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Mars Hollow: World in Front of Me

Let's see...in 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
Score:
Related Link: Band Website
Hits: 4091
Language: english

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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 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.



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