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(60:20, Melodic Revolution Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. Blank 5:54 2. Deep 5:46 3. Hot 4:47 4. Seeing 3:48 5. Tough 8:10 6. Age 6:27 7. Sun 3:47 8. Big 6:41 9. Wet 5:11 10. G 1:19 11. The Final 8:30 LINEUP: Steve Speelman – guitars; vocals; keyboards Victor Tassone – drums; percussion Dave Mickelson – basses Karl Matzka – keyboards
Prolusion. The US band UNIFIED PAST, at first known as Labyrinth, has been around in one shape or another for some 20 odd years by now. As Unified Past they made their debut as recording artists in 1999, but then a 10 year long pause followed before they resurfaced with their second production in 2009. The band appears to have entered a two year cycle of releasing albums since then. Following "Observations" from 2011, "Spots" from 2013 is their fourth and most recent studio effort, and was released through the US label Melodic Revolution Records.
Analysis. The previous albums by this US band haven't made any grand impression on me. Pleasant enough material in general, but with certain weaknesses to it that at least to my ears has made me regard them as a band with something of a niche appeal. There's no such thing as bad music really, at least as I regard this form of the creative arts, but you can talk quite a lot about how broad a reach a band and an album might have. For Unified Past my subjective analysis so far has been that they are a band with a limited reach. However, "Spots" does come across as a step in the right direction to expand that reach, arguably in a fairly substantial manner at that. The main key word I noted when listening through this disc was pomp rock. I don't know if this expression is in fashion any longer or how it is understood these days, but for me this is a genre description that will place a band somewhere in the middle of classic rock and progressive rock on a general basis, which is where I'd place Unified Past anno 2013. From the classic rock spectrum we have compact, dark toned and often catchy guitar riff constructions, good drive, energy and themes and arrangements of a fairly accessible nature. From progressive rock we have a fine array of alterations in pace and intensity, as well as quite a few instances of keyboard arrangements that directly or indirectly can be associated with symphonic progressive rock. On a few select occasions the band will also take on a metal oriented sound, although to my ears these occasions are few and very far between on this CD. The end result is a pleasant album that assembles details from a myriad of different possible sources into a pleasant and fairly often engaging whole. A touch of Deep Purple, possibly some Blue Oyster Cult, a touch of Rush here and there, a couple of flamboyant prog keyboardists of your own choice can be added in as well. As far as variation is concerned Hot adds a touch of jazz to the proceedings, Sun sees the band exploring a type of instrumental music closer to early Joe Satriani in style, and Wet is a nice example of how Unified Past explores a somewhat more cinematic version of the style they've chosen to hone in on this time around. The pomp rock oriented excursions remain the key recurring element however, with a lesser or greater emphasis on one or the other of the key elements of that style, and final track The Ending concludes this disc quite nicely with the arguably most intriguing of their excursions of that kind, and one with at least a foot and a half inside the progressive rock universe at that. A fitting conclusion, in my opinion, most interesting production by this US band so far.
Conclusion. The band’s fourth studio album "Spots" is a production that should see the band establishing a reach towards a fairly broad sized audience. Their blend of classic hard rock and progressive rock into what I'd describe as a pomp rock sound is often an interesting one, and fairly appealing at that. An album worth investigating by progressive rock fans with a taste for classic hard rock just as much as by those with an affection for classic hard rock who also enjoy occasional forays into progressive rock territories.
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