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Discipline Unfolded Like Staircase album cover
4.25 | 458 ratings | 53 reviews | 50% 5 stars

Essential: a masterpiece of
progressive rock music

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Studio Album, released in 1997

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Canto IV (Limbo) (13:47)
2. Crutches (13:11) :
- a. The Carrot
- b. The Silent Mirror
- c. Down the Hatch
- d. Crutches
3. Into the Dream (22:03) :
- a. Descent
- b. Chock Full O'Guts
- c. Drawn and Quartered
- d. Clearing
- e. Stealing the Key
- f. Sum Music
- g. Turtles All the Way Down
4. Before the Storm - Pt. 1 (5:20) :
- a. The Ocean
5. Before the Storm - Pt. 2 (10:31) :
- b. The Storm
- c. Eden

Total Time 64:52

Line-up / Musicians

- Matthew Parmenter / vocals, keyboards, violin, alto saxophone, orchestral chimes
- Jon Preston Bouda / electric & acoustic guitars
- Matthew Kennedy / bass
- Paul Dzendzel / drums & percussion

Releases information

Artwork: Richard Patterson

CD Strung Out Records SOR 6802 (1997, US) Re(?)mastered by Jonathan Wyner
CD Periferic Records BGCD 058 (2000, Hungary)

CD Strung Out Records SOR 6815 (2021, US) Terry Brown remaster, also available digitally and on vinyl

Thanks to ProgLucky for the addition
and to projeKct for the last updates
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Buy DISCIPLINE Unfolded Like Staircase Music

DISCIPLINE Unfolded Like Staircase ratings distribution

(458 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(50%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(33%)
Good, but non-essential (13%)
Collectors/fans only (2%)
Poor. Only for completionists (1%)

DISCIPLINE Unfolded Like Staircase reviews

Showing all collaborators reviews and last reviews preview | Show all reviews/ratings

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Marcelo
5 stars The strong mellotronic melancholy from the first KING CRIMSON meeting the dark emotivity from VDGG. Beautiful melodies, darkness, nostalgy and lots of Mellotron plus sax and violin making a very brilliant work, with very high points in "Canto IV" and the epic 22 minutes "Into The Dream". One of the best '90s albums. Highly recommended.
Review by ProgLucky
5 stars Grand 2nd disc by US band influence by VDGG/early GENESIS. "Unfolded Like Staircase", boasts three fifteen-minute songs including the brilliant "Canto IV" (Limbo), as well as a twenty-two minute epic entitled "Into the Dream". All of the songs are long epics, and complex in a slow, seventies-GENESIS way. A CLASSIC - 65 minutes of super recommended stuff ! All I can say is if you haven't already bought this album... BUY IT NOW!!!
Review by Sean Trane
3 stars when I bought it as it came out , I thought it was great but as I repeatedly listened to it the less I was enthoused by it as again everything on here is borrowed from somewhere and not much of their own personalities transpires through.
Review by loserboy
5 stars Great epic prog release from these lads from the US! This is 60 minutes of some of the '90's most powerful progressive work yet! Unfolded is a very dark album and DISCIPLINE create long dark passages through which we are transcended into. The lyrics are deep and deal with modern themes like relationships and power struggles. All musicianship is of the highest calibre and songs are exceptionally well constructed. The cd houses 4 nice and long songs which are allowed to develop at their own pace. This will no doubt become a prog classic in the year to come and is highly recommended.
Review by Steve Hegede
5 stars "Unfolded Like Staircase" is one of the best prog albums to come out in the 1990s. The music here is symphonic (colorful), dramatic, and majestic. It is at times soft and uneasy, and at other times aggressive and confident. Some noticeable influences include VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR's Peter HAMMILL, and GENESIS. But it also sounds like the band has dozens of other influences. The level of complexity here never reaches the levels of other modern bands like ÄNGLAGARD or DREAM THEATER, yet it's complex enough to keep the music interesting and flowing. The band is skilled at creating very memorable themes. These themes have that classic, timeless, quality which makes the album standout. Of course, "Unfolded Like Staircase" isn't always consistent. A 50-minute CD would have been perfect, but at around 70-minutes some of the later epics start to drag a bit. Overall, though, that's a minor complaint. You can expect an impressive album of modern progressive rock.
Review by lor68
4 stars Very influenced by the dark style of Peter HAMMILL (VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR-era), it's characterized also by interesting parts performed at such excellent "Mellotron-keyboard" and some sax-playing as well!! The dark tones of the suite are remarkable and the production is not bad, being quite modern too. Moreover the interpretation by Matthew Parmenter is more mature in comparison to his debut. The unique defect is the difficult evolution of the suite, which sometimes seems to burst out, but actually it never receives a true development and of course our expectation has been partially disillusioned, after listening to the present suite!!

It never minds, this album is recommended anyway!!

Review by Dan Bobrowski
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Muulti-instrumentalist Matthew Parmenter takes his bandmates along on a dark and sinister journey to into the dream of limbo on a pair of crutches just before the storm takes them to Eden. Or so the song titles tell... This is a dark album, but it never drags or grows boring. It is worthy of many repeated listenings and, for me, a great companion on a long bike ride. Instrumentally challenging and flowing. From the opening Kashmir meets Lark's Tongues riff, you are thrust into the tides of Parmenter's mind.

Parmenter harnesses his new infatuation with Peter Hammill and VDGG and melds it with his Genesis fixation and King Crimson influences and creates a powerful visionary album. Dreams and nightmares abound, but I never felt a depression from the music, rather I feel exhilarated and bouyant, like waking from a running dream, when you feel ready for battle and toss the blankets while searching for the demon's face.

Canto IV, with Dantesque imagery and a certain hopefulness in the face of darkness in lyrics like, "What I believe is emptiness" followed by "and kindness in our hearts." Being raised in the catholic religion, I understand his vision of what Limbo would be like, ""how can there possibly be, no room up there for me." I get shivers remembering the sobering lessons of my youth, with Pink Floyd like characters spewing forth hell and damnation. Being from Detroit, as I am, Parmenter may have had similar experiences as a child.

Into the Dream paints another grim picture, "why chase a rainbow? Best to give in," and "If the rapist must break free, from the deepest part of me, when judgment chains our darkest side, denials breeds a genocide." Can you get more dark and sinister? Yet Matthew ends the final movement with the return to the sea of the turtle, "I am free." Maybe a metaphor for death or an escape to heaven? Continuing on the religious lyric train, in "Before the Storm," Parmenter again speaks of Eden and lost innocence and the journey to return.

Add some Disciplline to your prog collection. Find Astray by Matthew Parmenter as well.

Review by Menswear
5 stars In most sites that I've searched, this record does not make a good impression on listeners. And I'm here, listening it, over and over thinking: 'What do they see in this that reflects what they think?' I do not agree with most of the reviews on this record. I think Unfolded like Staircase is a troubled, desperated and intense record; but also fragile, aggressive and full of duality. They recall me of Pearl Jam/ The Cure in many ways. The tormented singing, the guitar lines. Feels familiar. And nice. Because America has a distinct sound, I think it's exciting to discover them.

The tormented singer, the rough and jolty melodies must be heard many times before complete digestion and therefore, appreciation. But when your can anticipate the melody, the songs take suddently a new face. You can concentrate less on the voice and more on the musicianship and discover the pattern of certain songs like Canto and Before the Storm part 2.

On the other hand, Matthew Parmenter is volubile at an almost extreme way. When you want to pass a message, it's preferable to restrain yourself a bit; letting it all go is sometimes jamming up the message and importants bits can be missed or simply forgotten. In this case, Parmenter should shut up more and let the music tell us what's going on. Anyway, Canto IV should please your ear immediately, if you give the MP3 a chance.

Discipline is a quite capable but non-virtuoso band. They play what they can, and it feels that they apply themselves. But they're no Echloyn or Anglagard. We are not reaching new standards here. But! they are solid at what they do without trying to 'bull' anything. The atmosphere is theatrical, just like the melodramatic attitude of Parmenter with his specific garde-robe of costumes and tragic make-up a la The Crow. Weird, but since Fish, colorful singers are rare.The music is dark, and ressembles to a walk in a park at dawn on a windy autumn day. Or gazing at winter trees on a cloudy day. Lots of reflexions on life can be heard brought on a melancolic and tragic singing.

