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Metaphor: The Pearl

Has it really been 12 years since the last studio album from San Francisco's prog-rock veterans Metaphor? Surprisingly, that is indeed the case, and another example of just how quickly time seems to be flying by lately. Last we left off with this band was 2007's The Sparrow, a fine set of modern prog with a healthy nod to vintage Genesis, and they are back yet again in fine form here with The Pearl, which was recorded in 2018 and released in January of 2019. As we've had a few months with this one, much of this music has had a chance to really sink in, and it's another really good release from the band. Musically, not much has changed over the years, the band continuing to produce some masterful arrangements dripping with majestic keyboards, crisp guitar work, and intricate rhythms, which you can clearly hear on the opening cut "The Open Road". Marc Spooner blends piano with synths on this gem to wonderful results, Malcolm Smith's guitar going from gentle to snarling, and the acrobatic rhythms from bassist Jim Anderson & drummer Greg Miller doing a fine job. Anderson really shines on "Bruises and Blisters", his thick yet melodic bass lines permeating the entire track, swirling around Smith's tasty guitars and Spooner's grandiose keys. John Mabry's vocals will continue to be a 'love it or leave it' thing for some; personally, I think his style fits the music, and though he doesn't have a wide range, he does a good job of telling the lyrical story, and his mid-to-upper range delivery works well on some of the heavier tracks, such as "Lying Down with Dogs".

"The Mist of Forgetting" has elements of Saga as well as late '70s Genesis, with haunting synths floating about the mix as metallic guitars stab in and out of the arrangement, while "The Love Letter", the longest track at just under 10-minutes, is the albums most pastoral, atmospheric track, leathery bass lines & pedals seeping through a haze of synths and Mellotron, with Mabry soaring over the top. "Remembering" has elements of folk to go along with some tasty lead guitar and piano, but the tempo picks up with "Romancing the Wurm", a song with a healthy Yes flavor to it, blistering synths, heavier guitars and those ever present velvety bass grooves from Anderson providing some bombast. After the brief folky number "The Eagle, The Voice, The Light", the band close out the album with the symphonic "Robed in Glory", another atmospheric number complete with haunting keyboards, massive bass lines, and textured guitar work. Again, a strong Yes influence happening on this one.

Though I'll admit to being a huge fan of Metaphor's early 'homage to Genesis' albums, it's great to hear them branching out a bit here and letting some other styles and sounds creep into their music. This is a pretty wonderful collection of modern prog rock songs with a healthy nod to the classics, chock full of great instrumental passages and melodic vocals. Hopefully it's not quite so long till the next time we are graced with new music from the band, but this one was well worth the wait.

Track Listing
1. The Open Road (8:43)
2. Bruises and Blisters (5:52)
3. Lying Down with Dogs (6:15)
4. The Mist of Forgetting (7:03)
5. The Love Letter (9:31)
6. Remembering (7:20)
7. Romancing the Wurm (6:34)
8. The Eagle, The Voice, The Light (3:03)
9. Robed in Glory (7:30)

Added: June 23rd 2019
Reviewer: Pete Pardo
Related Link: Band @ Bandcamp
Hits: 2122
Language: english

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Metaphor: The Pearl
Posted by Jon Neudorf, SoT Staff Writer on 2019-06-23 16:51:58
My Score:

I have not heard the music of American progressive rock band Metaphor before although I did become familiar with their guitarist’s solo album titled We Were Here a few years back. The band formed in 1993 in the San Francisco area and released their debut album titled Starfooted in 1999. Then came Entertaining Thanatos (2004) and The Sparrow (2007). It has been a few years but the band has essentially remain unchanged since their last album and earlier this year released their fourth disc titled The Pearl.

The album runs about sixty-one minutes so there is ample opportunity for the band to strut their stuff. Lots of changing time signatures, plenty of different keyboard sounds and sometimes angular guitar makes its way into the mix. Tasty rhythms are also included so the melodies are never too far away from the band’s central musical philosophy. So, lots of change ups and varying moods is what this band is all about. The lead vocals are solid if not spectacular and did not detract from my enjoyment of the album. John Mabry has a good voice but if you want your vocalist to stretch out and try new things he may not be the one for you. He stays pretty much along the same track, very steady with no histrionics to be found. Again, that may be a good or bad thing depending on your personal taste.

The album begins with "The Open Road", a good measuring stick of what’s in store. A nice groove develops with melodic keyboards and guitar before slightly angular changes take place, especially with the guitar work. More change ups ensue; mellow keyboard parts, synths and complex drum patterns. Despite these changes the music flows beautifully forming a very cohesive piece. As I said before the vocals are fine, just not overly dynamic. “Bruises and Blisters” is even more quirky with its off kilter beats and guitar work. The keyboards are front and center as are the thick bass lines. Melodic synth lines form the centerpiece of “Lying Down with Dogs” where the guitar riffs are a little heavier at times and the bass is again at the front of the mix. Another excellent track. The melodic and slower paced “The Mist of Forgetting” is one of the album’s prettiest tracks.

This is also a concept album. The story is centered around a boy who begins a quest for a pearl (hence the album’s title) that is protected by a vicious dragon. He soon finds out the dragon just may be the beginning of his problems. I have always liked a fantasy storyline and this is no exception.

Fans of retro progressive rock should really enjoy this one. Highly recommended.

Band members:
Jim Anderson (bass)
John Mabry (vocals)
Greg Miller (drums)
Malcolm Smith (guitars)
Marc Spooner (keyboards)

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