|Release date||28/mei 2012|
I've often felt that of all the progressive rock groups that have formed within the last twenty or so years, Pennsylvanian quintet Echolyn is the most underappreciated. Every one of their previous albums features a fantastic, unique blend of emotional songwriting and incredibly intricate arrangements. Really, their output thus far rivals easily the discography of any contemporaries, including Spock's Beard, The Flower Kings, and Dream Theater. Their last record, 2005's The End is Beautiful, was a superbly satisfying conclusion to their career—or so many people thought. As it turns out, the group had been working hard on follow-up during the seven year interim, and it's finally here. Simply titled Echolyn, the album contains every beloved trademark and approach fans could hope for (which, considering how easy it is for bands to lose their style after a long hiatus, makes for a very special experience). It's absolutely wonderful from beginning to end.
As opposed to most groups, Echolyn has never really suffered a line-up change, and thus all five members (Brett Kull, Raymond Weston, Christopher Buzby, Thomas Hyatt, and Paul Ramsey) are back. In our interview last November (published at Sea of Tranquility), Hyatt called the album a "mood piece…this album has more of a singer/songwriter approach with a trippy rock 'n' roll edge. The songs are pretty highly arranged…" In addition, Weston concluded that "the album picks up right where The End is Beautiful left off," and Kull declared that the Echolyn is all about "Melody, melody, melody! Strong arrangements, great playing [and] harmony…" Indeed, the album is packed with beautiful melodies, impressive harmonies, extremely complex jams, and impeccable dynamic expertise. It's as remarkable as anything else they've done.
At over sixteen minutes in duration, "Islands," besides being the album's epic track, is a monumental opener. Invigorating guitar riffs collide with intense percussion and robust keyboards at the start; eventually, things calm down a bit so Weston and Co. can belt out exceptionally catchy melodies and harmonies. Naturally, the suite goes through several changes as it progresses, and each one is astounding. The piece's closing passage is quite majestic, too, as it showcases how great the group's songwriting still is.
Because Echolyn is so thoroughly and consistently impressive, it would be repetitive to discuss each song in detail. The album flows so well as a single entity, so it's probably best to listen to it all at once. Nevertheless, if highlights must be chosen, I'd say that "(Speaking In) Lampblack" is the best song on here, as its blend of melodies, emotion, and soothing timbres is exceptional. Likewise, the way "Headright" builds to its crescendo is masterful, and "When Sunday Spills" incorporates some very elegant strings. Every piece on here bursts with passion and proficiency, as if Echolyn is announcing, "Hey, we haven't gone anywhere. We're back and we're still the best!"
Expectedly, fans may be hesitant to hear the album; after all, it's been seven years since The End is Beautiful, and bands that go this long without a release usually don't return in equal form. Fortunately, in this instance, nothing could be farther from the truth. Echolyn is every bit as complex, melodic, dynamic, and addictive as any of their previous outputs, and it's sure to rank highly on many Album of the Year lists. Echolyn returns triumphantly with this record, and it's a must own for any fan of the genre.
Welcome back, boys. We've missed you.