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(51:45, Odin's Court)
TRACK LIST: 1. Turtles All the Way Down-1 3:14 2. And the Answer Is 4:22 3. But What's the Question? 4:54 4. Insomnia 3:40 5. The Depths of Reason 3:11 6. Turtles All the Way Down-2 1:41 7. The Warmth of Mediocrity 4:10 8. Dragons 4:59 9. The Death of a Sun 5:00 10. Back Where the Daffodils Grow 2:19 11. Life's Glory 4:31 12. Turtles All the Way Down-3 1:39 13. Box of Dice 17:24 LINEUP: Matt Brookins guitars, mandolin, bass; keyboards; drums; vocals Rick Pierpont guitars; vocals Dimetrius Lafavors vocals With: Jeff Sauber drums, percussion Savino Palumbo keyboards Craig Jackson bass Seth Jackson bass John Abella vocals Matt Knight vocals Micki Brookins vocals
Prolusion. The US band ODIN'S COURT has been an ongoing feature on the progressive rock scene in the States for almost 15 years, with seven albums to their name as of 2015. "Turtles All the Way Down" is the seventh of those, and was, I think, self-released by the band in early 2015. The uncertainty about the releasing agent being that the logo of the US label Progrock Records is on display on the back cover, while the album as such isn't mentioned at that label's website.
Analysis. My previous encounters with the music of this band, as well as the critical reception they have been given over the years, have always made me think about Odin's Court as an almost archetypal example of stalwart journeymen, steadily releasing new music, but always with that little extra bit lacking for them to make a grand impression, at least beyond a limited and select crowd. In that context, "Turtles All the Way Down" is a step forward for this band, as I see they have gained some favorable reviews for this production since it was released, and personally I find this album to be rather more accomplished as well. It is also a somewhat confusing and perplexing album, I should add, one, I suspect, many might describe as being neither fish nor fowl. The thing is that Odin's Court used to be a strict progressive metal band, and a fairly quirky one at times. This isn't quite the case anymore, and for me as a listener, my impression is that this CD is something of a transitional creation, an album made by a band at the stage where they are either disregarding any notions about exploring a set and defined style of music or are creatively searching for a possible new direction to explore, releasing the material as a part of their search. As one might assume from this description, this isn't a CD that explores music within a progressive metal framework as such, at least not consistently. Instead the band moves back and forth between a few different approaches. They try out a style and sound closer to late 70s Pink Floyd at regular intervals, both with and without a set amount of dampened progressive metal details added to the mix, mainly by way of guitar riffs or guitar solo runs. On other occasions we're treated to compositions that reside somewhere on the borders between neo-progressive rock and progressive metal, careful affairs with a strong focus on compelling harmonies and melodies, and liberal amounts of keyboard textures. There's also a song or two where one might argue that Odin's Court has incorporated a touch of AORish hard rock or soft rock into something of a dampened, progressive metal-based framework, complete with singalong style chorus sections. Occasional dips into a more progressive metal oriented landscape occur as well though, and most profoundly on the concluding epic-length composition Box of Dice (Does God Play?). In particular, the opening 6 or so minutes of the song see the band exploring a quirky variety of the style that, I suspect, many old fans of the band will instantly recognize, even if somewhat toned down in expression on this occasion, and while the piece does develop towards gentler landscapes in elongated sequences as it unfolds, the progressive metal aspect is revisited on set occasions prior to the conclusion. As such this track is perhaps the most satisfying composition on the CD for progressive metal fans in general, as well as for the fans that have followed Odin's Court over the years. Besides the relatively vast stylistic canvas explored on this album, the lead vocals of Dimetrius Lafavors are a defining trait of this production. His high-pitched, distinctly clear and melodic lead vocals will be something of a make or break aspect of the disc, an elevating feature for those fond of vocals of this kind, but also a detrimental one for those who prefer vocalists with more power, punch and grit.
Conclusion. "Turtles All the Way Down" comes across as an accomplished creation on most levels, with good songs, a good quality mix and production and seasoned contributors on all levels throughout. The stylistic variation and the high number of compositions focusing on accessible atmospheres, melodies and harmonies may be aspects more challenging to grasp though, at least for a strict progressive metal oriented audience, and much the same is the case for the melodic, high-pitched lead vocals. A possible key audience for this CD, as I regard it, would be those equally fond of bands such as Fish-era Marillion and Dream Theater circa 1995-97, and then especially those among them with a general fondness for artists that tend to ignore stylistic boundaries.
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