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Enchant - The Great Divide CD (album) cover




Heavy Prog

3.46 | 117 ratings

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Rock Progressivo Italiano Team
4 stars Formed back in the mid Nineties, American prog band Enchant have come to be associated with heavy and complex arrangements mixed with soaring vocals and strong melodies. Fronted by the charismatic Ted Leonard, the band delivered seven studio albums and 2004's live set `Live at Last' before essentially going on hiatus, finally emerging in 2014 after ten years. This comeback album `The Great Divide' makes it seem like the band were never away at all, and in some ways it picks up exactly where they left off with just a little more sophistication and restraint, and it just may be the most enjoyable and consistent Enchant album to date.

One thing instantly noticeable in this latest outing is a more relaxed vocal from Ted. During their break, the singer became the new frontman for fellow American prog rockers Spock's Beard, replacing the departing Nick D'Virgilio. Ted's debut for that band `Brief Nocturnes and Dreamless Sleep' was well received by their fans, in some ways considered a real return to form for them. It was surprising to discover on that one that Ted had toned down his usual exhausting, sometimes overwrought drawn out singing style from the early Enchant albums. He's now learnt a great deal more subtlety without cutting back on his powerful range, making him a far better singer overall, and he thankfully employs that same style here.

Right from the melodic opener `Circles', it seems like the connection with Spock's Beard has also musically overall been a bit of an influence on Enchant this time around, and anyone looking into this band for the first time coming from the last Beard album should feel right at home here. A gutsy guitar driven rock sound with sleek synths and strong vocal hooks is the template here, with the band stripping back many of their earlier heavier elements and even introducing a few vintage influences here and there as well. `Within an Inch' is an early highlight with a frantic chorus that jumps up in tempo, but especially striking is a lovely reflective middle with gentle jazzy drumming, placid thoughtful piano and a soul-seeking lyric that wouldn't have sounded out of place on a Neal Morse album. The title track `The Great Divide' will be adored by Yes fans due to Ed Platt's nimble and blistering ripping Chris Squire-esque bass and Bill Jenkin's bombastic Wakeman-like synth stabs, and although the main tune is a little unengaging, the lyrics are very interesting and the chorus has slick harmony vocals. `All Mixed Up' jumps between plodding heavy grunt and subtle slinking grooves with a crooning vocal from Ted, who even pulls off some effective lady-killer swooning falsetto!

Guitarist Douglas Ott lets rip with endless shining soloing moments on the poppier and almost radio-friendly `Transparent Man', and with nice call and response shared vocals and a catchy chorus, it makes you wish all commercial radio music sounded as good as this! Same goes for the nice mix of acoustic and electric guitars and smooth intricate vocal harmonies of `Life in a Shadow', and I definitely relate to the biting chorus lyric. `Deserve to Feel' is one of the longer heavier tracks with plenty of fiery instrumental soloing back and forth between the musicians, actually not far off Dream Theater but definitely a bit more fun and playful, and the chorus is upbeat and warm. `Here and Now' is a welcome darker, more melancholic track with a very confronting lyric and sombre mood, and it finishes up the vocal pieces in a classy manner.

But Enchant decide to close the album with the amusingly titled instrumental `Prognosticator', which turns out to be an all-out total prog orgasm! So many manic tempo changes and aggressive whirling energy, there's everything from manic ELP-bombastic swirling organ assaults, dominating heavy guitar riffs and dirty grooves, slithering bass, Sean Flanegan's furious drum attacks, and even jangling Porcupine Tree-like acoustic guitar chimes. It holds together impossibly tightly, is another reminder that the band actually have a sense of humour, and it brings delicious vintage prog excess and modern power together in perfect unity! What a thrilling way to finish a great album!

Enchant show a great deal of maturity and musical sophistication on `The Great Divide', and not only do they deliver exciting and varied instrumental displays with emotional vocals from a singer who's never sounded better, they've also written some very relatable lyrics that lift the material even higher. It's appreciated to hear a prog album more grounded in reality, a world away from fantastical concepts and surreal imagery! If you like hard rocking progressive-related music that prizes strong lyrical and vocal elements just as highly as tricky instrumental displays, or perhaps you're a newcomer to the band due to the connection with Spock's Beard, there's so much to enjoy here. If you do decide to look into the album, be sure to go for the lavish double gatefold vinyl edition from Insideout Music!

It's good to have Enchant back, and even more satisfying that they're sounding better than ever!

Four stars.

Aussie-Byrd-Brother | 4/5 |


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