Reviewed by Anthony Longville
Every so often one gets to hear an album that knocks you sideways - unexpectedly dispelling preconceptions. This is one such album. A track by Unitopia (meaning "living together as one in a place of ideal perfection") was featured on the 'CPR Vol 3' Christian prog rock compilation. Now we come to the follow up to their 2005 debut release, three years in the making, an ambitious double CD concept album, covering many of the band's chief concerns - "Environmental awareness, political and social upheaval, media misrepresentation, the hectic pace of life and human relationships in a positive and uplifting light." Founders Mark Trueack and Sean Timms gathered "some of Australia's finest musicians" to perform and record. This album is their first to be released on progressive rock's influential InsideOut label. A page-long list of musical influences in a number of musical genres appears on their MySpace page, which reads like my CD collection, so I'm keen to investigate! From the opening track it is clear that Trueack's vocals bear more than a passing resemblance to Peter Gabriel. The 22-minute title track is no typical prog epic, containing musical styles that have less to do with Peter Gabriel era Genesis than Peter Gabriel era Peter Gabriel - although some have commented that the final section sounds uncannily like the climax to "Supper's Ready" - the flagship of classic progressive epic rock. This lot certainly like to aim high! It's beautifully put together and lyrically presents the band's message of hope coming from despair. "Angelica" opens with a haunting female vocal over ambient instrumentation before moving into a metal intro leading to a powerful and emotional rock anthem, with heartfelt sax and guitar solos. "I Wish I Could Fly" begins with an instrumental which pulls on the heart strings - flute and acoustic guitar music will always do that to me - think Genesis, Steve Hackett or Camel - the second half rich in Floyd-like vocal harmonies - heavenly music! The second disc opens with "Journey's Friend" - another epic piece more in the modern prog mould of Spock's Beard or Flower Kings - featuring stellar keyboard work and at one point an outright metal vocal from Trueack. The up tempo "This Life" points to the fact that this life is a "gateway to the other side". "Love Never Ends", an ode to love itself, segues into another sumptuous piano led instrumental "So Far Away". "Don't Give Up Love" showcases Timms' explosive keyboard work. The closing track "321" is a tribute to the Beaconsfield Miners who spent 321 hours trapped underground in 2006. The musical influences are many, but these people are definitely doing their own thing - creating something of majestic beauty. Definitely a piece of work that will demand and reward repeated listenings.
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