Bad, vile and meaningless: Tyranny from Alan's clob

Room V

What is it with progressive rock and the letter V? I guess there must be a FAQ entry somewhere, which I hereby promise to check out one of these days. In my mind, V is always attached to Spock's splitted hand greeting in Star Trek. This review, however is not about Spock's Beard.

Room V is the latest release from Shadow Gallery. Their discs Tyranny—one I ended up listening over and over again for months—and their later Legacy were both excellent albums that I would highly recommend to anyone.

While Tyranny featured a single snake on its fiery cover, this album has twin snakes coiled like a DNA strand—presumably to declare its relationship to its ancestor even to casual observer. Incidentally, the analogy to DNA is pervasive: the lowest parts are actually joined with lines that represent the aminoacidic bonds. The twin coiled snakes are an ancient symbol of medicine, claimed by certain crackpots to represent the ancient's knowledge of DNA strands. Overall, it might seem like the wrong association for this music. But then again, maybe not: one should also consider song titles like Birth of a Daughter—and conspiracies of the crackpot kind were the part-and-parcel of Tyranny, too.

The sound lineage is distinctly tyrannian. There's just something about the slides and the riffs that can't help but bring Stiletto in the Sand back to mind. From there it takes off: "I look into your blue eyes deep pools ..." Err, well, it doesn't go georgelucas here, but I sure as hell was worried for a moment! Every metalhead that loves Shadow Gallery knows that after the almost complete perfection of Tyranny the new album is up to a great task lest it shame its predecessor in some way. I'm glad to say that this one passes with flying colours.

The male-female duettos are there, and this music is generally similar mixture of acoustics, metal and synthetic strings, but there's new elements. For instance, a relatively heavy song The Andromeda Strain features a very thick soundstage and has a complicated rhythmic pattern. It represents a new kind of extrapolation from the overall simpler world of Tyranny and also a great improvement to it. There's something alltogether dreamtheaterish going on, although not for a moment will it abandon its own distinct sound.

In fact, this album does provide its own distinct material, and at no point will it feel like a total ripoff of Tyranny. It's amazing how these guys keep on producing more interesting music; by my experience, most artists drain out sooner before later into self-repetition of the same ideas.

My only real gripe is, perhaps, the slight touch of the "fashionable elements" that have crept into modern progressive rock. It's hard to describe but sometimes it's in the sound, speech, concept or mixing. It's what I mean when I say "oh no, they have gone ayreon". And it's also what makes me proclaim that progressive rock is inbred teenager-targetting horseshit: nowadays it sounds like all the artists were out competing with each other in embedding the same elements in their music. Happily, this music seems to be made with great taste, so maybe the whole touch is just my own hypersensitised imagination.

Like every album, there are some weak spots. I'd like to nominate an individual song Seven Years that starts with tyrannyish pattern and some fluteplaying that seems almost, but not quite, in tune. It's maybe just the wrong tempering or something such, but it's enough to drive me crazy! The humble beginnings are eventually replaced with more sturdy material that is passing fair. But...

Somehow I begun to disagree and almost argue with this album after the beginning tracks. More to the point, where Tyranny had very memorable and bright tunes in its second part—the kind of music I could take immense delight in listening to over and over again—there's now a bluer sound that holds little joy. This is in fact terribly disappointing me, because it just doesn't have the same kind of "white metal" (as opposed to black metal) energy to it, and so the joy is gone.

Equally damaging are the short tracks (1 to 3 minutes) in the middle part which also do not have a chance to establish much before they must give way to the next part. There's Torn that is completely different from Spoken Words, and it drones on for 8 minutes. Somehow, the rest of the album is leaving me out cold, and that is a terrible thing to be doing in your lengthy finale. To borrow a saying: if you live by the blue you will die by the blue.

Perhaps one of the best parts of this release is the special edition Floydian Memories that is a fashionably arranged meddley with guest artists involved, one of course being the modern metal superhero Arjen Lucassen. For a moment it goes completely ayreon, but thankfully only for a few seconds. Even though I'm a floydhead I can't place all the songs because I haven't yet heard all the albums, particularly the earliest releases. When Fearless translates bizarrely into Mother it may give you a shock, but after that it really takes off and goes through many of the great moments in all Pink Floyd. Make no mistake, this floydian plot is tastefully arranged and highly recommended for pirating if your retail copy doesn't happen to have it.

Verdict?

It may be unfair to let so much of my personal preferences interfere with what is skilled metal music, but I also listen music to enjoy myself and if there is a mismatch between me and the music, then I must exclude something and I can't fully take this music into heart. That's a pity, because it's a dazzling album. Also important are the few bits of good jamming (of good old Dream Theater / Pink Floyd kind) and plenty of strengths in this album, most likely far outweighing the negatives in most peoples' minds. This albums is a terrific combination of both future and past of metal, and suffers mostly because of the defects in this reviewer's mind.

Nevertheless, this much is absolute: there's no way in hell Rain will ever match the immensely beautiful Christmas Day, and so there is simply no incentive any more to push the rewind button and take yet another spirit-lifting trip, like with Tyranny. Passing through Room V once will probably be enough.

A must have.