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Mars Hollow - Mars Hollow CD (album) cover


Mars Hollow


Crossover Prog

3.61 | 82 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
3 stars I picked up this album a while ago, but I've been listening to it quite a bit recently as I want to reacquaint myself with the band's sound before their second album arrives from Amazon. I remember this being touted as one of the standout albums in 2010, and while there is a lot to like here, I don't totally agree with that. While this is a very impressive debut, it's still a debut and I think there are some aspects of this music that could be refined a bit. I don't mean to sound too down; it's still a good album that definitely deserves a listen.

"Wait For Me" begins the album on a frenetic note, starting off with a quirky little instrumental section that's slightly reminiscent of Yes without actually sounding too much like them. As more instruments are layered on and a very nice guitar solo comes in, the similarity to Yes fades and the music begins to take on a more modern edge. This blending of old and new sounds continues throughout the roughly three minute introduction section before vocals make a sudden entrance; so sudden in fact that it's almost jarring. The aforementioned vocals are powerful and melodic, and suit the music very well. The track switches into a slower vein about halfway through, but the great vocal melodies and keyboard work are preserved, and a couple synth solos later the track is over. Overall, "Wait For Me," is a great track that manages to show influences from classic prog bands like Yes, Genesis and Renaissance (the latter whose influence I hear especially in the keyboards), while still sounding thoroughly modern.

"Midnight," one of my favorite tracks on the album, begins with some very cool acoustic guitar work before vocals come in. "Midnight" is definitely one of the catchiest prog songs I can think of, with fantastic instrumental work throughout and a chorus that's guaranteed to get stuck in your head. It's a little more "pop" than "Wait For Me" was, to be sure, but it's still a great track and most prog fans should find plenty to enjoy.

"Eureka" begins with a keyboard-led introduction that I think sounds almost startlingly similar to parts of Triumvirat's "Illusions on a Double Dimple." When vocals enter they're typically excellent, with the range and powerful delivery of the singer continuing to impress me. There's an extended instrumental section in the middle of the track that I think maybe could have been tightened up a bit, but towards the end the track definitely picks up, with a killer guitar solo and a great reprise of the first instrumental motif to close out the track.

"If I Were You" comes next, beginning with another keyboard part. In contrast to the rather crazy part in "Eureka," however, "If I Were You" is markedly more subdued. As a matter of fact, "If I Were You," is one of the more subdued tracks overall, probably falling into the category of prog-ballad, if such a thing can be said to exist. I really enjoy the bass work on this track, though, surprisingly, I'm not a huge fan of the vocals on the track. It sounds a bit over-emotive to me and at times the vibrato is so wide it almost sounds like he's straining his voice. As is probably clear this is not my favorite song on the album, though there is an energetic instrumental section towards the end.

"In Your Hands" begins with a melodic, almost bluesy guitar line before delving into a more typically progressive rock sound, with synth taking the lead for much of the introduction. When vocals come in, it sounds like a different lead vocalist has stepped up. This song, like "Midnight" I think falls comfortably into that sort of pop/prog crossover genre, with catchy vocal melodies and more standard verse/chorus structure aided by complex instrumental parts and a much wider sonic palette than is generally found in straight pop music. I actually think that the songwriting is a bit tighter on these more accessible tracks than on, for example, "Wait For Me," which lacked a bit of cohesion, in my opinion.

"Wild Animal" is another favorite of mine, beginning with a somewhat haunting instrumental motif before what I would consider the best vocals on the album enter. This is a track, like its predecessor, that really proves that progressive rock doesn't have to be mind-bendingly technical or overly obtuse to sound great- "Wild Animal" combines pitch-perfect instrumental texturing with great vocal melodies and an absolute belter of a chorus to create music that's simultaneously powerful, accessible and musically very interesting.

"Dawn of Creation" closes out the album, beginning its 12 minute duration with some very nice ambience followed by a keyboard and guitar part that reminds me a lot of Beardfish. This opening section I think is probably one of the best moments compositionally on the album, and when vocals enter they're melodically excellent as well. Another keyboard section follows, this one also very reminiscent of Triumvirat, and as the track progresses I can also hear influences from Kansas and Renaissance. Again, I feel like there are sections that run just a bit long, but overall "Dawn of Creation" is a great track, maybe the best on the album. If anyone wanted to know how progressive rock could stay true to its influences while also presenting a fresh sound, this is probably the song I'd give to them.

So Mars Hollow's self-titled debut is a pretty solid album, though I do have some problems with it. For all the tracks I really love it seems like there's others that just don't grab me, to the point where I can hardly remember them even if I've just listened. "Midnight," "Wild Animal," and "Dawn of Creation" I would call the standouts, with the rest not doing a ton for me. This album shows a ton of potential though, especially as a debut, and I'm really looking forward to getting the band's second album because I have a sneaking suspicion it's going to be great.


VanVanVan | 3/5 |


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