My dearly beloved readers, Metal friends, especially you, my Prog Metal brethrens, I have a rather humiliating announcement to make, here goes: I just listened to my first SHADOW GALLERY record and only because it was sent to me, otherwise I doubt I’d ever give them a moment of my time and now I must bear the mark of shame for some time, ages if needed. They’re among the top bands of the genre, the elite, now with five albums to back up their distinguished and sophisticated reputation and I’ve only heard one of them so please, you mustn’t take my writing seriously because I’m not worthy and frankly incapable of saying what’s what in this case.
That doesn’t mean I can’t say something right? “Room V” definitely sees the benchmark in Symphonic Prog Metal being raised to another level, that’s right, I have been introduced to the stark grandeur of SHADOW GALLERY and enjoyed it very much, I can’t remember the last time I was exposed to such a wondrous album where everything fits so well together. This is also a continuation of the concept dealt with on “Tyranny”, which I unfortunately can’t go into either but those who know the first part of the story will get the best out of this one.
The music is highly sophisticated and atmospheric, primus motor Gary Wehrkamp takes great care of his compositions, a perfectionist who likes a challenge, whether it be the small extra details or the main body of a song, it doesn’t matter, he doesn’t rest until the best result has been achieved, which is why this album works so well. After two minutes of progressive dizziness, the piano takes over the leading role in “Comfort Me”, a varied Prog ballad of the highest shelf. “The Andromeda Strain” and “Vow” keep up with the high standard set from the start, the latter is another balladesque track which seems to be their area of expertise, the atmospheric splendour conveyed never ceases to build up until it finally erupts with towards the end in a string of symphonic arrangements and emotional guitar solos.
Then it’s time for a series of instrumentals, some of them neoclassical filled with racing guitar work (some would say it’s nothing but mindless soloing), others atmospheric with more relaxing pianos and some melodic themes reoccurring here and there. I was surprised to learn that “Room V” isn’t exactly a heavy record by any means, the band plays more with symphonic arrangements that need to be present to carry the emotional story to its complete character. “The Archer Of Ben Salem” does have a heavy and progressive groove and some of the more angered vocals you’ll get to hear from the talented Mike Baker (puts on a superb performance by the way) and there’s more than enough tech stuff to swallow throughout the 75 minutes, you get a varied ride and that’s a basic criteria for an album like this, on the other hand SHADOW GALLERY bet more on the affectionate side of the genre and try to weave you into the story as the outside observer.
With all the necessary qualities for a brilliant album, “Room V” proves again that U.S. Progressive Metal reigns supreme and will surely satisfy any fan of Symphonic Prog Metal as well as Hard Rock devotees, this is a band I’m not done with yet. (Online October 2, 2005)