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Smith, Malcolm: We Were Here

Progressive rock fans might surely recognize the name Malcolm Smith as the founding member & guitarist of San Francisco act Metaphor. Seeing as his main band has been on a lengthy hiatus since 2007s The Sparrow (though word is we will see a new album from the band in 2015!), Smith has been busy putting the finishes touches to his long awaited solo album. Joining him on We Were Here are Anglagard/White Willow drummer Mattias Olsson, his Metaphor bandmate Marc Spooner on keyboards, bassist Loren Gustafson, vocalist Deborah Roth, guitarists Rich Lonacre & Craig Launer, and Metaphor vocalist John Mabry on one song.

Much of what you hear on We Were Here is a similar form of the quirky, complex, vintage styled progressive rock that we've come to expect from the Metaphor camp over the years. Smith's compositional skills are fully on display throughout, and it's clear from the opening 1-2 punch of "Peyronie's Angle" and "Cavity Research" that this was not meant to be a 'guitar' record, but a full ensemble approach. Sure, Smith's weaving, snaking guitar lines permeate the former, and rip in classic jazz-fusion fashion on the latter, but he gladly shares the limelight with Olsson's acrobatic drum work and Spooner's wide assortment of keyboard sounds every step of the way. "Monkey Signature" has a sort of Genesis-meets-Gentle Giant flair to it, and the lush "Still...Life" contains a passionate vocal from Mabry over muscular bass lines and melancholy keyboards. Of course, it wouldn't be a prog album without the mandatory epic, here in the form of the multi-part suite "Sykiatry", which is chock full of plenty of intricate guitar & keyboard passages from the two Metaphor pals. You can hear bits of Gentle Giant, Return to Forever, Genesis, Yes, and Kansas, just to name a few of the references included on this excellent song. Jazz blends with prog on the groove laden "Les Canards de Guerre", a fun & classy closer to this highly enjoyable album.

So, if you've gotten restless since the last Metaphor release, here's something that will easily tide you over till the band unleashes their next studio album some time in 2015. Smith & Co. have done a very fine job on We Were Here, a progressive rock album that needs to be on your radar here as we close out 2014.

See more about this release on our recent YouTube show!

Track Listing
1) Peyronie's Angle (5:53)
2) Cavity Research (6:15)
3) Monkey Signature (9:08)
4) Still…Life (6:18)
5) Sykiatry - 13:31
Mr. I
Lessons Learned
Cliff Diving
Mr. I – Reprise
6) Les Canards de Guerre - 6:01

Added: February 7th 2015
Reviewer: Pete Pardo
Related Link: Artist Website
Hits: 3711
Language: english

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Smith, Malcolm: We Were Here
Posted by Jon Neudorf, SoT Staff Writer on 2015-02-07 09:38:36
My Score:

Malcolm Smith is the guitarist for the progressive rock band Metaphor whose last album The Sparrow was released in 2007. In the intervening years Smith has been working on his first solo album titled We Were Here which came out in 2014. For the new disc he has enlisted some fine musicians including drummer Mattias Olsson (White Willow, ex-Anglagard), keyboardist Marc Spooner (Metaphor) and bassist Loren Gustafson. Adding vocals on one track is Metaphor bandmate John Mabry and additional guitar is handled by Rich Longacre and Craig Launer.

Having never heard the music of Metaphor I wasn't sure what to expect. Smith has made an excellent album of classic symphonic prog that is both catchy and complex. While the musicians show off their considerable skill throughout, We Were Here is also a gorgeous sounding album with tasty melodies and strong arrangements. The album is mostly instrumental so there are lots of opportunities for complex instrumental interplay but the sound isn't overblown or pretentious.

The band is talented and Smith's guitar work is integral to these songs but that is not meant to diminish the other players. Spooner's keyboards are also prevalent and his choice of sounds are spot on. The rhythm section of Olsson and Gustafson is equally as talented. I am particularly impressed with Olsson's drumming as he changes tempos with ease and has the ability to play both heavy and soft passages with equal aplomb.

The music ebbs and flows with intricate passages and gradual builds as is demonstrated by the opening track "Peyronie's Angle". Shimmering keyboard passages and acoustic guitar develop into a retro classic symphonic sound. The guitar and keyboard work are both exemplary and occasionally reminded me of King Crimson. "Cavity Research" features complex guitar and keyboard interplay including some excellent solos. Gentle soundscapes morph into heavier sections where the band is completely locked in.

The first track with vocals is the melodic "Still…Life". Mabry has a warm and inviting voice and is a perfect match for the song's majestic yet slightly melancholic symphonic passages.

The longest piece is the nine part "Sykiatry", a showpiece for the band's stellar musicianship and complex arranging. It is a very nice slice of retro flavoured symphonic prog.

If you like classic 70s prog in the vein of King Crimson and Genesis there should be plenty here for you to enjoy. Recommended!

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