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Mars Hollow: World in Front of Me

Let's order to deliver a truly exciting modern progressive rock album that fans will rejoice over, a band needs to include a few elements to make the grade. Muscular, Chris Squire influenced bass lines-check! Vintage sounding keyboards-check! Angular & textured guitar work-check! Soaring, melodic vocals-check! Epic songs-check! Complex musical passages-check! Calming atmosphere and moments of pastoral beauty-check! Well, we've just 'checked' quite a lot of characteristics that make up a potent prog album, and all these attributes certainly fit when talking about the latest release from Mars Hollow, titled World in Front of Me. This sophomore release from the US band has been produced by none other than Billy Sherwood (Yes, Circa, World Trade) and mastered by David Javu Morse (David Bowie, Alice in Chains, Frank Zappa), so expect a fantastic sounding CD, which slots in well alongside all those other 'necessary' elements mentioned above.

The band, comprised of John Baker (guitars, guitar synth, mandolin, lead vocals), Jerry Beller (drums, percussion, backing vocals), Kerry Chicoine (bass, backing vocals), and Steve Mauk (keyboards, backing vocals), are really firing on all cylinders here, and have crafted one of the finest prog-rock albums of 2011. There's no better way to put it, this album is that damn good. From the opening bombast of "Walk on Alone", complete with its soaring vocal passages, weaving keyboard lines, gymnastic bass grooves, and silky guitar melodies, it's quite apparent the quality that the listener is going to be treated to. This piece is a classic prog epic, and one of the strongest tunes I've heard lead off an album in quite some time. "Voices" is a melodic, symphonic piece that reminds of a cross between Yes and Rush, featuring a great lead vocal from Baker and lots of keyboard & guitar layers, while the quirky "Weapon" features some intricate arrangements that recall both Yes and Gentle Giant, as well as a catchy chorus.

The lush, pastoral "What Have I Done" reminds of mid 80's Rush, especially the vocals and use of acoustic guitars and synths. The acoustic element continues on the melodic "Mind Over Matter", a great, almost one-man show for Baker, but credit also has to go to the backing vocals of the rest of the band and a haunting synth solo from Mauk. In fact, Steve then follows that up with a majestic piano piece "Prelude", which leads into the 11-minute title track, another epic which closes out the CD. This one is another winner, complete with sizzling synth lines, beefy bass riffs, layer upon layer of guitars, tricky drum fills, and sumptuous melodies. Gotta love the wild middle section complete with complex interplay from the musicians that once again reminds of classic Yes or Gentle Giant. The song builds and builds to a symphonic climax, making for a grand finale to this wonderful album.

If you had any doubts about picking World in Front of Me up, well, cast them out of your head right now. This is mandatory listening for any serious prog fan, a great modern entry in the genre that also pays plenty of homage to the greats of the 70's, just like most of us like it! Mars Hollow have just made their statement folks, so all the other popular acts who have been resting on their laurels better pay close attention. Another winner for 10T Records!

Track Listing
1. Walk On Alone (12:31)
2. Voices (6:23)
3. Weapon (6:52)
4. What Have I Done (5:56)
5. Mind Over Matter (2:27)
6. Prelude (1:48)
7. World In Front Of Me (11:18)

Added: September 18th 2011
Reviewer: Pete Pardo
Related Link: Band Website
Hits: 3949
Language: english

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Mars Hollow: World in Front of Me
Posted by Jon Neudorf, SoT Staff Writer on 2011-09-19 00:13:51
My Score:

Thank you Mars Hollow for making another outstanding record. Their debut album received plenty of accolades in the prog universe and rightly so as their self-titled effort was one of the best albums in 2010. Fast forward to the present and their brand new release World In Front Of Me.

Their sophomore effort proves the first album was no fluke as World In Front Of Me is a veritable feast for the ears. The band continues along the same vein as the debut: highly melodic progressive rock with a sprinkling of bands like Rush, Spock's Beard and Kansas scattered throughout the album's seven tracks. There are other influences as well but this band has their own style; one which looks forward to the future while still maintaining a love of the past.