Having never heard one song of VDGG and not even knowing what Peter Hamill sounds like, I'm really enthusiastic about this misunderstood record. I'm really surprised how low 'prog experts' thinks of this record, and I know my opinion is often more humoristic than anything else, but this album strikes hard and heavy on the dark scale. Be sure to listen over often, but it never gets boring. The feeling is gripping and could give the blues if you're fragile inside.

This is primo stuff, you have my words.

Maybe that's the key to really appreciate an album...letting the comparison out.

Review by hdfisch
4 stars Edited 09/26/05!

Actually I could only repeat what many reviewers before me said already. It's an excellent prog album and one of the best ones in the 90's in general. The overall dark sound and the use of sax in "Crutches" reminds a bit to VDGG, as well Parmenter's voice is a bit reminiscent to Hammill's one, but this is in fact all they have in common. One could also draw parallels to GENESIS with the young Peter Gabriel and sometimes to KING CRIMSON, especially in "Into The Dream ". Though the multiple 70's influences are obvious, the album does not sound too much derivative. DISCIPLINE created here very well their own original and independent style by blending all these influences perfectly together. The compositions are excellent, very intricate without being too much pretentious at any moment and nice to listen from the very first spin to many repeated ones. Moreover the performance of all musicians is really brilliant.

As a summary this is an excellent addition to any prog collection and worth an extra half star!

Review by Syzygy
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Some neo prog bands model themselves more or less exclusively on one particular classic act - think of IQ and Genesis. Others, like Discipline, call a variety of different bands to mind without sounding exactly like any of them. Discipline sound like they have never heard an album released after 1973, and the sonic palette recalls pre-LTIA King Crimson, Gabriel era Genesis and VDGG. All of this adds up to a very decent concoction - Matthew Parmenter has a voice of his own, both literally and compositionally, and he is backed by 3 very able musicians. The opener, Canto IV, is a 13 minute epic inspired by Dante's Inferno. This could be an unmitigated disaster in the hands of some, but Discipline pull it off admirably. Parmenter doesn't quite have Peter Hammill's vocal range, but he conveys the anguish of a soul in torment with similar aplomb, and also adds sax flourishes that recall Ian MacDonald in King Crimson. This track is one of the best prog songs of the past decade, and I wish I'd discovered it sooner. Perhaps inevitably, the rest of the album never quite matches up its superb opening, but it also never becomes boring. The 22 minute Into The Dream is another grand achievement, though not quite in the class of Canto IV. My one gripe with the writing is that Before The Storm goes on a bit too long - perhaps Parmenter wanted to let the rest of the band cut loose a little, but this is the only place where they sound like they're noodling. I'd give this album 4 stars, except that the excellent writing, arranging and performance are let down by an oddly flat production, perhaps because it was recorded on a tight budget. Nonetheless, it's a good addition to any prog collection.
Review by Trotsky
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars I must emphasise that this is the only Discipline album I've heard, but I don't intend that to remain the case, because I really quite enjoyed it. In fact I can safely say that I rate Unfolded Like Staircase to be among the best progressive rock albums of the 90s.

After listening to the first five minutes of the opening tune Canto IV (Limbo) you might actually wonder why I made such a judgement, because up to that point Discipline sounds pretty standard ... the piece starts off atmospheric and restrained with some nice piano and guitar touches and even some grunge-influenced vocals ... but it just kind of glides by until the fifth minute and that's when the prog takes over! Everything builds up to an excellent crescendo ... round about the 8 minute mark the fourth major melody sees the Genesis influences come in and the piece closes with a brilliant outro that pulls out all the stops with nice keyboard lines and playing that calls to mind Wishbone Ash and Kansas at different times .. and its tasteful, skillful and exciting all at once ... a rare combination in modern prog bands.

The glorious Crutches starts life as simple, pleasant piano/guitar ballad for the first three minutes before evolving into a much more complicated piece (by which time it should be obvious that that is how Discipline like to do things!). What's best about this delectable slice of prog is that I can't quite compare it to anything I know ... maybe it's just the novelty of listening to a progressive rock band that seems to have adopted certain qualities of the grunge scene. The 22 minute Into The Dream (yes, one of those!) is probably the heaviest song on the album. Its intro is centered around an off-time guitar/bass riff, with a descending keyboard joining in ... an eerie riff then "settles things" before Matthew Parmenter's vocals enter. Highlights of the piece include an Eastern sounding riff that comes in at the 6 minute mark, a sparse piano and vocals segment at 9 minute mark and the tolling bells and swelling strings near the end of piece. This is continously rich music with a lovely epic feel containing moments of stunning playing (the wonderful bass playing on this song particularly caught my ear).

Before The Storm, Part 1 is yet another tune that starts off as an "orthodox" piano piece ... if I can call something so compelling orthodox, that is. The full band comes in after a couple of minute, clinching the deal on a song that has incisive lyrics and an epic melody. I really like it very much, and the interplay between the organ, strings and the biting lead guitar is definitely one of the high points of this album. The final piece, Before The Storm, Part 2 is another momentous one although it's not my favourite. Again Discipline's talent for great outros is proven with some excellent violin work as the album concludes. It's interesting that while this album is full of great playing I can hardly recall any memorable solos ... Discipline is clearly more about melody leads from guitar and keyboards. A word of caution, though ... this album has not met with much approval from friends I have recommended it to. ... 51% on the MPV scale

Review by Gatot
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Am truly amazed with the music quality produced by this four-piece American prog band. The music can summarized this way, probably: early King Crimson with vocalist's voice quality in between Peter Hammill (VdGG) / Greenslade's or Nick Barrett (Pendragon) vocalist and the music is combined with neo prog. So what would it be like? Yeah, it's a mixture of everything, I think. But, you will find there is no such single track as bad or good ones as every single track is truly excellent. If you like symphonic prog music with soaring keyboard / organ sounds which sometimes turn out to be a mellotron, you will definitely enjoy this album.

Song like the epic track "Into The Dream" (22:03) comprises multi segments with relatively long duration, individually, with keyboard-based music as main rhythm section combined tempo changes augmented with powerful mellotron inserts. The inclusion of neo prog style guitar solo has enriched the song textures. There are some soft guitar riffs but they are faraway from being a prog metal. On soft music like "Before The Storm" there is similarity in style with the music of Pendragon or Arena - the neo prog bands. The only difference is probably the accentuated vocal line and the heavier use of mellotron that remind me to the early Crimson albums.

Definitely it's a highly recommended album. Keep on proggin' ..!

Peace on earth and mercy mild - GW

Review by greenback
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars This very good progressive rock record has many influences, especially from the major progressive rock bands of the 70's: the first one that comes to mind is definitely Van Der Graaf Generator. Indeed, the tracks are rather sad and dark, there are many sax parts, and there is the omnipresence of an organ that sounds like VDGG's; even the lead vocals have the Hammill's style, despite a pretty different and most of all much more bearable tone is involved. I prefer this record than any VDGG's one because the compositions here are more varied, more moving, more melodic, more lively and more elaborated: the omnipresence of a lightly rebel rhythmic electric guitar slightly gives the ensemble a modern King Crimson's influence, and on the other hand, the background mellotron arrangements and some delicate guitar parts evoke the early King Crimson's albums. The numerous complaining electric guitar solos provide a true HARD ROCK character to this record, reminding a bit a more timid Nektar's sound. An omnipresent rhythmic piano a la Kayak is really a strong point here: it builds a solid, melodic and not so fast rhythm that contributes to make this band unique. Some rare & pleasant modern keyboards arrangements complete this surprising anachronic work. There are some pleasant RHYTHMIC mellotron in the background! The are also some interesting acoustic guitar arrangements. The bass is very loud and bottom, and the drums do a very good job. I think this record is an acquired taste: it grew inside of me and it took about 3 listens to be fully fixed. No doubt that VDGG is substantially surpassed here. To produce such an anachronic album in 1997 was a tour de force I must admit!
Review by Jim Garten
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Retired Admin & Razor Guru
4 stars Many albums have been released in the last 10 years or so by bands obviously influenced by "the greats", but on too many occasions, they come across as slavish imitators with no original thought or ideas to stamp the work as their own. Happily, in Discipline (pun intended) we find a group of musicians drawing heavily from Genesis, VDGG and King Crimson, yet retaining a strong identity, especially lyrically. Throughout this release, and despite the track lengths, none of which clock in at under 13 minutes (the two part 'before the storm' is effectively a single piece), Discipline's playing is tight, considered, restrained in the power chords, but majestic in some of the mellotron passages (especially during the closing section of the excellent 'Crutches' and part 2 of 'Before the storm') and refreshingly, considering the recent dearth of "good" prog rock lyricists, the lyrical content is intelligent and driven by Parmenter's strong vocal abilities- in fact, just as you'd want in a prog rock album of the 'old school'. Musicianship is studious and of good quality, but Discipline contains no vituosi, just a driven leader (Matthew Parmenter) and his band of more than able acolytes - Jon Preston Bouda in particular impresses with his best Steve Hackett impersonation... Discipline straddle a difficult line; some fanatical symphonic prog rock listeners may find them too 'heavy' in places, whereas prog-metal fans may consider them too light, but I honestly think both 'camps' will take something away from this album, and all lovers of schools old and new should lend an ear.
Review by Prog-jester
5 stars This is a Musthave!!!

