrifying some guitar leads and riffs turn out to be, the recurrent strategy is focused on the varying use of delicacy. Either "As the World" or "Cowboy Poems Free" surpasses the rocking power of "Mei", but again, the album that is being reviewed right now was created, performed and produced as a new aesthetic experience more than just a bunch of rock songs (and hey, none of the two aforementioned albums was a mere selection of songs, but real prog gems). The use of extra musicians on string, woodwind and tuned percussion orchestral instruments is meant to help the Echolyn guys to enhance some emotional stuff when the mood intended demands it: don't expect something like the orchestral grandeur of Camel's "The Snow Goose" or Rick Wakeman's "Journey to the Center of the Earth". I've used the word 'progressive' quite a few times here, and I am well aware that the guys in the band (at least, some of them) hate that word's guts. Well, in my book, a musical work that intends to provide such amount of sonic richness in such a majestic manner can only be labeled as progressive, although, at the end of the day, truth is that the main thing is to give meaningful art to the audience - this is what "Mei" essentially is, meaningful art in the form of music, with many connections to the traditional prog masterpieces of the 70s, yet staying unique and well rooted in the current era of non-commercial rock.
Cesar Inca | 5/5 |


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