After listening to World In Front Of Me a couple of times I have to say I was blown away. This is what progressive rock is all about, at least that is the way I see/hear it. All the way from the cover, a picture of a rock sliding across a barren landscape (the symbolism is quite apparent), to the music; delicious melodies, tight groovy rhythms, adventurous playing and great lead/harmony vocals, this band is the epitome of progressive rock. Mars Hollow has no weaknesses and one of their strongest aspects are the vocals which we all know can be the bane of many a rock band. Not here folks. All band members get credited for vocals and they all sound fantastic. The lead vocals of John Baker are excellent, subtly reminding me of a Jon Anderson or a Geddy Lee, although having much more restraint than either of those two vocalists. If you are picky about vocals look no further than this band.

Musically, the album flows beautifully from beginning to end and at just over forty-seven minutes in length never overstays its welcome. As an added bonus you still get two songs over ten minutes so there is plenty of opportunity for the band to develop intricate musical passages and extended solos. "Walk On Alone" is a twelve minute epic where moments of Kansas and Yes came to mind. Chicoine absolutely rips it up on the bass guitar and along with Jerry Beller on drums, the tight rhythms are driven home. Everything is sublime; the crystal clear vocals and background harmonies, the heavier instrumental bits and the mellower more introspective moments. On the album ending title track a lush slow build up leads to some of the best keyboard work on the CD compliments of Steve Mauk. The music leads the listener in different directions . I hear bits of Spock's Beard and The Flower Kings but most of all I hear a band starting to forge their own sound with their creative juices peaking at just the right time.

Other notables include the pretty "Prelude" with its sweeping piano lines and fluttering cymbal work, all with a slightly darker atmosphere and the lush "What Have I Done" which has the band honing that classic American prog sound. The orchestration is a little melancholic with some nice Hammond and synth work from Mauk. If you dig bands like Tiles or Rush this should be just what the doctor ordered.

2011 has been a good year for progressive rock and with the addition of World In Front Of Me it got that much better. This will surely be a strong contender for album of the year, at least on my list.

Mars Hollow: World in Front of Me
Posted by Jeff B, SoT Staff Writer on 2011-06-14 16:25:44
My Score:

The 2010 debut effort from Mars Hollow was considered one of the year's best by many prog rock fans, and now (just a year later) they're back with their sophomore album. With its fantastic compositions, terrific musicianship, and sleek modern sound, World in Front of Me will undoubtedly send shockwaves through the prog rock community once again. Fans of seventies-influenced prog rock that aren't hesitant to the newer generation of symphonic prog should find plenty to love here. Mars Hollow has proven their worth with this outstanding album; this is surely among the best releases I've heard this year.

Mars Hollow plays a style of symphonic prog with influences from Spock's Beard, Yes, and especially Kansas. Right from the very beginning of "Walk on Alone" it's clear that Mars Hollow has given classics like Leftoverture and Close to the Edge more than a few spins. Mars Hollow does wear their influences on their sleeves, but I wouldn't necessarily consider that a detriment when one considers how spectacular every aspect of the music itself is. For one, the musicianship is excellent across the board. The lush keyboard work from Steve Mauk, the excellent guitar playing from John Baker, the Chris Squire-esque bass playing from Kerry Chicoine, and Jerry Beller's top-notch drumwork all make for an excellent-sounding group. The vocal department of Mars Hollow is also excellent; every band member contributes their pipes here, creating some great vocal harmonies that hint towards the likes of Spock's Beard or The Flower Kings.

World in Front of Me was produced by Billy Sherwood and mastered by David Javu Morse, so expect an extremely professional-sounding album. The bass playing from Kerry Chicoine is extremely commanding (as it should be) and the keyboards and vocals are mixed perfectly. The overall sound comes across as a bit thin to me (especially in the drum department), but it should still undoubtedly please most prog fans.

It seems that Mars Hollow have crafted another winner with their sophomore album; World in Front of Me should make many "best of 2011" lists and keep progressive rock fans satisfied for years to come. These guys are becoming one of the biggest forces in the modern prog rock scene, and World in Front of Me is a defining statement that every fan of the genre should further investigate. If you like your prog rock to be extremely complex and seventies-oriented, yet still fresh and accessible, this is an essential purchase. 4 stars are well deserved for this terrific album. 10T Records has definitely chalked up another winner!