This is a very,very,very underrated album from genius band combined the styles of 70s VDGG,Genesis and Crimso - and that emerged into their own one!!!I'd give at least 20 CDs from collection for that one!!!Incredible "Limbo"(just listen to it!!!) and mellow "Before the Storm"(what a melody!)are the best tracks,but the others are great too(just listen to break in "Crutches",which starts from 9'44''!).I adore such atmosphere - dark and moody - and I see no Neo in this Prog.They are more original than some well-known sympho bands of today...and deserve every progger's attention.The felling that I got while listening to it is close to Columbus' one...I've discovered America!!!

There were many good CDs which I've experienced in last years,but only Italian prog,Anglagard(with Sinkadus and early Kaipa) and DISCIPLINE gave me such sense of Discovery.If you miss it,you'll miss a half of your prog life!!!

Review by Easy Livin
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
3 stars Going up?

The first attraction here for anyone who considers themselves to be a prog anorak is the fact that this 65 minute album has a mere four tracks, the shortest being over ten minutes. But is this really a guarantee of quality?

What we have here is a band with its roots firmly in neo-prog. They may choose to acknowledge the influence of VAN DER GRAFF GENERATOR (band leader Matthew Parmenter "thanks" them in the sleeve notes), but the more obvious sound is that of early GENESIS, as it is for so many neo-prog bands. Indeed, the opening track " Canto IV (limbo)" is a concoction of ARENA, PENDRAGON, MARILLION, and a bit of "The knife" by Genesis. There is of course no criticism intended here, these are fine bands so anyone who sounds in any way like them is off to a good start.

Unfortunately, at this stage a reality check is required. The sound may be familiar, but the track structures suffer from the disjointed diversity which blights many of the FLOWER KINGS albums. Since there are only four tracks, we can examine them individually:

"Canto IV (limbo)" opens the album with a YES like staccato section. After moving through the various styles mentioned above, we have an ELP "Stones of years" like vocal, complete with "have you.." repeating questions. The final guitar section is excellent, although I cannot help but feel the production could have brought out the sound of the guitar better.

The four part "Crutches" may be the shortest track on the album, but it still clocks in at over 13 minutes. Once again, the track has significant diversity, including a heavy mellotron backed dirge and some dominant piano.

"Into the dream" has seven sections, and at over 22 minutes is the longest track. Here the IQ similarities come to the fore, but the vocal sections are over long to the overall detriment of the piece. Toward the close of the track, Matthew Parmenter starts to sound like Jon Anderson, while adding some superb "Court of the crimson king" like mellotron.

The album closes with "Before the storm", which incorporates some strange off key singing, but also has a pleasant violin interlude.

At this stage, I should say that some reviews are easier to write than others. In this case, I readily admit that I have tended to over emphasise the negatives to the partial exclusion of the positives. This is a well performed album, with much to commend it. If the listener is prepared to acknowledge the derivative nature of much of the contents, and to hear the album on that basis, they will be rewarded with some fine prog music.

Review by Tarcisio Moura
4 stars I really have to think too much to buy this CDm, since I read the other reviews and I must admit that, even if I'm a prog fan for over 30 years, I heard very little Van Der Graaf Generator music and I was never the biggest King Crimson fan. Having said that, I algo should point I respect both bands very much. So when I finally did get the CD I was quite surprised how good it sounded. Yes, most reviewrs are rihgt: the King Crimson\VDGG\early Genesis influenes are enormous. Still they don't just made a copy of those bands. There are some differences, or should I say,they really made their own sound out of their obvious heroes. The guitar solos for instance have nothing to do with the aforementioned bands and it gives Discipline a quite melodic and bright side to an otherwise very dark album.

The CD is not really perfect, in a classic way to judge it as a essential masterpiece, although it comes really close to that, in my humble opinion. The first song, Canto IV (limbo), deserves a five star rate in any way, it's just gorgeous. Everything fits perfectly: the songwriting, voice, instruments, arrangements... The other 3 songs are excellent too, but for some reason they seem disjoined at some points. A minor flaw, anyway, for I keep coming back to this CD over and over again. and since I got a collection of over 1000 CDs to pick up, this is no small feat.

Matthew Parmenter is a truely gifted singer and songwriter, and the band has musicians of rare calibre. If the next releases are as good as this one, it's surely a band to keep an eye on. The chemistry works and maybe they need a lttle more time to fully develop their potential. Which, I should point out again, is huge. Highly recommended.

Review by Mellotron Storm
4 stars In the liner notes Matthew Parmenter thanks Jan-Erik from ANEKDOTEN for introducing him to Peter Hammill and VDGG. Certainly VDGG comes to mind when listening to this dark and moody record, mainly because of Matthew's Hammill-like vocals. I was also reminded of KING CRIMSON and ANEKDOTEN.

"Canto IV (limbo)" is such a great song with a melody of piano, guitars and drums for the first two minutes and then becoming quite pastoral with gentle vocals, mellotron and guitar.The chorus is intense, led by theatrical vocals. "Crutches" features strummed acoustic guitar and vocals, drums and piano come in as things become more uptempo.The tempo changes continue and there is a flood of mellotron towards the end of the song.

"Into The Dream" has a rather dark intro, and that mood continues through the song. There is such a great, gloomy melody after 5 minutes, and more beautiful mellotron after 10 minutes.This song has some ANEKDOTEN references. "Before The Storm" opens with piano and softer vocals that gets angry with organ. This song has lots of mood shifts and tempo changes.There is violin, mellotron, jazzy guitar as well as heavy guitar. This is a real ride in the mind of someone on the edge of losing it.

I really think this is a must have for prog fans, a beautiful dark album.

Review by Matti
3 stars First I want to say that this once I gave clearly more stars than I personally enjoy this album. That's because I can't spot any major faults technically, and artistically this is indeed quite deep and ambitious prog work from USA. For lovers of dark and depressed prog this is surely worth recommendation. Well, I love e.g. 'Plague of the Lighthouse Keeper' by VdGG and Peter Hammill's divings into the angst in general (not ALL of it), but here I feel I'm not really getting anything in return, as is the case with prog metal too. It just brings me down, without lifting up in catharsis. Maybe the main problem is Matthew Parmenter's (who writes the music and plays several instruments) angst-driven, depressed and stuffy vocals. With a better singer I might enjoy this music in all its powerful darkness.

All the tracks are very progressive, often multi-part compositions - but not much different from each other. And it's over an hour long, so it is a demanding album anyhow. In the leaflet Parmenter thanks someone for introducing Van der Graaf Generator to him, and the appreciation to VdGG really shows. But the magic and extraordinary dark beauty of VdGG is absent. Though I can't say this is prog metal - the sound is very 70's with mellotrons and reeds - I guess the listeners of that genre are more potential enjoyers than for example Symphonic Prog or Art Rock lovers.

