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Mars Hollow - Mars Hollow CD (album) cover

MARS HOLLOW

Mars Hollow

 

Crossover Prog

3.64 | 75 ratings

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Conor Fynes
Prog Reviewer
4 stars 'Mars Hollow' - Mars Hollow (7/10)

As far as progressive rock goes, there are not many new bands out there that generate more than a seasonal hype. Barring established heavyweights like Porcupine Tree and The Mars Volta, there are few bands who can hope to share the same present-day attention of the classic tier. Although I was aware of hype surrounding Mars Hollow as far back as 2010 when this album was released, they were quick to come out with a second record the year following, and thus kept a steady buzz going. These Californians are seen as a different take on the 'classic' prog rock sound, in the sense that they focus more on melodies and songwriting rather than complexity. Especially at a stage when alot of modern prog rock starts to sound the same after a while, Mars Hollow's slightly different angle makes for a much more memorable experience. Although the signature 70's sound is all over this debut, the impressive performances and clever songwriting make 'Mars Hollow' a memorable experience in its own right.

Although not quite as focused as its formidable successor 'World In Front Of Me', Mars Hollow introduces the band as an upbeat, sometimes melancholic, always melodic ensemble that uses the template of sounds favoured by the classic prog rock acts to furnish their songwriting. Calling Mars Hollow a 'crossover pop' group would not be out of line, but for those who are now running to the hills in fear of the dreaded three chords; there's no need to panic. Mars Hollow are only 'poppy' in the sense that they are not afraid to focus their music around melodies, even catchy choruses. One can think of melodic vocal hooks to be the heart and soul of Mars Hollow, but the body of the music is leased to intelligent arrangements and well-balanced band instrumentation. It is practically a pre-requisite for tradtionally-based prog acts nowadays, but it should be mentioned that Mars Hollow are excellent musicians, but most importantly, they are tasteful while they're at it. As may be expected from a melodic act, Mars Hollow never let the instruments colour outside the lines. Musically speaking, Steve Mach's keyboard work appealed to me the most; he has a diverse range of moods throughout the album, be it through the use of haunting pianos, upbeat synth solos, or crunchy organ flair.

The vocals are arguably the most important part of this music, seeing as they fuel the main attraction; the melodies. John Baker leads the band for the most part, and I have a feeling that his vocals will be the most controversial aspect of this band, even moreso than their blasphemous melodic focus. Setting the record straight; Kerry is an excellent vocalist for the higher male range, with a tone to his voice that is crossbred somewhere between Jon Anderson of Yes, and Geddy Lee of Rush. His delivery rarely steers off course, and- for better and worse- like the instruments, his voice never colours outside the lines either. On that note, that may be the biggest issue I have with 'Mars Hollow'. It's readily evident to me that this is a great album, but what keeps me from calling it excellent is the fact that there a little too much restraint exercised. Although the melodic focus keeps the music from ever being boring, it sometimes feels that Mars Hollow is limiting themselves to a certain number of emotions they are allowing themselves to stir in the listener. Although some of these tracks (such as the intimate 'If I Were You') can get quite melancholic, Mars Hollow does not take me on that course of emotional highs and lows that I crave from music of this style. They would fortunately correct this with their second album by adding a dash of darkness to their sound, which made for a more fulfilling musical experience. Regardless, the debut of Mars Hollow does not disappoint. It does seem single-minded and dedicated to one approach, but at the same time, the path they take is one less walked upon in the world of progressive music. A great start for a band that has thus managed to consistently impress me.

Conor Fynes | 4/5 |

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