That little band from Pennsylvania, who captivated us in the early '90s and led a resurgence of progressive rock throughout that decade, went their separate ways after a failed major label signing, then regrouped years later to once again wow us with their brilliance, return once again with another stunner of modern prog in the form of I Heard You Listening. The classic line-up of Echolyn is here in full force, Raymond Weston (lead & backing vocals), Brett Kull (guitars, lead & backing vocals), Christopher Buzby (keyboards, backing vocals), Paul Ramsey (drums, backing vocals), and Thomas Hyatt (bass, backing vocals), and the group have put together nine glorious songs that showcase not only their musical virtuosity but those wonderful multi-part vocal harmonies and memorable hooks.
Kick off track "Messenger of All's Right" is a catchy, atmospheric gem, with alluring musical textures and hook laden vocals (think a more proggy Anathema), and from there they launch right into trademark Echolyn on the upbeat "Warjazz", a raucous tune with complex arrangements and Weston's aggressive vocal attack. The 9+ minute "Empyrean Views" features lush, almost jazzy electric piano from Buzby, silky electric guitar courtesy of Kull, and more of those sumptuous vocal harmonies. "Different Days" moves more into symphonic prog territory, led by Buzby's array of synths and intricate rhythms, giving the serious prog fan all the time changes necessary to qualify as one of the more complex tunes on the album, but then they throw us a curve ball on the cute pop/jazz track "Carried Home". Buzby's hazy organ and majestic piano permeate this dreamy, melodic song that is also noteworthy for more of the bands uncanny knack for rich vocal harmonies. Longtime fans of the band of course know of Echolyn's love for Gentle Giant, and "Once I Get Mine" is this album's tribute to the legendary British prog act, complete with tricky musical passages filled with counterpoint and multiple time changes. It's a really fun song and one of the highlights here, as Ramsey & Hyatt weave some seriously intricate rhythmic lines allowing for Buzby and Kull to drop in their challenging melodies. Really good stuff. I'm reminded a bit of late '70s era Genesis with "Sound of Bees", as lush, pastoral keyboards drench the sparse arrangements and the lead & backing vocals floating over the top, and "All This Time We're Given" is another moody rocker, Hyatt's pulsing bass seeping through airy keyboards from Buzby and layers of vocal harmonies before Kull delivers a tasty guitar solo. I Heard You Listening closes with the hard rocker "Vanishing Sun", as crisp guitar riffs, organ, synths, and rumbling rhythms make for quite a wall of sound before Weston's snarling vocal stabs through the quirky arrangement. Once again, it's trademark Echolyn, and another highlight here.
Without a doubt, I Heard You Listening is another winner from a band who have so many home runs in their back catalog, and sure to be one of 2015s top progressive rock releases. As with any of their albums, don't expect to absorb everything on the first listen, as this album takes a few spins to really begin to reveal its rewards, but it is certainly worth the time to get there.
See more about this release on our recent YouTube show!
1. Messenger of All's Right (6:24)
2. Warjazz (5:16)
3. Empyrean Views (9:18)
4. Different Days (7:47)
5. Carried Home (5:10)
6. Once I Get Mine (5:40)
7. Sound of Bees (6:58)
8. All This Time We're Given (7:59)
9. Vanishing Sun (7:34)