Review by NJprogfan
4 stars AHH! An American semi-classic from the 90's, now how many times could you say that? Discipline play a quasi mix of Van Der Graff Generator like prog with a dab of Neo. Piano is dominate but not overly. Horns come into play, but only to color. Guitar, bass and drums sound very modern, but not out of the realm of classic prog. Mucho lyrics to the point of overkill, but they're deep, introspective and well sung. A rare type of prog from these US shores, unique yet with a touch of retro. Intrigued? Well, I'm standing on my soapbox and telling the world it's worth a try. I can honestly say that it's never boring but because of the label it's gotten on this site people may stay away from it. They play too broad a type of prog to be pidgeonholed in the Neo class. More art rock with a dabble of symph with a sprinkle of Neo. How's that? Give them a try, won't you? A class of 90's prog album that is in the top 25 easily. Not a masterpiece mind you, but really, really close.
Review by Cesar Inca
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars Discipline's sophomore release is a step forward from the sort of effort displayed in the excellent debut album "Push & Profit": while this aforesaid item found the band digging deep into the realms and textures of their eclectic approach to the prog genre (including excursions in folk-rock and light spirited rock'n'roll), "Unfolded Like Staircase" shows a clearer focus on the idea of stylistic cohesiveness. In this way, the repertoire "Unfolded" enhances the Van der Graff (75-76 era) and Genesis (70-72 era) references, plus touches of Scandinavian-style Crimsonesque nuances (mostly, harmonic progressions, dense mellotronic atmospheres and some guitar solos), all of them provided under a framework that states a compromise between vintage prog and neo-prog. In many ways, this Discipline master opus is very much related to what bands such as Versus X, Scythe, High Wheel and Cliffhanger were doing at the time. The band's sound is tighter and stronger, despite the fact that the ensemble had been reduced to a quartet after the keyboardist's departure. Anyway, there is the enthusiastic and talented Matthew Parmenter to fill in quite effectively, together with his usual roles on sax and violin (the latter is his best input, actually). The fact that the material is ambitious in structure and length is an external symptom of the sort of vision that the band was genuinely aiming at. Most of this material had already been tried in concerts, so the album was, at least in an "abstract" sense, ready to be recorded as a 5- or 4-piece band. The opener "Canto IV (Limbo)" is a major Discipline classic. Starting with a martial, pompous mood, the main body is a slow section properly filled with the drama and irony of a soul lost in Limbo just because he happened to be a nice guy who died before the arrival of Jesus Christ. This spirit of disappointment is developed into varying moods and tempos, ultimately leading to an expanded reprise of the opening motif. 'Crutches' starts on a more solemn note, with soft acoustic guitar strums providing the basis for the joining of the whole ensemble. This piece is very vandergraffian in itself, stating a mixture of the acid splendor of "Godbluff" and the existentialist magic of Hammill's "Chameleon" and "Silent Corner" albums. The use of mild passages among the tough instrumental excursions is definite proof of the band's ability to create a successful amalgam of variations with cohesive fluidity. The 22+ minute long 'Into the Dream' is the longest track in the album, and it really provides room for the band to indulge in consistent series of motifs, all linked in a generally sustained mood of constrained anger. This piece may sound like a midway between what Landberk did in their first two albums and the deep darkness created by Areknamés in the new millennium. The recurrent moods of 'Into the Dream' bear a controlled density: for instance, the guitar solos are not totally highlighted, and the mellotron layers are only partially menacing. This trick allows transitions to flow naturally; it also allows Parmenter to deliver the piece's abundant lyrics with a bigger ease than needed when the mood variations are more dramatic (say, Genesis' 'Supper's Ready' or IQ's 'Harvest of Souls'). The only moments of exclusive instrumental splendor are reserved for the coda, which actually delivers a very melodic closure for the penultimate and final sections. 'Before the Storm' closes down the album in a successful attempt to retake the sort of density elaborated in 'Crutches'. The case of 'Before the Storm' is patently devoted to deliver a clear compositional focus, so the trick is now to use a recurrent motif now and then (on piano or mellotron). This piece also includes an extended instrumental coda, featuring a magnificent violin solo that merges its vibrant flows with the mellotron layers. General balance: "Unfolded Like Staircase" is one of the ultimate prog opuses from the late 90s, and also, the ultimate album of one of the best American prog bands that took part of the 90s prog revival.
Review by ZowieZiggy
4 stars Discipline plays an effective mix of symphonic (Yes, Genesis) and eclectic prog (Graaf, Crimson). Their debut album was good, but it is obvious that when they recorded this Staircase, the band was more inspired.

The opening number Canto V is as tortured as it can be (I have to say that Mathew on the vocals is quite good) and the sax is definitely heading towards VDGG. As its glorious predecessor, there will be quieter and more melodic passages; but there is the great addition of a fantastic guitar solo: full of passion and emotion. It ends as a very bombastic manner: an explosion of keys and crying guitar. This is an excellent start.

The shorter song of this album is Crutches. It clocks at over thirteen minutes.This song is leading us more in the Crimson / Graaf territories. The music is less accessible. But once you have been listening to this track a few times, the magic operates and you get hooked at these hectic and passionate vocals, which are again a highlight on this track. The finale, as during the opener, is again on the symphonic mood.

When I reached the third song (and epic), I have to admit that the band is maybe too close from these sounds we all love. A bit like the very good Araknamés this band is stuck with their models although the addition of some enjoyable mellotron breaks this feeling somehow. With Into The Dream, Discipline fully switched to ITCOTCK, which is fine with me. The closing part is a jewel of symphony (for the third time).

The closing track (Before The Storm) has this cold beauty of some solo work from Peter (Hammill). It is delicate, subtle and poignant. It still will evolve towards a fully Graaf inspired song after some four minutes and it turns into a very dark atmosphere (you know like .). The loop has been looped I guess. For the fourth time in a row, Discipline will provide a brilliant closing part to this song.

Since I have to refer so much to some great old bands, you might understand that this album is not very original per se, but it combines lots of great elements of the heydays of prog music. Each fan that is willing to remind this period should be highly interested in such a recording. As I am.

I couldn't find a weak track, not even a weak part during this album. Four stars is the rate.

Review by Ivan_Melgar_M
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars Despite I'm a huge fan of DISCIPLINE, I've been avoiding the chance to review "Unfolded like Staircase", not because it's quality, which in my opinion is simply outstanding, but because it's complexity and how difficult it gets to express in words what you listen in the album, a prove of this is that most reviews on this page are extremely short, despite the high ratings, something that demonstrates, that the problem is common.

Just to start, I believe it's impossible to talk about influences with coherence, because the album is a paradox, the listener is bombarded by sounds of the 70's and 80's but you can't precise which is which, being that their approach is as unique as Matthew Parmenter's personality.

Every person who has read some of my reviews, will know I'm not precisely a fan of KING CRIMSON or VDGG, and at the first listen you notice the spirit of both bands is present in this album, but taken in such a different way that you can't point one coincidence at all and I love it from start to end, in the same way I'm a fan of GENESIS, but except in the melancholic and dark use of the Mellotron, you can't precise what comes fom the Charterhouse School band, "Unfolded like Staircase" is a puzzle that I enjoy trying to decipher.

The album starts with "Canto IV (Limbo)", the breathtaking moment in which I can point a clear KING CRIMSON (Lark's Tongues in Aspic) influence, but after a short wind passage, changes into something much less complex and more melodic that flows gently.

The obscure, almost depressive voice of Mathew Parmenter is just perfect to create the heavy mist effect that floats over the head of the listener, like the song points in the title with the word Limbo, a place between nowhere or more properly "an intermediate, transitional, or midway state or place" where rules of physics seem not to apply.

But this not all, the radical changes, the almost terrifying violin sections, the aggressive guitar, everything makes of "Canto IV" thirteen minutes of the purest expression of art Progressive Rock can present us. I won't even attempt to describe the multiple parts listed in this track, this just would kill the beauty, follow my advice, some things must not be enjoyed without an exhaustive description.

"Crutches" marks a radical change, after a softer and acoustic introduction where Matthew demonstrates the ductility of his voice with just a guitar, almost in the vein of a hard neo Prog band, the music starts to go "in Crescendo", but seems to never explode in an absolute climax, until the guitar by Jon Preston Bouda, perfectly supported by the rhythm section formed by Matthew Kennedy and Paul Dzendzel, prove us they can rock, even if in this case just for a short period to allow the heavy mist of mystery descend over us again, simply contradictory and perfectly developed, dramatic to an extreme, and at the end, this is what Prog is about, to expect the unexpected.

