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Eternal Essence: A Light in the Distance

Female vocalists are nothing new in the realm of progressive music. Just look at Epica, After Forever, The Gathering, Mostly Autumn, Within Temptation, and Nightwish, to name a few. As you may expect, this leads to a wealth of similar sounding acts (in the same way that male vocalized progressive metal usually bears a striking similarity to Dream Theater). Sadly, on their newest record, A Light in the Distance, American quintet Eternal Essence doesn't do much to stray from the pack. Like with many of their contemporaries, their work is totally sufficient in terms of complex musicianship, epic structures, impressive timbres, and respectable ambition, but it lacks something even more important: originality.

Originally an instrumental band (this record is the group's first with a vocalist), Eternal Essence was founded in New Jersey in 2004. They've previously released four instrumental albums, and each was met with relatively significant acclaim. Naturally, they cite many of the genre's best artists as influences, including Porcupine Tree, Neal More, and Liquid Tension Experiment. With A Light in the Distance, the band crafts plenty of admirable melodies, pleasant interludes, and virtuosic solos; however, nothing really sticks around once you're done listening.

One thing's for sure—including a singer was a good decision. Maria Vastano isn't quite as adequate as some of her peers (such as Anneke Van Giersbergen and Floor Jansen), but she certainly holds her own. Better still, her inclusion definitely gives the music more focus as structure, as it forces the band to concentrate more on songwriting. As for standout moments, there are definitely a few. There's a rather beautiful recurring piano riff that helps add sensuality to "Within a Dream," while the acoustic guitar work in "Live for Today" is effectively folky (even if its chord progression sounds a bit too close to that of Porcupine Tree's "Last Chance to Evacuate Planet Earth"). The track also contains an incredible keyboard solo near its end.

"…And Servitude" is full of dark, mystical atmosphere, which gives it a lot of power, and "Epiphany" builds nicely from spacey vibes to a fully ardent ballad. The vocal harmonies and lead guitar work are especially intriguing. "Driving the Spear" exudes the impassioned singing and colorful tones of some of Ayreon's best work, while the longest track, "A Tragic Subconscious," is appropriately epic and multifaceted. As you might expect, the album closes on a softer piece ("Let You Go") centered on regret. Its subtle orchestration and thoughtful melody help it excel.

Although Eternal Essence does a lot right on A Light in the Distance (and they don't overtly do anything wrong), the group can't help but sound like just another run-of-the-mill progressive metal act. All the correct elements are there, but nothing stands out above the rest of the genre's offerings. To their credit, their music never becomes obnoxiously aggressive and unadventurous, but it also never becomes especially involving or unique. In the end, the album definitely serves as an enjoyable romp through complex, biting music, but it never claims its own identity. It's sufficient without being special.


Track Listing
01. Rise Above (4:50)
02. Within a Dream (5:00)
03. From Green to Grey (5:05)
04. Live For Today (3:50)
05. Riven (7:22)
06. …And Servitude (4:20)
07. Cool Gentle Rain (5:40)
08. Epiphany (6:00)
09. Driving The Spear (4:50)
10. A Tragic Subconscious (13:36)
11. Let You Go (4:00)

Added: February 8th 2013
Reviewer: Jordan Blum
Score:
Related Link: Band Facebook Page
Hits: 580
Language: english

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