Sea Of Tranquility

The Web Source for Progressive Rock, Progressive Metal & Jazz-Fusion
  Search   in       
Main Menu

Echolyn: Echolyn

I've often felt that of all the progressive rock groups that have formed within the last twenty or so years, Pennsylvanian quintet Echolyn is the most underappreciated. Every one of their previous albums features a fantastic, unique blend of emotional songwriting and incredibly intricate arrangements. Really, their output thus far rivals easily the discography of any contemporaries, including Spock's Beard, The Flower Kings, and Dream Theater. Their last record, 2005's The End is Beautiful, was a superbly satisfying conclusion to their career—or so many people thought. As it turns out, the group had been working hard on follow-up during the seven year interim, and it's finally here. Simply titled Echolyn, the album contains every beloved trademark and approach fans could hope for (which, considering how easy it is for bands to lose their style after a long hiatus, makes for a very special experience). It's absolutely wonderful from beginning to end.

As opposed to most groups, Echolyn has never really suffered a line-up change, and thus all five members (Brett Kull, Raymond Weston, Christopher Buzby, Thomas Hyatt, and Paul Ramsey) are back. In our interview last November (published at Sea of Tranquility), Hyatt called the album a "mood piece…this album has more of a singer/songwriter approach with a trippy rock 'n' roll edge. The songs are pretty highly arranged…" In addition, Weston concluded that "the album picks up right where The End is Beautiful left off," and Kull declared that the Echolyn is all about "Melody, melody, melody! Strong arrangements, great playing [and] harmony…" Indeed, the album is packed with beautiful melodies, impressive harmonies, extremely complex jams, and impeccable dynamic expertise. It's as remarkable as anything else they've done.

At over sixteen minutes in duration, "Islands," besides being the album's epic track, is a monumental opener. Invigorating guitar riffs collide with intense percussion and robust keyboards at the start; eventually, things calm down a bit so Weston and Co. can belt out exceptionally catchy melodies and harmonies. Naturally, the suite goes through several changes as it progresses, and each one is astounding. The piece's closing passage is quite majestic, too, as it showcases how great the group's songwriting still is.

Because Echolyn is so thoroughly and consistently impressive, it would be repetitive to discuss each song in detail. The album flows so well as a single entity, so it's probably best to listen to it all at once. Nevertheless, if highlights must be chosen, I'd say that "(Speaking In) Lampblack" is the best song on here, as its blend of melodies, emotion, and soothing timbres is exceptional. Likewise, the way "Headright" builds to its crescendo is masterful, and "When Sunday Spills" incorporates some very elegant strings. Every piece on here bursts with passion and proficiency, as if Echolyn is announcing, "Hey, we haven't gone anywhere. We're back and we're still the best!"

Expectedly, fans may be hesitant to hear the album; after all, it's been seven years since The End is Beautiful, and bands that go this long without a release usually don't return in equal form. Fortunately, in this instance, nothing could be farther from the truth. Echolyn is every bit as complex, melodic, dynamic, and addictive as any of their previous outputs, and it's sure to rank highly on many Album of the Year lists. Echolyn returns triumphantly with this record, and it's a must own for any fan of the genre.

Welcome back, boys. We've missed you.

Track Listing

  1. Island
  2. Headright
  3. Locust to Bethlehem
  4. Some Memorial
  5. Past Gravity
  6. When Sunday Spills
  7. (Speaking in) Lampblack
  8. The Cardinal and I

Added: December 9th 2012
Reviewer: Jordan Blum
Related Link: Band Website
Hits: 2311
Language: english

[ Printer Friendly Page Printer Friendly Page ]
[ Send to a Friend Send to a Friend ]


[ Back to the Reviews Index | Post Comment ]

» SoT Staff Roundtable Reviews:

Echolyn: Echolyn
Posted by Jeff B, SoT Staff Writer on 2012-12-09 19:53:43
My Score:

After a roughly seven year wait since The End Is Beautiful, my expectations for the eighth Echolyn album were pretty high. This American quintet has been crafting top-notch prog rock for many years now, and after such a long break, one would only imagine that the band has returned more inspired than ever - and this imagining would be correct. Echolyn's 2012 eponymous observation shows the band at a creative height that has effected one of the year's finest masterworks. A virtually perfect album in all regards, Echolyn is one of the must-hear progressive rock experiences of 2012.

Some of the earlier Echolyn outings like Suffocating the Bloom and As The World were frequently noted as sounding like an updated, more melodic version of classic Gentle Giant, but the band's newer releases have moved in a much more symphonic direction. Beginning with the sprawling 49 minute epic masterpiece that was Mei - a choice in songwriting that was certainly never attempted by Gentle Giant - Echolyn moved in a direction that was more symphonic and melodic than some of their earlier works. 2012's Echolyn shows the band coming full circle as a melodic symphonic prog act, but they have (fortunately) not sacrificed what made them so special in the first place. Echolyn is still as instrumentally capable as ever (just listen to the opening of "Island" if you're unsure of this) and the vocal harmonies are pure bliss, but truly moving melodies have been incorporated into their sound more than ever before. While I've considered Echolyn among the elite modern prog acts long before this album was even rumored, the flawless mix of technical prowess and breathtaking melody showcased here makes it a serious contender for the band's finest outing thus far.

It's also worth noting that Echolyn sounds more 'retro' than any of the act's previous albums, to my ears at least - Chris Buzby's choice in keyboard tones stays within the palette available to players in the seventies', with most of the keyboards being presented in the form of piano, organ, mellotron, and analog-sounding synthesizers (think something that Tony Banks would've used on A Trick of the Tail). The warm and organic production also gives the album a bit of a retro flavor, but the real treat here is in the music. Compositionally, this observation treats the listener with some of the best that modern prog has to offer. Many of the songs linger around the ten minute mark, with "Island" being the longest and most traditionally 'progressive' of all the tunes; the challenging opening sequence and frequent time and key changes make this energetic track a perfect way to open up the album. The excellent melodies in "Headright" and the tremendously beautiful "Speaking in Lampblack" (which may be the most emotionally moving song I've heard all year) are probably the most unorthodox songs here by Echolyn's standards, though both fit perfectly in the context of the album. "Some Memorial" and "When Sunday Spills" are also favorites of mine, although the reality is that I've yet to find a substantial fault in this observation - this is simply a monumental effort from Echolyn on all fronts.

This album served as my soundtrack for most of the summer and fall of 2012, and even though I've heard a lot of other excellent albums this year, I still find myself returning to this one time and time again in December. Ray Weston, Brett Kull, Chris Buzby, Paul Ramsey, and Tom Hyatt are musicians of the highest caliber, and this observation's seamless blend of old and new ideas results in a listen that doesn't lose its shine even after dozens of spins. Echolyn is the sort of album that should be taken as a 'modern classic' - an observation that, if there is any justice in this world, should be looked back on decades from now as one of the the definitive prog albums of its era and a true masterpiece in every sense of the word.

© 2004 Sea Of Tranquility
For information regarding where to send CD promos and advertising, please see our FAQ page.
If you have questions or comments, please Contact Us.
Please see our Policies Page for Site Usage, Privacy, and Copyright Policies.

All logos and trademarks in this site are property of their respective owner. The comments are property of their posters, all other content © Sea of Tranquility

SoT is Hosted by