I don't know if "Into the Dream" is the central piece (because everything is central here), but is the longest epic of the album, 22:03 minutes of pure Progressive Rock, again almost chaotic and depressive is almost impossible to describe, changes from complex and dissonant to melodic and coherent in a matter of seconds, and not only one time, all along the track, in some moments while the keyboards add that strong and heavy melody, the rest of the instruments hit us with all the strength they are capable of, while the vocals keep the perfect balance between one world and the other.

"The album ends with "Before the Storm", another long fifteen minutes Suite that begins with a beautiful piano and vocals melody, after a couple minutes seems that they are holding themselves to avoid the burst of power strength that apparently we can expect, until they seem to loose a bit (just a bit) the power is controlled, as if they were giving us the first pieces of a work that the band is building step by step.

But then a Baroque organ break announces the first change in the vein of ÄNGLAGÅRD meets KING CRIMSON and GENESIS but with a moody violin in the background, but still everything is progressive, they don't run, the band take their time to do what they pretend.

But again, by surprise the beast is let free, guitar, keys, bass and drums are allowed to slap us in the face with pure power for another short period of time before they fall into that place between to universes they have taken us before.

This guys are masters of timing, they know precisely what to do and what is even harder, when to do it, because the song flows until the end with this illogical logic that only an expert band is capable of creating.

Four tracks, four hits, no fillers, no boring moments neither further questions or empty words, 5 stars is my rating, because if this is not an essential masterpiece of Progressive Rock, I don't know what the expression means.

Review by Slartibartfast
COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator / In Memoriam
5 stars What if old Genesis and old Kansas got together and had a child...

I've been listening to this album for about a month and was at a loss at how to describe it and that's about as good as it gets. Sure the kid is smaller (a quartet) and can't play flute, but that description seems to fit the music as good as anything. The guitarist does remind me more stylistically of Rich Williams than Steve Hackett. This child takes after it's father more so than it's mother, even to the point of it's core member, Michael Parmenter doing costumes for live performances from what I've read. You get four complex pieces, three of which are subdivided. Parmenter does the keyboards, which do dominate the music, but not in a bad way, along with a few other instruments, including violin. It's a lyrically intense album that has no campy moments.

This 1997 album appears to be the end of the line for this outfit unfortunately, so on the bright side, if it clicks with you, there's not a lot of titles to get to collect everything. Have to round this one up on the rating.

Review by Negoba
4 stars Angst and More Angst Fuels Excellent Vocal Neoprog

Discipline's UNFOLDED LIKE STAIRCASE is an album I badly want to give 4.5 stars. It's almost, but not quite, a masterpiece. It starts with the astounding "Limbo / Canto IV" which may be the best neo-prog song ever written. However, the remaining 50+ minutes of music don't quite communicate as well as the first song, and fall into the good to excellent category. Lead singer Matthew Parmenter is a master of theatric vocals, clearly heavily influenced by Peter Hammill. The music is straight out of the prog play book, with all songs being epic length, a few allusions to classic Genesis pieces, and complex song structure. The guitars are well played but the tonality could have used some tweaking into something a little less ordinary. A few more strong melodic themes to anchor the later pieces would have turned this into a monster. It's close already. Unfortunately, at this time at PA, it's bewilderingly classified symphonic or it would have its rightful place high on the neoprog charts.

On the lead track, Parmenter's sense of melody comes strongly into play, making the lyrics easier to follow and making it easier for this listener to dive into the story being told. I feel like the musical techniques really combine to serve the song and the message rather than the other way around. The jarring rhythms and painful emotional vocal delivery communicate the existential angst perfectally. Some have claimed Parmenter's theatrics are too much, but when playing the part of the lost soul kept out of heaven, it works perfectly.

The remaining three songs are not bad at all. Part of the problem is that the album is so dark and heavy, that the listener is a bit worn out by the end. The songs get progressively longer, the lyrics a little denser, and the song structures more challenging. This is in a relative sense, for the entire album is full of juxtaposition, complex time signatures, and dissonant tonalities. It's just that by the end, things feel a bit overlong.

Two main positives emerge from this album. One, Matthew Parmenter was one of the best neo-prog vocalists out there, merging Hammill and Fish into an evocative, full tone that oozes pain. His note choice is challenging, in fact sometimes too much so. Some of the phrasing he pulls off while simultaneously playing keys is truly impressive. The other related positive is that the entire band is not afraid to dive head first into the kind of difficult pieces that make prog what it is. These guys are clearly some of us, huge fans of the genre working from a vocabulary that is near to all of our hearts.

I fully recommend the album. "Limbo / Canto IV" is, to me, part of the prog canon. The phenomenal album artwork must be mentioned as well, one of the few that I would put up on my wall even as an adult. I wish they had continued to evolve and improve from here. There are more works to explore, but this is the peak.

Review by Marty McFly
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars When you're listening this, you simply hear (almost with capital H) that this album is special. In something, nothing so particular, but it is special. I won't overrate this album too much when I say that this album has everything. Starting from melancholic cover, Matthew Parmenter, solid length (full of good songs) and of course music genres that defies gravity, Ambient, Blues, Symphonic, Neo-Prog, Rock'n'Roll, Blues, Heavy Prog, Ballad like song etc.

Of course that this album is difficult to review, it's also must-have as some might already said to you. But above all, it's simply pleasant album with no bad note, chord, tune or anything that can lower the rating. And added to this fact, "Unfolded Like Staircase" has many tricks up in sleeve. There are also similarities with Matt's later solo work, especially type of singing presented in Canto IV, even the music is completely different.

Epic track is true epic, not like Spock's Beard epics that are good [yes, I worship them every day], but not good so much, or even in a way that Into the Dream shines. Oh my Prog, how can they manage to have so pleasant, interesting and yet variable music, that's mystery to me.

And everything here is dipped in Mellotron, so we're happy, aren't we ?

5(+), unless proof that there's something bad is given.

Review by VanVanVan
5 stars In my opinion this is one of if not the best symphonic prog albums of the 90s that I've ever heard. The two biggest influences here are probably Genesis and Van der Graaf generator, but I can definitely hear some King Crimson as well. Of course, there's also quite a bit of neo-prog influence along the lines of Marillion and IQ, but don't worry, this is no copycat album.

The album starts off very strong, with the powerful opening notes of "Canto IV (Limbo)" hitting the listener like a sledgehammer right away. The track continues to be probably the best on the album, going through several dynamic motifs and finishing with one of my favorite finales in prog. "Crutches" begins a bit more sedately, but it quickly builds intensity and is quite a good epic in its own right despite the fact that it's stuck between two more powerful tracks. The latter of these, "Into the Dream" has pretty much everything you'd expect from a 20+ minute epic; it's no "Supper's Ready," but it's very, very good progressive songwriting.

The album concludes with "Before the Storm," which is a bit more downtempo, but works very well as a finale. In addition, the introduction to the song, which features Matthew Parmenter on solo piano and vocals, is some of the most beautiful music in the modern prog canon. The song builds in intensity from there and is a worthy closer to this great album. A masterpiece of modern progressive rock.


Review by Epignosis
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
2 stars Unfolded Like Staircase is a symphonic Van der Graaf Generator; indeed, Matthew Parmenter sounds very much like Peter Hammill and the compositions share several similarities with the aforementioned group. I regard this album as one of those "prog masterpieces" that haphazardly combines musical passages without much regard to compositional context. But even when there is, I cannot say what the band comes up with pleases me. Overall, it boils down to this: I don't admire the compositions, even if they are performed remarkably well. Unlike the music from a band such as Ritual, which too is mired in a symphonic quirkiness, I find it hard to follow or be viscerally absorbed by; indeed, I never anticipate hearing this album. However, if the reader fantasizes that Van der Graaf Generator were inspired by Genesis, Yes, or Kansas, this is without a doubt essential listening; for me, I am less than enthusiastic. I may yet warm up to it, though I doubt it; I've had this album for years and I just can't feel what a great many others are evidently feeling.

"Canto IV (Limbo)" After a raucous opening, piano, bass, electric guitar, drums and saxophone offer a slightly discordant bit introduction. Soon the rowdy introduction just ceases and the slower, plodding vocal section emerges. I quite enjoy the heavier, Van der Graaf Generator-like chorus. The instrumental passages that follow are exciting and have a degree of flow, something the rest of the album lacks. However, the thudding vocal section with the various lead instruments in the background I just don't adore. The guitar solos are likeable, managing a degree of restraint in both volume and style while still managing to impress.

