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(77:33, 10t Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. Supernal One 4:38 2. Different Stage 11:27 3. Again and Again 4:58 4. Eden's Song 14:07 5. SOS 5:24 6. Immutable 5:31 7. White Flag 9:58 8. Swim in Your Ocean 5:44 9. Orwelled 0:31 10. The Endgame 15:15 LINEUP: John Eargle – vocals; guitars, bass, mandolin; keyboards Rob Price – vocals; drums, djembe; keyboards, loops Jett Cheek – keyboards; vocals John Crafton – guitars Tom More – bass With: Carl Baldassare (of Syzygy) – guitars Dave Bainbridge (of Iona) – guitars Dan Pomeroy – guitars; tin whistle Tony Navarte – keyboards Anna Price – cello Rene Orth – violin Katie Price – violin Brad Bibbs – violin Randy Lyle – violin Nigel Deane – violin Laura Casale – vocals Stephanie Eargle – vocals
Prolusion. The US band SUPERNAL ENDGAME was formed, at least as a concept, by veteran musicians John Eargle and Rob Price around 2000. Following a decade-long development phase, they released their debut album in 2010 through the US label Progrock Records. Four years later they return, now as a five-man strong band unit, with their sophomore production "Touch the Sky Volume II", this time around releasing the album through 10t Records.
Analysis. Supernal Endgame continues in pretty much a similar vein as on their first album with this second part of their concept project "Touch the Sky". As both albums are linked that's not really a big surprise in itself obviously, but what many will find to be a pleasant surprise is that, while the general components are similar, they are by far not identical. That this project appears to have grown into a full fledged band have probably influenced their development quite a bit. There's also a religious side to this that, I suspect, may have had an impact on the music as well, and due to that nature of the disc, the reach of it will be somewhat limited. There are quite a few music fans out there that don't appreciate music with religious messages as central aspects of the total experience, and I fear that many of those might feel alienated by the lyrics, as well as some of the compositions on this production. The opening half hour or so of this CD is a joyful experience however. Progressive rock is the name of the game here, and of the symphonic variety at that. The extensive use of violins and the manner in which they are used quickly establishes a strong Kansas association, given further emphasis by the style of the lead vocals and vocal harmonies. Early Kansas that is, and the songs are vibrant, positive and uplifting experiences that, in terms of style and approach, aren't lacking on any level, although a few sharp esses and vocalizations have escaped in the production department. There's also a few brief visits into territories with more of a jazz rock feel to them in the opening half hour of this almost 80 minutes long CD, and as such an album that should tick quite a few boxes for those with a taste for ‘70s progressive rock in particular. Following this impressive half hour, we're treated to a couple of songs that, to my ears, come across more as beefed up contemporary worship songs than as strictly progressive rock or even rock compositions at heart. The type of material called "lovsang" here in Norway, also described as praise music or worship music. Neal Morse is superior to this band in that department, but the Americana and Celtic flavored Immutable is the most successful of those two songs, adding a touch of more or less exotic folk music details and a tad of AOR to the proceedings. A rather successful blend on this occasion. The concluding half hour of this disc is closer to AOR and pomp rock in general style, again with some Kansas-inspired moments popping up here and there, but with less of the jubilant symphonic aspects of the opening half hour run and more of a pop/rock general sheen to the proceedings. This is a subtle change of character though, as White Flag, the opening piece of this half hour long concluding set isn't all that far removed from the more progressive rock founded style explored in the first phase of this album, up to and including a brief nod towards jazz rock, and final composition The Endgame is also a creation that has strong ties to progressive rock, but in this case perhaps first and foremost due to structure and stylistic variations rather than the more distinct expression explored early on.
Conclusion. "Touch the Sky Volume II" is a well made and well thought-out production, documenting a multifaceted band that appears to have almost as great an affection for ‘70s progressive and pomp rock as they have to their Lord. A nice album for those who enjoy progressive rock just as much as pomp rock, with fans of Kansas a presumed key audience alongside rock fans who would describe themselves as Christians and with a need for music that deals with lyrical topics related to their personal religious belief.
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