Mars Hollow: World in Front of Me
Posted by Brian Block, SoT Staff Writer on 2011-06-12 15:44:02
My Score:

It's not often that you can find a band that releases very good, consistent albums. Mars Hollow, though, is one of those bands that have kept it up in their sophomore release. After the release of their self titled debut, which received very high acclaim, they have come around again and produced something that might even be better. World in Front of Me is a very original album that sounds a lot like Marillion, ELP, and Yes. Mars Hollow plays a cool style of progressive rock that is very enjoyable, and easy to listen to.

Produced by Billy Sherwood (Yes, Circa, World Trade) and mastered by David Javu Morse (David Bowie, Alice in Chains, Frank Zappa), this release already has the making of a good album. Besides this, the musicianship is absolutely outstanding from John Baker, Jerry Beller, Kerry Chicoine, and Steve Mauk. Unlike most bands, every musician in Mars Hollow contributes on vocals, which shows through in their music and leads to great vocal passages. This is evident right off the bat with "Walk on Alone", which also features great keyboard riffs by Steve Mauk besides the great vocals from every member in the group.

Not one song on this album lacks any drive what so ever, and that makes the album all the better. My favorite track has to be "Voices" which has a very symphonic prog feel to it, closely relating to the likes of prog giants Yes and Rush. The complex time signatures add a really nice touch and really lure the listener into the album. To be honest every song on this album puts the listener in for a nice treat. "Prelude" once again shows Steve Mauk's talent as a pianist and is a great lead into the second epic on the album, "World in Front of Me".

The production of this album fits perfectly, offering up a warm 70's style prog feel to the album.

10T Records have definitely hit a jackpot with Mars Hollow's newest release World in Front of Me. The beautiful bass and guitar riffs throughout provide a great underlying grove to the vocals and are sure to please any listener. Every person who calls themselves a prog fan should pick this album up at the soonest possible moment. Yes, it's that good and well deserving of 4.5 stars.

Mars Hollow: World in Front of Me
Posted by Mark Johnson, SoT Staff Writer on 2011-06-05 17:39:28
My Score:

Mars Hollow has recently joined the 10T Records team and has released their sophomore album 'World in Front of Me' under the new label. Their first album was a good debut, but set against the wide field of incredible music last year, it had a hard time getting noticed. This year they have the opportunity to capture more momentum before some of the other major prog releases make their debut.

The band is made up of John Baker, guitar and lead vocal; Kerry Chicoine, bass and vocals, Jerry Beller, drums and vocals; and Steve Mauk, keyboards and vocals.

This is a very detailed and highly developed sophomore release for a band wishing to capture the attention of a larger market. The musicianship is top notch, first class. I will still need more time to appreciate Baker's vocals.

'Walk on Alone' opens with the band singing "Way down below" as a choir. Then the kick off begins, full of keyboards, heavy bass, good lead guitar and fast, cool drumming. Almost two minutes of instrumental opening before John Baker's, Beloit David - sounding voice, "I gave everything I could give her. I hope she can walk on alone". Sounds like a farewell or break up theme in the lyrics. The keyboard work is outstanding as is Jerry Beller's drums and Chicoine's ever present bass. The ripping guitar solos that grip you later in the song are very good.

'Voices' opens with wild drums and cymbals, and keys followed by smooth electric guitar. Then Baker, "Please just don't say any more about the pictures you found in the drawer. Don't you say another thing about the papers that you caught me burning". An ominous start to this one. Then some vocal harmonies before guitar, floating keys and bass with drums. "I did everything they said. There's a party in my head". Dark lyrics complete with backing voices, set to soft keys, drums and guitar.

Good Rush sounding lead guitar with heavy bass chords open 'Weapon' before Baker starts, "Weapon in my hand straight and narrow. Catch me if you can, use your head. Come get me". Good drums and keys weaving intricate detail to support the lead and heavy bass driving through the middle of the soundscape.

'What Have I Done' opens with deep cello notes in a quiet sound chamber creating a nice feeling of solitude. One of the best effects on the album. Then, the mandolin, bass, drums and excellent keys and percussion effects fill the soundscape with beautiful music. "I don't know where it all went wrong. What have I done to end up like this?" Maybe a feeling of regret for lost love and wishing to revive the flame. Then more atmospheric large keyboard fills with bass, heavy drums and lead electric accompanying.