"Crutches" Here is an angst-ridden song that alternates between heavier bits and quiet sections. The vocals are biting, but I find they grate and distract from the music, which in most cases, I don't believe should happen. And when the music performs without the vocalist, it is not nearly as impressive as when it was carrying on underneath the singer! The instrumental latter bit is more appealing though even if a tad incoherent for my tastes.

"Into the Dream" The epic of the album lacks a cohesiveness for me. The bass playing, however, is the most exciting aspect- well done! The rest of the music fades into background music to me every time, even the overbearing vocals. I have difficultly describing this track because no matter how many times I sit through it, it just seems like an amalgamation of sounds and passages that don't work together. For a while, the vocalist sounds less like Peter Hammill and more like Layne Staley. Mellotron backs (or almost overpowers) an acoustic guitar solo. The rest of the piece- I feel I must apologize- seems to me to be neo-prog platitudes that do not seek to move the listener.

"Before the Storm (Part 1)" Piano opens the first of a two-part piece. This is a highly structured piece very much in the vein of Peter Hammill's main crew. It even has a light organ bit before the guitar-led instrumental section.

"Before the Storm (Part 2)" The band explodes into full heavy rock symphonic mode, and while each instrument has a distinct voice, the parts blend into something coherent finally. The unruly vocals throw things off though, wavering between a progressive rock and nasty grunge style falsetto. The brass comes to the fore (under the vocals of course), but overall the composition is just another one of those pieces that remains hard to follow no matter how many times I listen to it.

Review by Warthur
5 stars Discipline's Unfolded Like Staircase sounds like what might happen if Subterranea-era IQ were fused body and soul with Godbluff-era Van der Graaf Generator to perform their own take on Anglagard's Hybris - but even that comparison doesn't quite capture the unique sound Discipline bring to bear on this magnificent album.

With song structures and an overall album structure reminiscent of the golden age of prog, a frontman in the form of Matthew Parmenter who is able to get really into the dramatic, emotional lyrics presented, much like Peter Nicholls or Peter Hammill can at their best, and excellent musical performances from everyone concerned, the album takes the listener on a musical journey every bit as tempestuous as you might expect with song titles like Before the Storm. Whether you slide it into the neo-prog category because of the accessible nature and the occasional bit reminiscent of IQ, or symphonic due to the expansive song structure and the mildly greater level of complexity compared to typical neo-prog, Unfolded Like Staircase is one of the greatest prog masterpieces of the 1990s.

Review by VianaProghead
5 stars Review Nº 80

When I wrote my review about their debut studio album 'Push & Profit' released in 1994, I said that I have received that album few weeks ago and that I hoped receive their second studio work, very soon. Unfortunately, I only got 'Unfolded Like Staircase' some months ago, and so and unexpectedly, only now it was possible for me to make the review of it.

Discipline is an American progressive group formed in 1987 by high school students Matthew Parmenter (vocals and multi-instruments), Jon Preston Bouda (backing vocals and guitars), Matthew Kennedy (bass) and Paul Dzendel (drums and percussions), in Royal Oak, Michigan. They had also another band's member, David Krofchock, who was the band's keyboard player from 1990 to 1993, and took part of their debut album 'Push and Profit'. Since the early days, the vocalist Parmenter and the leader of the band, made the band's live concerts changing elaborate costumes for each song, like Peter Gabriel usually did in the early days of Genesis and also as Fish did in the early days of Marillion. Because of that, usually, Discipline was often compared to Genesis and Marillion. However, the Discipline's music has also been compared to Van Der Graaf Generator, not because of their debut studio album 'Push And Profit', but because of their following work, this second studio album 'Unfolded Like Staircase'.

As I wrote before, Parmenter is the leader of the band and he usually writes all the songs on their albums. It also sings and plays several musical instruments like keyboards, violin, saxophone and orchestra chimes. Thanks to their great live shows, Discipline built up a good reputation in Detroit, which is very strange and curious, since this American region isn't usually influenced by the progressive rock music. So, in 1993 the group released their first album, and to support that album, the group toured the USA in supporting of various progressive artists and bands like Steve Howe, the Yes' guitarist, and Anekdoten, an excellent Swedish heavy progressive group, hugely influenced by King Crimson.

'Unfolded Like Staircase' is composed of four long pieces of music. It isn't at all a minimalist album, but it has a myriad of details and a constant development, coherence and balance in the whole work. In these things resides part of the personality of this musical work magnificently interpreted in a truly masterful way. This is an album with a work of exceptional composition. The music on the album has all the elements that characterized a very uncommon world. We have the drama, restlessness, darkness, delirium, tragedy, schizophrenia, but above all, it shows the amazing beauty that can be hidden in the darkest places into our minds. However, those influences reside only in the essence of the music. Both, voices and instruments, have very little to do with the finale style of the Van Der Graaf Generator's music. However, in my point of view, we can clearly see on 'Unfolded Like Staircase' several other musical influences from the 70's. When I listen to this album for the first time, I became completely astonished and amazed with so many different musical influences on only a single album or even only on a single track. I can clearly see on it two other very strong influences of the 70's, the influences of Genesis in the Gabriel's era and the influences of King Crimson in their first phase. By the other hand, I can also see some more recent musical influences on the album. Those influences are the neo-prog influences, particularly from the excellent neo- prog British band IQ. If we think a little bit about it, this last musical influence isn't as strange as it seems. The neo- prog style isn't so different from the symphonic style. If you compare Genesis in the era Gabriel and Marillion in the era Fish, you see what I mean. Anyway, the solo musical career of Parmenter fits perfectly well into this musical style. I also strongly recommend the Parmenter's solo musical career.

Conclusion: When I reviewed 'Push & Profit' I said that I became surprised, because I expected that the music of the band was more surprising, strange, aggressive, improvised and complex, like Anglagard's music. However, after listen to 'Unfolded Like Staircase', several times, I completely changed my opinion about Discipline's music. In my humble opinion, 'Unfolded Like Staircase' is an album completely different from 'Push & Profit'. This is an album much more mature, complex, aggressive, surprising and totally progressive, with dark lyrics and also with a dark theatrical musical atmosphere. 'Unfolded Like Staircase' is really an astonishing progressive album, and I'm completely amazed with the quality produced by them on it. Sincerely, I'm really surprised with so many different musical influences on a single album or on a single track. I agree with Easy Livin when he says that this is a band with their roots firmly in neo-prog, especially due to the influences of IQ. By the other hand the influences of Genesis in Gabriel's era, King Crimson in their first phase, and of course Van Der Graaf Generator, are very strong, indeed. So, 'Unfolded Like Staircase' is a truly masterpiece and one of the best albums released by one of the most amazing bands that emerged in the 90's.

Prog is my Ferrari. Jem Godfrey (Frost*)

