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Unified Past - 2015 - "Shifting the Equilibrium"

(56:12, Melodic Revolution Records)


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TRACK LIST:

1. Erasure Principle 7:52
2. Smile In the Face of Adversity 9:24
3. Etched in Stone 11:05
4. Peace Remains in the World 7:45
5. Deviation from a Theme of Harmonic Origin 8:16
6. Today Is the Day 11:50

LINEUP:

Stephen Speelman  guitars; keyboards
Victor Tassone  drums 
Dave Mickelson  bass 
Phil Naro  vocals 

Prolusion. The US band UNIFIED PAST has a history that can be traced back to 1990, and a band then called Labyrinth. This precursor unit released three albums. The main members then formed Unified Past towards the tail end of the 90s, and have so far released 5 studio albums, as well as reissuing two of the Labyrinth CDs under this new name. "Shifting the Equilibrium" is their latest studio production, and was released through the US label Melodic Revolution Records.

Analysis. Unified Past has a long history at this point, by recollection a band that operates on the borderlands between progressive rock and progressive metal, and has released a handful or so of pleasant albums in the past. Interesting albums in their own right, but never quite at the level of the big players in the field. If they venture forth as they do on this album however, their impact on the progressive rock scene should see a marked improvement. I suspect a lot has to do with the fact that vocalist Phil Naro has joined the band. He's a seasoned and skilled lead singer, as well as a seasoned hand in composing music, and I suspect, he's had an impact on many levels for this veteran US band. Especially in terms of crafting vocal lines and melodies, but I'd wager a guess that he might have pushed in some ideas in terms of compositional structures and arrangements as well, or that he has inspired the main composers in the band by way of the expanded possibilities at hand with him as the lead vocalist. No matter what the actual facts are, the end result is, as I regard it, the best album by this band so far, and a solid album most bands would be happy to have their name associated with at that. Naro's vocals are used very much in the vein of Jon Anderson throughout this production. Powerful, soaring and high-pitched, with only occasional flurries into a pitch and delivery of the kind other mortals are forced to toil under the limitations of. The use of vocal harmonies is of a pretty similar nature: only few of them, if any, don't bring Jon Anderson and Yes to mind. The booming bass guitar delivery used throughout, possibly a nod in the direction of the late Chris Squire, also bringing the aforementioned Yes to mind, and the greater majority of the compositions also feature structural developments, interludes or sequences of a quirky nature that also come with distinct associations in that direction, up to and including a select few guitar solo runs that wouldn't have been out of place in the repertoire of Steve Howe. Having said that, this isn't an album of vintage symphonic progressive rock. While structural details, arrangements and instrumental movements come with some distinct associations, the music and style as such are somewhat different. There are cases, like opening track Erasure Principle, where Unified Past is fairly close to the sound of Yes admittedly, but the expression is still more of a harder-edged ones. Like "Big Generator" possibly, but on steroids. Elsewhere the band tends to alternate between gentler expressions and harder edged ones, the former often closer to neo-progressive rock, to my mind, although we are treated to some charming Yes or possibly Jon Anderson-inspired moments here too, while the latter stretches from harder edged neo-progressive rock to purebred progressive metal of the Dream Theater variety. While these descriptions might come across as ones of a chaotic album, that is far from the case. All the songs are well developed, the use of transitions and interludes is clever, and if there are some cracks in the instrumental department, the voice of vocalist Naro covers them quite nicely. This is a joyful and spirited album throughout, one of those albums that will at least inspire me to be in a jolly good mood, and inspire the occasional sheepish smile to boot.

Conclusion. Unified Past has taken a long step forward with their new album "Shifting the Equilibrium", almost coming across as a brand new band, and most certainly vitalized, the current line-up appears to have inspired all involved people to reach a new level in their respective contributions. A solid album on all levels, and Yes fans that are also fond of music with more of a bite to it are well advised to give this one a spin. As are Dream Theater fans that tend to enjoy vintage-style progressive rock, and then from one band in particular.

OMB=Olav M Bjornsen: December 16, 2015
The Rating Room


Related Links:

Melodic Revolution Records
Unified Past


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