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Reviewed by: John "Bo Bo" Bollenberg, October
When I ordered the album Cosmos And Chaos by Witsend from the Laserís Edge some ten years ago, I could never have predicted that the same line-up would be able to deliver a first class album like The Allegory Of Light a decade later. Cosmos And Chaos had its moments, but mainly consisted of shorter solo tracks either by guitarist Carl Baldassarre or by keyboard player Sam Giunta. Few tracks were really group compositions, so Witsendís debut album sounded like a mixture of ideas. Ten years certainly enables people to grow and thatís exactly what you hear on this new album. Without exaggeration, The Allegory Of Light does indeed contain all of the highlights one would associate with the biggest names in the history of prog, whether itís Yes or Genesis, Gentle Giant or King Crimson, Zappa or OSI, Dream Theater or Spockís Beard.
Maybe weíll have to regard the trio's first album as kind of youthful transgression whilst the new album is the result of intellectual, skilled, professional musicians. I must admit I have a little problem with the bandís name now as Syzygy kind of reminds me of Ziggy Stardust, but believe me this music has very little to do with Bowie. Whilst Carlís guitar often sounds like Steve Howe's, itís mainly Paul Mihacevichís drum technique that gets very close to that of Carl Palmer. So weaving all these styles into one new musical venture automatically has you think of all these big names, whether vintage or contemporary. Also from a vocal perspective the band does a good job holding the middle between accessible AOR and interesting singer/songwriter material. "Beggarís Tale" is a nice example of this, focussing on an acoustic guitar that sounds crisp and crystal clear whilst also delivering a slight Spanish feel. The title track "Distant Light" is the kind of material that really gives this release an extra boost when compared to a lot of recent prog releases. This one really rocks and has all the instruments perfectly working together as opposed to seperately. There is a small section that uses synthesized brass which, of course, I would have loved to be real brass, but maybe our trio wanted to prove they can do everything by themselves so they can hit the road without having to drag extra musicians around.
Whilst one could already detect some medieval influences on Witsendís album, these elements also pop up on The Allegory Of Light, although they are more masked, or should I say better embedded, in the arrangements? Listen to "Zinjanthropus" and you know what I mean. I especially like the part where keyboards and guitar play the same scales together prior to the piano getting a solo spot, as if the storm lies down and a new day begins. Piano and drums here often sound like authentic ELP during their Works period. This part certainly contrasts enormously with the guitar driven parts in "Industryopolis," which once again contains plenty of drum breaks next to acoustic passages. We talked about medieval elements and strangely enough these seem to be apparent each time the acoustic guitar is in sight. "Forbidden" is once again just such an example where Carl almost evokes the class and perfection of John Williams. To me itís that constant variation between soft acoustic material and hard energetic stuff that makes listening to Syzygy such a pleasure. The instrumental "Light Speed" holds the middle between furious fusion and Deep Purple, with a small wink in the direction of Keith Moreís solo album Guitar Stories. That Deep Purple link becomes even more clear when Hammond is inserted during the final track "The Journey Of Myrrdin." With its seventeen minutes, surely there are plenty of fantastic parts on offer here. In fact I have to admit that certain parts remind me of that other great American band: Yoke Shire. Then again a small section in the beginning of this lengthy track sounds very much like contemporary Rick Wakeman. As you can see there are loads of influences and elements, but they all come out of the golden book of progressive rock, so you will love every single second of this mouthwatering album. Again some medieval elements crop up, but they are once again performed on a synth. This is certainly something the band has to look into for the future, as Iím convinced there are plenty of musicians out there who want to help out as guests. Wouldnít it be fab to hear real flute, cello, violin, etc Ö on their next album? And please guys, donít wait another ten years! [See also Dave's and Clayton's reviews -ed.]
2003 Syzygy Music Enterprises, LLC U.S.A.