Torn Between Dimensions is a pretty aptly titled debut album from the trio of Glenn Snelwar (Gordian Knot), Michael Manring (McGill Manring Stevens) and Mark Zonder (Fates Warning), otherwise known as At War With Self. The reason I say this is that the music on this solid release seems torn between dimensions, or in this case musical genre's. While it no doubt falls into the progressive rock spectrum, there's also plenty of jazz-fusion going on here, as well as blasts of progressive metal, classical, and ambient textures. The music is focused, but then again it goes in every direction every which way, and that's one of the reasons that it works so well. Just when you think the trio are onto a familiar style, they mix it up and throw something else at you.
Throughout the CD's ten tracks, there's much to digest, as the band works to pull you in more from intricate and atmospheric ensemble work rather than through waves of endless solos and noodling. In that aspect I'd compare this somewhat to the debut from OSI, although I think Torn Between Dimensions is a bit more organic sounding. Sure, there's plenty of metallic guitar crunch from Snelwar at times, like on the haunting "Grasping at Nothing" or the kicked up fury of "The God Interface", but the music never settles into prog-metal territory for more than a few bars at a time, before Manring's slippery bass grooves soar with yearning emotion and Snelwar throws in some mandolin, acoustic guitar, or neat little keyboard passage. Meanwhile, Zonder seems comfortable at just about every instance, bashing his way through the bombastic sections, or nimbly adding color to the more atmospheric moments. As most who are familar with the drummer are certainly aware, Zonder is one of the more capable progressive metal drummers around, and his acrobatic chops are on display all over this CD, just not always in the way you would normally expect from him. Check out his gentle percussive work on the Oregon flavored "Coming Home", as his sophisiticated yet effective rhythms work well alongside the melodic bass lines of Manring and Snelwar's sinewy acoustic work.
Heavy riffing meets new-age majesty on the chilling "The Event Horizon", while the band goes for the jugular on the impressive three part "A Gap in the Stream of Mind", where metal meets classical meets Middle Eastern meets ambient. There's even a healthy dose of intricate prog rock on the closing title track, a song that blends electronic symphonics with acoustic beauty quite nicely.
This is a CD that will no doubt take numerous listens to really appreciate, and as someone who did just that, all I can say is give it a try as it will unveil new pleasures each time. These guys obviously put a lot of ideas and heart into this project, and the end result is a very demanding yet rewarding listen. It will be interesting to see what the future might hold for At War With Self.
1. The God Interface
2. Torn Between Dimensions
3. A Gap In The Stream of Mind Part One
4. Grasping At Nothing
5. Coming Home
6. The Event Horizon
7. A Gap In The Stream of Mind Part Two
9. A Gap In The Stream of Mind Part
10. At War With Self