Review by Progfan97402
2 stars One of the more overrated prog albums of the 1990s. Apparently Matthew Parmenter had just discovered Van der Graaf Generator prior to the recording of Unfolded Like Staircase, explaining why Push & Profit was quite a bit different. So it's little surprise the VdGG influence can be felt, but I also detect a Spock's Beard influence as well, because Parmenter's voice alternates between that of Peter Hammill and that of Neal Morse. "Canto IV" and "Crutches" aren't bad, but the problem in this CD is it's way too long and it sounds like they ran out of ideas after the first two cuts. It's CDs like this that gives me a reminder why in recent years, thanks to the vinyl revival (starting about 2007 or '08) many artists were starting to scale back to 40-45 minutes and the albums, to my ears, have improved, because you're not having to sit through lots of filler. It's easier for artists to pick the cream of the crop if having to stick to 40-45 minutes of music. Unfolded Like Staircase is much like Echolyn's As the World to my ears, just drawn out way too long. Of course I can't say that lengthy releases of the 1990s were all bad, Porcupine Tree managed some great music during their early space rock phase (pre-Stupid Dream) and their CDs were normally around an hour long or more, even during their more popular phase (In Absentia and beyond). And then you have Änglagård (who were wise to keep the music around 45 minutes), which set the standard so high it would be difficult for any other artist from that era to touch them. Still Unfolded Like Staircase doesn't fall into the neo-prog trap, but it's not entirely retro either, the vocals and style does sound '90s, even if some low key Mellotron is used. I realize in the 1990s they feel they'd sell more copies if the CD consists of two ten minutes cuts and a 20 minute piece, which I think is a dangerous trap to keep the quality consistent throughout. Spock's Beard's The Light, for example does have a couple ten minute pieces and one piece over 20 minutes, but surprisingly the CD is excellent (and I'm not even the biggest Spock's Beard fan, because my gripe about them is their frequent commercial/mainstream approach). I do take a lot of prog since the 1990s with a grain of salt, as many of them fall short of the great stuff (well known and obscure) from the 1970s. Discipline, to my ears, falls short. I know some of you will enjoy it, so I know Unfolded Like Staircase has its fans, but it simply left me cold, no matter how many times I've listened to it.
Review by kev rowland
5 stars It is incredibly rare for me to review an album more than once, and generally there needs to be something very special for that to take place. Given that this is, in my opinion, one of the most important progressive rock albums to come out in the Nineties by one of the most innovative and important bands ever to surface in the States, this is not something I do lightly. To celebrate the 25th anniversary of this incredible release, the guys convinced Terry Brown to undertake a new mix, and that is what I am now playing. In this heavily connected world of ours it is often difficult to remember that it was not that long ago when music only existed in physical form, the internet was new and not many people had email. Although by 1999 I had already built a reputation in the UK for writing about progressive rock music, and was well-known by various European labels, it was more difficult to get material from the other side of the Atlantic just due to geography and cost. However, at some point that year I was contacted by Matthew Parmenter (vocals, keyboards, violin, sax) and been sent this album which had been released a few years earlier. This was their third album, and three years on from 'Push & Profit' they had settled down as a quartet with the departure of keyboard player David Krofchok, with the classic line-up of Jon Preston Bouda (electric and acoustic guitars), Matthew Kennedy (bass) and Paul Dzendzel (drums, percussion).

The four songs are epics, with a total running time of 65 minutes, and here we have a band who are heavily influenced by VDGG, while also bringing in some elements of Gabriel and Fripp, with the result being an album which is very American yet is looking deep into the Seventies with some classic sounds and influences. Looking back at my Discipline reviews in TPU Vol 1 I say at one point that they produce "Prog that is dangerous and exciting, harkening back to the past but very much looking forward to the future". There is no doubt that when looking back on many Nineties releases, they have not aged particularly well, but that is not the case here. It is a few years since this graced my player just because I am always trying to catch up on my reviews, but as soon as "Canto IV (Limbo)" kicked off I was transported and transfixed, taken back to when I first heard this all those years ago and soon wrapped back under its spell. There is no doubt that if in 2000 someone had asked me to list my favourite progressive rock albums from the Nineties then this would have made the cut, and if someone asked me in 2022 to undertake that exercise again there is no doubt this would still be very close to the top.

This is music which is exciting and vibrant, still with plenty of space but with complex and layered arrangements which Brown's remix has revitalised. There is just so much going on in this album, and one never knows where it is going to lead or what is going to happen next. It truly is a progressive rock album in all its facets, one which has not succumbed to banality or commerciality but rather was written and recorded just because the band had no choice, this is what they were all about. Remember, there was no ProgArchives back in 1997, it was a mere twinkle, and certainly no-one ever imagined glossy magazines devoted to the genre, it was hard enough to produce fanzines and standing over copies to reproduce them! It is direct, diverse, yet goes off at tangents so one must listen to hard to ensure nothing is missed and the journey can be completed.

25 years on from its debut, and this album is still one of the most important to have ever come out of the underground scene, from a band who should have been massive and known by all. Since this we have only had two more studio albums, but perhaps this will provide some impetus for the guys to get back into the studio. No progressive collection can be called complete without this.

Review by Dapper~Blueberries
5 stars As I stated before in my Hybris review, there were two big gothic retro progressive rock bands, Änglagård and Discipline. I already talked about Änglagård, so I figured to have a little discussion about Discipline. Discipline actually came a little before Änglagård, coming into the scene in 1987 but didn't make a full length album until 1993 with the album Push and Profit. Like Änglagård, after their second studio release they disappeared until 2011 with To Shatter All Accord, 2013 with Chaos Out of Order, and 2017 with Captives of the Wine Dark Sea.

They have a less European sound and go for more of what jazz style and experimental Prog bands like Van Der Graaf Generator and King Crimson were doing back in the 70s. In fact their name was adopted from the King Crimson album, Discipline. They still have a symphonic sound to them though, making their sound very artsy but tightly knit together. These factors definitely make this band a very unique and fun one to delve in. I am pretty excited to review this album because it has become a favorite of mine since I first heard it.

The album is kicked off with my favorite track on this album, Canto IV (Limbo). It is that beginning melody that really shows off so much. It is a solid hook, having these echoed guitars and drums rhythmically playing in a minor key that soon evolves into a more streamlined harmony is so well done. That is not even the best of what this song has to offer, really the strongest aspect this song has are three factors; the vocals, the consistency, and the guitars. Let us start with the vocals. The lead singer Matthew Parmenter delivers an excellent array of emotional, almost Peter Hammillesque harmonies that really turn the music onto its head. Despite him being an American artist, his singing has this flair to it that makes it feel very different from a lot of other American Prog rock bands that sprouted out at the time, making his vocals very unique. Now the consistency. While the song mutates throughout, it still has a consistent feeling throughout. You can definitely recognize each little bit of the song is in some way connected to each other even when things change. I definitely really enjoy this since it shows experimentation on the band's front while also remaining in their signature style. Lastly is the guitars. I just love how they sound. They have this ethereal tone to them which makes them stand out a lot. The best thing about them is that they do not feel overused, they are definitely used a lot, but they do not feel way too overbooked. In fact this strikes a balance of creating homogeneous styles. They can be a little weird at times, but they are clearly focused to where even the most bizarre moments create an awesome experience. Really this song is the peak of the album, and it never actually dips down at all.

I think Crutches is a good indication. The song is a little different, being less loud and abrasive, but a bit more reserved. Obviously there are moments here that delve back into the thick of it, but the song does start very differently with an acoustic number. Really this is probably their most soft song on here, but even if it is different, it still has that Discipline sound that really drives home that weirder side of Prog that I really love. Their use of a softer and more melodic focus on this song really does shape them to be a great band. They are experimental, and when it is done in a subtle way like this where you can notice it but still recognize that it is coming from a more abrasive song like Canto IV (Limbo). What I said before about the vocals and how consistent this song is stays true, but I would like to point to something else and that is the drumming. The rhythmic qualities shape this song and the album as a whole, and without it I think it wouldn't be as good. It flows through different patterns and tempos that even though they are all very different, still feels like they can be a part of the same sheet of music. It really does excel in a ton of qualities that I adore.

I think every Prog band has at least one really solid epic, and Discipline is no exception with Into The Dream. This 22 minute epic is just a treat from start to the end. It continues their cryptic sound from the last two songs, but we get some very fun shifts and changes. The mood never really changes, but how each part of this piece shifts around, ever so slightly, makes this such an amazing track to sit through. The song really does have a good amount of build up and crescendos that always interlink with each other. You can feel it all go up but never going down until the very end. Even with the best moments here you can definitely feel that it is rising to something, and I think that is the best thing about Prog epics, that build up to something great. The last piece on this song, part g. Turtles All The Way Down, really does show off this by putting emphasis on something you might've not noticed from all the other songs until this point, and that is the keyboard. They are putting a focus on it because I think to show off more aspects of the band besides their prowess on the guitars and drums. I think each song lets a member of the band have the spotlight, which is very awesome. This is definitely a great epic through and through.

Into The Dream is not the only epic here, there is one more and that is Before The Storm, parts one and two respectively. I am gonna be honest, while I still think this album is a masterpiece, this is still the weakest track for me. Not saying it is bad, no far from it, it is a very great song that showcases the band at their most tightly knit state as they create a 15 minute long track that takes you down a symphonic spectrum, but I do think it being on the tail end after three glorious tracks and being split into two parts definitely gives it a tiny bit of weight, not on my enjoyment but on the album, but not enough for it to lower my ranking down. As I stated before, the song is very tightly knit. The harmonies flow right, the singing is still as good as ever, the drumming is fantastic, the keyboards are the icing on the cake, the guitars are awesome, and that bass being elusive, yet still giving a backbone to this track and album as a whole really allows this entire experience a status for a masterpiece.

