|Review: Shadow Gallery - Carved in Stone|
|Carved in Stone|
Label: Magna Carta Records
Year released: 1995
Genre: Progressive Metal
Review online: November 27, 2011
Reviewed by: Larry Griffin
for:Carved in Stone
Rated 3.56/5 (71.11%) (9 Votes)
Shadow Gallery is a band that has somehow passed me by until recently. They have a small but devoted legion of followers who really dig their brand of catchy, relaxed prog metal, and this is my first taste of them. Carved in Stone often seems to be considered their best, and while I can't say that as it's the only one I've heard, I do think this is a pretty cool album.
Shadow Gallery's style is very much rooted in a rather stylistic and unique set of aesthetics. They write long songs full of pianos and the great voice of the now-late Mike Baker, who has a set of pipes to rival James LaBrie or Ray Alder any day. Their songs are often as much about the pianos and keyboards as the guitars, even more so at some points. I'll go ahead and get my main problem with this out of the way right now – a lack of dynamic. This is a band with a huge, deep understanding of songwriting, but they also pretty much stick to the same mood and emotion for the entire disc, and being that it's over 70 minutes long, becomes a little tiring after a while. They pretty much always have the same pleasantly intellectual Royal Hunt-esque mood throughout the whole thing. It still sounds good, but they would be even better if they injected a greater emotional presence.
The first two songs here are the best ones, as they have the best of both worlds – ethereal melody and strong Maiden-esque riffing. The build-up and nuance is just stunning, and the band blows open the gates with grandeur. The songwriting in general is very well done, although at times they get a little TOO mellow for a little too long. But even that isn't a deal breaker when you have the attention to detail and style that these guys have. Baker is a genius with vocal lines, as strong tunes like "Warcry" or the ballad "Alaska" attest to with their powerful subtlety and sweeping grace, and the guitar work of Allman and Wehrkamp is nimble, inventive and constantly interesting.
The only real fault here is the last song, which is engaging at times, but a 20 minute prog epic is tough to get right, and mostly this one just made me want to listen to Dream Theater or Rush instead. It's got some great moments, but at the same time, it kind of wears out its welcome.
It's hard to argue with such awesome music, though, and Carved in Stone, despite being a little overly long, is an engaging album full of heart and pomp. There are ways that it could be improved, but I still enjoy myself every time I put this on, and so for that I will recommend it.
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