'Mind Over Matter' is a nice sounding guitar solo with Baker singing some desperate lyrics, "Inside every soul there's a place where the darkest moments go. Have you seen where I mean and come back again?" Dark lyrics set to the beauty of an acoustic guitar solo. The keys that join in later help take away some of the rough edges.

'Prelude' is a short piano overture like opening for the closing epic track. There is a throwback sound to the 'Lamb Lies Down on Broadway' that will make all Genesis fans happy.

The piano - like keys continue as the epic 'World in Front of Me' opens quietly to more deep bass, drums and some Steve Howe like chords that shine through the misty soundscape. Then some even better keys dazzle as the drums, bass, and lead guitar cut a path for the Mellotron - like keys that follow. The drums and rhythm pick up pace and that heavy bass will have you thinking the target audience for this album was all of the fans waiting for the Yes reunion album. This is a Yes like epic to capture your emotions and attention. Definitely sounds more and more like a personal break up as the lyrics continue to unfold. The instrumentation is powerful and full of energy, as are Baker's vocals, which try to reach those Jon Anderson heights. The piano work throughout this epic and the album are just fantastic and worth the price of admission. The bass work is exceptional. Then they throw in that whistle before the ELP like keyboard extravaganza to remind you of all the great epics of the past. The guitar soloing is another outstanding feature.

Mars Hollow: World in Front of Me
Posted by Scott Ward, SoT Staff Writer on 2011-06-05 04:51:21
My Score:

The first thing that hit me as I put this disc in was Kansas "Carry On Wayward Son". The opening a capella chorus of "Walk On Alone" brings this old classic to mind as it then segues into a keyboard passage that reeks of age old Kenny Livgren and company. From there though the next 12 minutes of the opening song takes you through many more moods and down a plethora of progressive avenues that are homage to the golden age of progressive rock and even jazz but are put together in a way that can only be called Mars Hollow.

For their second record the band Mars Hollow has given all fans of the alternative styles of the late 70's and early 80's a disc that not only reminisces in those genres but brings them into the current day in such a way that these powerful musicians have set a standard by which others are going to be forced to follow. Magnificent instrumental work fills the ears and tasty melodies linger on the mind long after the album draws to a close. The afore mentioned Kansas, heavy doses of Yes and a little bit of Tangerine Dream are blended together in a delightful collection of somewhat laid back progressive rock and roll which is the perfect companion to a cup of herbal tea or choice wine. This is an album to be savored and experienced not just listened to. The depth and scope of the work hits you in many different ways and the layers of music are like the foundation of a house. Each one adds more support to the overall structure but if any were taken away it would not be as solid.

I have to say that the first time I put this disc on to play was while traveling down the road and that was not the place to be exposed to it. I was not overly impressed as I listened then but when I got home and put it on again without the outside distractions I became immersed in the overwhelming musical display that unfolded before me. Sure the lead instruments gander most of the attention but in the proper setting the work of the whole band becomes the source of a wondrous cornucopia of sound. The bass work of Kerry Chicoine and the percussion prowess of Jerry Beller become key focal points as they both perform some magical work on this album.

All you have to do is hear Kerry add his unique ability to a song like "Weapon" or when he delivers an amazing lead on "Walk On Alone" and it is easy to realize just how much his contribution is to the overall sound. Again on "What Have I Done" his playing is center stage and such a dynamic part that it would be a shame not to recognize it and enjoy what you are hearing. Jerry's work behind the drums are just magnificent wherever he puts the stick to the skins. It is not often that the rhythm section is such a force as with this band.

I have keyed on the rhythm section but the guitar and vocals of John Baker combined with the keyboard work of Steve Mauk are richly deserving of the accolades you will bestow upon them. While John never plays to excess and his vocal style is very low key, it is perfect for this type of music. In the meantime Steve gives you some superb work on any of the assorted keyboards he touches. From the piano par excellence displayed on "Prelude" to the Keith Emerson type passages of the title song "World In Front Of Me", Mauk creates a mood with his playing that is exciting and at the same time very calming. With these guys the melody is paramount and both Steve and John deliver big time.

This disc just shines in every aspect. Musically stunning, never overpowering it is an album that creates an atmosphere that soothes and massages your ears and mind. When it's time to relax, kick back, put this on and ride the musical waves that Mars Hollow creates. Another no brainer as World In Front Of Me is easily one of the best offerings of this or any year.

2004 Sea Of Tranquility
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