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Shadowland - Through The Looking Glass CD (album) cover

THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS

Shadowland

 

Neo-Prog

3.12 | 48 ratings

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SouthSideoftheSky
Special Collaborator
Symphonic Team
3 stars Mercy, please don't do this to me, let this be my nightmare

Through The Looking Glass is, in my opinion, the weakest of the three Shadowland albums. My first impression of this album was that the guitars have a somewhat harder sound here and the mood is perhaps a bit darker. But first impressions notwithstanding, Through The Looking Glass is even more hook-laden and poppy than Ring Of Roses. Like on that previous album, several of the songs here have overly strong choruses that stick to your mind like glue, but do not affect you of any deeper level. Also, for an album being released in 1994, Through The Looking Glass still has a sound that seems to belong in the 80's.

The album starts in a very promising manner with A Matter Of Perspective, a very good acoustic and vocal number that functions as the introduction to The Hunger. While A Matter Of Perspective is a very nice opener and a great mood setter for The Hunger, and the intro to that song itself is very promising, the letdown is significant when we get to the main melody of the song. And while verses are strong, the chorus of the song is actually quite hard to stomach. Clive sings "You've got no hold on me - scream and shout your cold frustration. I'm not your fantasy - there is nothing you can do about it" in a melody so catchy that it would not be out of place in the Eurovision Song Contest! The lyrics here are banal and it is hard to believe that they come from the same man who is responsible for the great concepts behind Arena's The Visitor and Contagion albums. No guitar solo in the world could restore the credibility of this song, but the guitar solos from Karl Groom are indeed very good throughout the whole album.

The next song takes as its subject matter a nightmare that Clive had about a (supposedly legendary?) serial killer called 'the ferryman'. With such a grim subject matter, the song is surprisingly cheerful and judging from the sound and feeling of the song, it is indeed very hard to believe that this song is about a horrible serial killer, and when Clive sings "Mercy, please don't do this to me, let this be my nightmare" etc., again with a strong hook, he fails miserably in conveying the scary message (if you want to hear scary, listen to the title track from Black Sabbath's self-titled debut album!). The light-hearted nature of the music does not fit well with the subject matter of the lyrics and this takes away some of the credibility of the song.

Like the other two albums released by Shadowland, Through The Looking Glass too, contain some very good songs. The next two songs are the highlights of the album for me. Here we are finally given songs that are a bit more in line with what you might expect from a band that calls themselves "Shadowland". Half Moon Street has a strong melody that does not come across as too catchy and the nine minute plus When The World Turns To White is a very good song that features violin to great effect (credited to Nolan himself, he has so many unexpected talents!). Here the mood is a bit darker, less melodic and perhaps more progressive.

The Waking Hour is again a catchier song reminding me of the Pomp-Prog band Magnum. The title track is the longest and most progressive track of the album with its 11 plus minutes. It is a decent song with good keyboard and guitar work, electric and some acoustic, but it does not leave a strong lasting impression on me. The album closes with Mindgames which is a reprise of A Matter Of Perspective with same melody and lyrics, it is a good album closer.

Clive Nolan is an impressive multi-talented artist, but only small glimpses of his genius can be found on Through The Looking Glass. It is hard to believe that only one year after this album Clive founded the great Arena and created their excellent debut album Song's From The Lion's Cage. Nothing by Shadowland is up to par with even the least good songs by Arena in my opinion. Since I am a fan of Clive Nolan, for me, Through The Looking Glass is a nice addition to my collection, but it is certainly not the best place to start.

I am very happy to own all of the Shadowland albums as part of the limited box set called Cautionary Tales. This box set is, as far as I know, the only way to get these albums now and it is a very nice package with an informative booklet with a biography and all the lyrics to all the albums. The set also includes the good live DVD Edge Of Night. All the albums also have bonus tracks. There are three bonus tracks on the Through The Looking Glass disc. So The Music Stops, which is a very good piano ballad, strongly evokes Queen and I can even imagine this song being both written and sung by the great Freddie Mercury! I actually enjoy this song more than several of the songs that ended up on the album proper. The second bonus track is a demo version of Half Moon Street which is nice because this is one of the better songs from the album and this version is quite different from the one they put on the album. The third bonus track, Foreign Lands is very close in style to Ring Of Roses (the title track) and this could easily have been a radio hit in the late 80's/early 90's. This would have made Phil Collins proud!

Some good moments here for sure, but also some less than good moments. Overall, a rather average album.

SouthSideoftheSky | 3/5 |

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