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XNA - When We Changed You CD (album) cover

WHEN WE CHANGED YOU

XNA

 

Symphonic Prog

3.79 | 40 ratings

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TCat
4 stars Other than one EP, this is the only recording by the band XNA. The music is an updated style of Symphonic Prog and features Billy Sherwood as bassist and additional guitarist and producer. Sherwood is famous for having worked with the band Yes on albums like 'Open Your Eyes' and 'Talk'. His contributions have been both good and bad, and many people question whether Yes would have been better off without his. Even though I consider 'Open Your Eyes' as one of Yes' weakest efforts, I still live the album 'Talk', so I figure we can give him another chance. Granted, Sherwood left the band shortly after the release of the album, but his influence is definitely there.

There is a slight connection to 'Genesis' also as David Hussey was part of a Genesis Tribute band. Like I said, slight connection. Hussey's vocals don't sound like neither Gabirel or Collins. You can hear a bit of the Genesis influence in this more than you can a Yes influence. But, in reality, I think its closer to post-Fish 'Marillion'. The musicianship is top notch, and there are weak points and strong points here. It is a decent style of Symphonic Prog, and I use Prog in a strong sense of the word. It's not just an album with prog elements, it is solid progressive music. The concept of the album is centered around chaotic development of the human race through history. This is quite a huge concept, and I think it would have served the band better to concentrate on a more specific example, instead of trying to cover all of history.

The album starts out with an instrumental 'At Childhood's Beginning' that acts as an overall introduction. It's a decent beginning to the album, and gives one a good indication of what to expect here. The next track is the title track, and has plenty of good progressive rock with great orchestration and performances by all involved. The vocals are decent, not the strongest, but not obnoxious either, so that is a plus. It is very neo 'Marillion' sounding, but with a noticeable amount of more progressiveness.

'Banner of the Whyte Boar' is a 15 minute track. This one starts out more acoustic, but with shades of Howe mixed in. This one is quite a dramatic piece, and often goes from acoustic to electric. There is some very good guitar, both acoustic and electric, working here, and there are some great driving passages. The vocals are a tad annoying in the quieter passages, but make up for this in the more complex segments. Don't worry, there are also plenty of quality keyboard passages here too that sound up to date. There is a bit of a folkish sound to this track also, and that is a nice addition. It's not perfect, but it is definitely respectable. And the best part is, it keeps your interest throughout.

'The Flying Dutchman' is next, and starts out with what seems like an accordion. This one also has the folkish lilt to it, but develops into symphonic feel. This one is more of a sung narrative, but again, there are some excellent hooks and passages here that will get your progressive heart pumping. Sherwood's bass is excellent here, Adam Malin's keyboards are quite tasteful, and once again, Danny Bryle's guitar work is quite impressive. Vocals are much better throughout this track too, even in the quieter sections. David Hussy does an effective job of characterization on the track.

'The Vale of Avalon' starts out ominous, but builds upon this. It features some rapid fire lyrics in some spots. Hussy's vocals are in a lower range in parts of the track and they don't seem quite as convincing when in his lower register, but he shines when he opens up more. The lyrics aren't bad, but there are a few times here that they approach slightly corniness. This is somewhat weaker than the other tracks thus far.

'Annapurna' starts with what sounds like a sitar. Again, it starts in Hussy's lower register, but it builds nicely. The narrator here is Rudyard Kipling. Again, it's more believable as the vocals open up. This one is quite cinematic and has some nice vocal harmonies as it continues. There is some interesting dissonance in this track, and it is darker than the others which helps add some variety overall. Another great guitar solo later on in this one.

Finally, we end with another epic track 'Childhood's End' at over 16 minutes. It starts out soft and shimmery and builds with synths and drums upon a nice cinematic crescendo. When the peak is reached, a nice guitar hook takes over, and a straightforward rhythm takes over. Layers build on this hook and finally vocals start. The mood and feel changes from aggressive to pensive throughout the first part of the track, with plenty of drama and romance in the lyrics. There are plenty of style changes, meter changes and moods in this track, yet it is all cohesive and enjoyable. The music flows well throughout.

Sherwood had high hopes for this album and band, and these were well-founded. It might have been too complex for today's audiences however, and the tracks are quite long for the most part, so it would have been hard to find a single off of this album. But Prog-heads would definitely appreciate the dynamics, mood shifts and meter changes, not to mention the musicianship that is prevalent. There are some weaknesses, and it's not perfect, but it is definitely a great beginning for a band. I haven't heard the EP that was released a few years later, after Sherwood's departure, but I do know it is a single 17 minute track. Nothing else has been done since then. But I think this album is an excellent album that should be at least listened to because it is a worthy effort. The strengths outweigh the weaknesses on this one. 4 stars.

TCat | 4/5 |

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