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Shadow Gallery - Shadow Gallery CD (album) cover

SHADOW GALLERY

Shadow Gallery

 

Progressive Metal

3.41 | 157 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

siLLy puPPy
3 stars Although they merely started out as a cover band called Sorcerer in the 80s covering Yngwie Malmsteen and Rush songs, this Allentown, PA band found a little lovin' for their favorite graphic novel "V For Vendetta" and changed their name to SHADOW GALLERY. While the early days of progressive rock was a European phenomenon, progressive metal was wholeheartedly an American sensation and SHADOW GALLERY was one of the earliest bands to open those doors in the early 90s along with contemporaries like Dream Theater and Symphony X following in the footsteps of the proto-progressive metal bands of the 80s such as Queensryche and Crimson Glory. It didn't take long after writing their own tracks that they would be one of the earliest acts to sign on to the Magna Carta Records which displayed virtuoso and neoclassical oriented metal bands although SHADOW GALLERY never achieved the success that many of their contemporaries would.

At this stage on their eponymous debut SHADOW GALLERY was more of a mix of symphonic progressive rock that happened to include some 80s power metal that sometimes fused together but most often did not. Although the metal would become the dominating force on subsequent albums, on this debut there are large tracts of playing time that sound much more like symphonic prog than metal. In fact the leading track "The Dance Of Fools" sounds more like a neo-prog track that wouldn't sound out of place on an early Arena or IQ album. There also segments of interactive flute action which like Psychotic Waltz of the same era was quite rare in the metal universe. Add to that the often sugary sweet melodic developments and the Queen inspired harmonic singalong vocal style and it's easy to forget that this is indeed a metal band however when the metal aspects are taken off their leashes then there is no mistaken that this indeed is an 80s neoclassicallly inspired speed metal band that has more than mastered all the chops to earn that title. Even within the very first neo-proggy track Brendt Allman stuns us with his lightning blitzkrieg of neoclassical guitar runs as the track fades out.

"Darktown" takes over and introduces the more familiar sound of the majority of the album. That being melodic catchy tunes that alternate between sweet ballad parts then followed by more rarer hard rockin' segments that display quickened keyboard runs, high register vocals and lead guitar workouts. The tracks are also of considerable length where after the verses and choruses play out there are lengthy instrumental wankery sessions that are of the same type of extended play as heard on Dream Theater and Symphony X albums of the same era. The band play together quite well and the trading off of the different ideas flow together very well as the band never once misses a beat in keeping the tracks interesting. While the album is a great mix of prog rock and 80s metal, the true progressive behemoth comes toward the end as "The Queen Of The City Of Ice" starts off with light fluffy guitar arpeggios accompanied by sweet synths and a lulling flute with narrative harmonic vocals telling the tale of a fantasy land that soars on for 17 minutes and 11 seconds. Surprisingly the clean guitar arpeggios and symphonic accoutrements carry on close to the nine minute mark before they erupt into the more energetic side of the track and even thereafter never really erupts into really heavy territory save the guitar shredding under the symphonic scaffolding. There is also a lengthy spoken narration in the middle.

While SHADOW GALLERY certainly had their musician hats on and had more than developed their techniques to stun the listener, at this point there are a few things i find a little unsettling about this debut album. First of all, the opening track "The Dance Of Fools" sounds totally out of sync with the rest of the album. Although it's a decent track, its style makes a very bad first impression and as mentioned already, sounds more like it would be fitting on a neo-prog album with Allman doing a guest shredover. Secondly, "Mystified" sounds too much like "The Mission" on Queensryche's "Operation: Mindcrime." While a decent track it fails to sound original in any way and Mike Baker even sounds like a convincing Geoff Tate clone. The production is also lackluster as Magna Carta was founded by Mike Varney who was notorious on his Shrapnel Records label for hosting some of the best guitarists of the days but equally making them suffer some of the worst production heard in the music industry and SHADOW GALLERY likewise is diminished by the same tinny and muffled dynamics that could have added a lot to the final product. Given all these quirks that this debut dishes out, i'm still quite fond of it although they would improve greatly in every way on their second release "Carved In Stone." With better album arrangement, a nip and tuck in the editing department and a stellar production job, this could have been an outstanding album back in the day but for what it is, i still find the music satisfactory enough to bring me back for repeated listening pleasure.

3.5 rounded down

siLLy puPPy | 3/5 |

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