The name of the game here is the word subtle. Changes in each song are noticeable yet subtle to where everything feels like they are in their right place. You can feel the band work paying off in folds here. Every little guitar line and keyboard press makes every bit of these songs feel like profound magic. This is a must listen for any Prog fans out there. Definitely listen to stuff like King Crimson or Van Der Graaf Generator first because this style is a little more out of the way to the more happy, and fun filled spirit most other retro Prog bands have which may take a bit of time getting used to, but I think it is all worth it. Give it a try, I am sure it will not disappoint.

Latest members reviews

4 stars Listening diary 11th September, 2021: Discipline - Unfolded Like Staircase (progressive rock, 1997) While I never personally bought the idea that progressive rock died after its heyday (if my favourite albums didn't make it very obvious) - I will concede that classic-style symphonic prog almost ... (read more)

Report this review (#2595180) | Posted by Gallifrey | Saturday, September 18, 2021 | Review Permanlink

4 stars It's like Neo-prog, except it ain't neo-prog: 8/10 If DISCIPLINE's name was inspired by KING CRIMSON's album of the same name, then those two hold no similarities. Whereas the album completely disregards progressive rock roots, the band nurtures directly from it - particularly VAN DER GRAAF G ... (read more)

Report this review (#1773403) | Posted by Luqueasaur | Sunday, August 20, 2017 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Discipline's Unfolded Like Staircase seemed like an album that would bring a tight group even tighter in sound. I find it very established, as to say the band have found their own sound (partial credit due to Van der Graaf and Crimson). There are the mellotron moments, long instrumental passages, to ... (read more)

Report this review (#1242568) | Posted by JCDenton | Sunday, August 10, 2014 | Review Permanlink

3 stars Unfolded Like Staircase is a relatively unknown album that seems to have gotten a lot of praise from multiple sources, which is the main reason I decided to look into it. Suffice it to say the first thing I noticed was the overbearing sound and style of multiple classic prog groups the album s ... (read more)

Report this review (#1003580) | Posted by Mr. Mustard | Tuesday, July 23, 2013 | Review Permanlink

5 stars After getting turned on to this wonderful group last year with their most recent release, I got curious what their back catalog sounded like. To Shatter All Accord set the bar tremendously high, so I wasn't sure if I could expect the same level of "wow" factor from this one. I really do need t ... (read more)

Report this review (#946726) | Posted by Neo-Romantic | Saturday, April 20, 2013 | Review Permanlink

5 stars U.S. answer to VDGG? I'm listening to this album in my car for days and I can not stop! The second album by Discipline is one of the best records of contemporary progressive rock, highly influenced by the style of Van Der Graaf Generator, with more guitar, a less use of wind instruments, and ... (read more)

Report this review (#528872) | Posted by Dark Nazgul | Wednesday, September 21, 2011 | Review Permanlink

4 stars A perfect marriage between VDGG and Genesis. This albums has got a lot of reviews so please allow me to be brief. For in debt analysis, go to the other reviews. Discipline is one of the better symphonic prog bands from USA at the moment. This albums proves why. Matthew Parmenter & Co oper ... (read more)

Report this review (#299254) | Posted by toroddfuglesteg | Wednesday, September 15, 2010 | Review Permanlink

5 stars A genuine masterpiece. This is a a really special album that stands out from the rest. While various reviewers see different groups influencing Discipline, I basically see two: Van Der Graaf Generator and Genesis. But this album is as good as anything either of those groups put out, which is o ... (read more)

Report this review (#254216) | Posted by Rip Van ProgWinkle | Thursday, December 3, 2009 | Review Permanlink

4 stars An outstanding album, nearly five stars! First off, like many others, I will compare the band to one of their biggest influences, Van Der Graaf Generator. They definitely draw a lot of inspiration from VDGG in their use of dark concepts and dynamic vocals, but stylistically they lack some of ... (read more)

Report this review (#231988) | Posted by rpe9p | Sunday, August 16, 2009 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Yeah! That's how modern prog should sound like; that's the way it sounds. Take an explosive mix of ANEKDOTEN, ANGLAGARD, DJAM KARET, VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR, even some U.K., add NEAL MORSE a little, flavour with some prog metal passages... Ready? Now set it on the fire! Be careful: this stuff is ... (read more)

Report this review (#201851) | Posted by groon | Thursday, February 5, 2009 | Review Permanlink

3 stars 3.5 stars really. In anticipation of their reformation at Nearfest this year, I pulled out this album again and decided it was time to review it. On first glance it seems like the kind of thing I would love; powerful guitar, mellotron drenched, complex lengthy songs with multiple secions, affe ... (read more)

Report this review (#157626) | Posted by infandous | Friday, January 4, 2008 | Review Permanlink

5 stars I listened to this album some time ago and then turned back towards their first release. Afterwards I got the live album and now I'm pretty sure that "Unfolded Like Staircase" delivers everything that a five-star album needs. The only disadvantage is that the enormous potential that Discipline pr ... (read more)

Report this review (#122930) | Posted by Ampersand | Monday, May 21, 2007 | Review Permanlink

5 stars I entirely agree with the bio note on Discipline. The Album's atmosphere varies from tense, dramatic vocal/instrumental parts to slowlier and simpler, but equally enjoyable tunes. Songs are aptly balanced, both in length and in the distribution of the more and the less progressive elements. Sheer ... (read more)

Report this review (#111160) | Posted by Lakesfield | Friday, February 9, 2007 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Usualy I do'nt review an album before I have it for few years. In this case I broke the rule though I heared it few dosens of time. The reason is I realy fell in love with this album. All 4 tracks are great epics. The music is versatile but also melodic and it realy moves me. I think it is in ... (read more)

Report this review (#93695) | Posted by omri | Saturday, October 7, 2006 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Listening to this great album I find difficult, now, to listen to Dream Theater..Great skilled musicians and above all a great work inspired by the dark side of VDGG, King Crimson and Genesis. Excellent guitar parts in Canto IV, played by Bouda (very good guitarist), excellent songs and also E ... (read more)

Report this review (#80963) | Posted by Kord | Monday, June 12, 2006 | Review Permanlink

4 stars Ok, I admit it, I'm a sucker for long songs. With 4 songs in 64min, you get your money's worth here. However long songs alone do not always mean there's coherent songwriting. Thankfully the music presented here is utterly fantastic. The songs are epic for more reasons than just their track ... (read more)

Report this review (#77515) | Posted by adigitaldan | Monday, May 8, 2006 | Review Permanlink

5 stars My favourite prog album of all time (so far). Four long tracks with adventurous music and lyrics. Although the tracks are long, there is a strong sense of 'discipline' in the music, and none of the instruments is allowed to dominate. Yet there is superb guitar work, and a variety of keyboard ... (read more)

Report this review (#75487) | Posted by dmwilkie | Wednesday, April 19, 2006 | Review Permanlink

5 stars When I 1st heard this cd I would have said 3 stars as I felt the music meanders aimlessly too much and lacked a bit of structure...even for prog. But I found that the more I listened to it the better it became. This is definitely a grower lp. Eventually, when I could predict what part was c ... (read more)

Report this review (#51208) | Posted by Greg W | Monday, October 10, 2005 | Review Permanlink

3 stars Unfolded Like Staircase doesn't have many powerful moments on it's own, most of it's decent moments have all been heard before in Genesis or Van Der Graaf Generator, the moods rarely reach anything captivating, and the emotions rarely reach any kind of heights. Nothing is particularly tasteful o ... (read more)

Report this review (#38918) | Posted by | Friday, July 8, 2005 | Review Permanlink

4 stars A real great album wich deserves his place between the other established Prog albums. I have to permit that thes guys realy got it. It is a real Symphonic album with al lot of tempo changes in it and it surprises me all the time. Unfolded Like staircase is a sollid album with 5 songs on it. Ofc ... (read more)

Report this review (#1769) | Posted by | Wednesday, July 28, 2004 | Review Permanlink

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