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Prog Rock: Ice Age, Matching Mole, Shadow Gallery, Subarachnoid Space, Tempest

ICE AGE: Liberation (CD on Magna Carta Records)

This 63 minute CD from 2001 features a fusion produced by blending prog rock and metal.

Ice Age> is: Josh Pincus, Jimmy Pappas, Hal Aponte, and Arron DiCesare.

Take ear-ripping guitar that cascades with fiery delivery. Add sweeping keyboards that guide the emotional weather with their shrill chords. Apply stadium drumming until it hurts. Inject some liquid bass to bind it all together in a trembling sound-ball. Augment this soaring mass with celebratory vocals that attribute epic quality to every chilling syllable.

What you get is a fervent sound that is reminiscent of the masterful guitar pyrotechnics and the vocal quality of Rush colliding with the dark intensity of Metallica.

Lurking in these powerful tracks (and alluded to in the CD's title) is a pro-Tibetan sentiment that tempers regret over this nation's oppression with ascending hope for better days.

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MATCHING MOLE: Smoke Signals (CD on Cuneiform Records)

Matching Mole is a prog rock legend of momentous consequences. The band was assembled by drummer/vocalist Robert Wyatt after his departure from the groundbreaking avant garde jazz ensemble Soft Machine in 1971. Also included in Matching Mole's band line-up were: guitarist Phil Miller on guitar (from Hatfield & the North, and National Health), bassist Bill MacCormick (from Phil Manzanera's 801), and organist Dave Sinclair (from Caravan) who was later replaced by keyboardist Dave McRae (from Mike Westbrook).

This 51 minute CD contains live material from the band's European tour in the spring of 1972. The featured material is mostly derived from the band's second LP ("Little Red Record"), displaying renditions that differ greatly from the heavily produced studio versions.

Strong songs and lazily melodic compositions are both represented on this CD. The powerful melodies are delivered with searing guitar, rumbling bass, hyperactive drums, and classically toned electric piano. While the softer pieces take a more somber sonic viewpoint, an undercurrent of explosive tension is still present, chittering to burst free but remaining confined.

Of particular interest: Matching Mole's debut (self-titled) album featured a cover painting by Alan Cracknell of two quaintly attired moles nose-to-nose as they peeked from their holes. "Smoke Signals" features a three-dimensional sculptural diorama recreation by Tom Recchion of this classic painting, which is photographed from numerous angles throughout the CD package, providing an entertaining glimpse at artwork amusingly made flesh.

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SHADOW GALLERY: Legacy (CD on Magna Carta Records)

This time, it's 72 minutes of progressive metal on this 2001 release.

Shadow Gallery is: Brendt Allman, Mike Baker, Carl Cadden, Chris Ingles, Joe Nevolo, and Gary Wehrkamp.

Nimble-fingered growling guitar licks fly in the listener's face, couched in a sonic shroud of lavish keyboards and monstrous percussives. Bigger-than-life vocals are everywhere, punctuated by blinding guitar solos that banish all shadows from the chamber with their blazing fury. Crisp production values embed this music forever in the best-of-all-possible sounds.

The compositions are lush and majestic, pummeling the psyche with relentless virtuosity. Vocal harmonies rise like shimmering leviathans to sparkle in the guitar's brilliant illumination.

Shadow Gallery established themselves as an American backbone of the power-progressive underground through the Nineties with their distinctive sound and compelling musical imagery. This new release is guaranteed to enhance that reputation.

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SUBARACHNOID SPACE: These Things Take Time (CD on Release Records)

This 45 minute release was recorded live on KFJC FM in California on December 11, 1999.

SubArachnoid Space is: Melynda Jackson, Mason Jones, Andey Stephens, and Chris Van Huffel.

It's spacerock, it's improvised, it's live, and it's pretty intense too. Layers of feedback guitar intertwine with hallucinatory percussion in tandem with progressive organ and slowjazz basslines.

Imagine these hostile sounds orchestrated into a dreamy soundscape (or is it soundscrape?) that burns like a magnesium torch. This is ambience that is capable of searing the eyelids from your face and peeling your ears back to the Seventies psychedelica of Pink Floyd's "Ummagumma" or the early albums of Can. Melodies come and go during this session, drifting into view on a platform of liquid noise, only to be swallowed by the returning cacophony. Not for the squeamish or sleepy.

A lifeline has been established between prog rock and extremist experimentalism...and its name is SunArachnoid Space.

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TEMPEST: Balance (CD on Magna Carta Records)

This 51 minute CD delves into Celtic and folk influenced prog rock.

Tempest is: Lief Sorbye, Adolfo Lazo, Todd Evans, William Maxwell, and Jim "Hurricane" Hurley.

This music is string-dominated: electric and acoustic guitars, mandolins, and bassesóbut it is frantic fiddle that rules the music. Traditional drums and sneaky keyboards fatten this sound, providing stone bridges over the surging waters.

The vocals are playful and exuberant, crooning tales of Irish lore with passionate elocution.

Although traces of traditional jigs show themselves frequently in these songs, their treatment is distinctly modern. Powerful instrumentation lifts these songs far beyond the realm of standard Celtic music, while the overall mood is one of constant merriment and cheerful partying.

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