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Project Alcazar: Lost in Centralia

The three words "Instrumental Prog Metal" should be evocative enough to conjure up a pretty good idea of what you can expect from Project Alcazar's latest release Lost in Centralia. This is a project led by guitarist and songwriter Chris Steberl, with composition assistance by keyboardist Caleb Hutslar and a pretty damn good drum effort (as if he could ever give a bad one) from hired gun Mark Zonder of Fates Warning fame. Steberl has been at this for a long time, playing and recording for decades. Considering the guy has actually won Sam Ash's "Best in Shred" contest in the past you know his abilities are up to snuff. But how does the album fare as a whole? Well, it's a mixed bag.

Lost in Centralia may or may not be a concept album based off of Centralia, Pennsylvania (The cover art is certainly evocative of that), the (in)famous home of a long-burning underground coal mine fire; but it's fairly hard to tell given that this is an instrumental album. Loaded with plenty of early Dream Theater-isms and Fates Warning-ness, Lost in Centralia has all of the noodly bits and bobs you would expect from stuff like this. Strangely, for an act that clearly takes a ton of inspiration from some of the most polished and classy bands that the genre has produced, this album feels and sounds a bit sloppy and unprofessional. Zonder's drumming aside, of course. Quick guitar runs and sweeps sound muffled and bungled throughout, and the keyboards are too quiet, and sound cheap compared to their contemporaries. Prog metal, above all else, is a genre that needs to be polished to a mirror-reflective sheen, and when it isn't it completely breaks the mirage of the musicians being untouchable titans of their craft. You never hear John Petrucci flub a sweep. At least on record.

Performance and recording issues aside, what we have here is largely standard fare for the genre. Note-dense flurries of neo-classical influenced shred, laced with spacey keys and metallic riffs. The two most interesting faster tracks, the bookending title track and "Water Music" are the most successful at achieving proggy splendor, the latter being especially classically inspired. I actually find the slower and moodier tracks on the album to be superior to anything else, especially "Stranger Ave." which features a sweet "Della Brown" Queensryche vibe and particularly melodic guitar work. You could easily see yourself walking down Stranger Ave. (wherever that may be) at night with this playing in the background.

A bit amateurish in delivery and overall sound, Lost in Centralia will still provide something to fans of the genre. Those looking for the glossy sheen that tends to be a hallmark of prog metal will be disappointed, but the overall feel and melodic instrumental bluster are still there, and you could certainly do worse. Give it a try if instrumental prog is your style.


Track list:
1. Lost in Centralia
2. Occam's Razor
3. The Panic Hand
4. Stranger Ave.
5. 55 Ludovico Lane
6. Beneath a Scarlet Sky
7. Looking Glass
8. Water Music

Added: March 18th 2021
Reviewer: Brandon Miles
Score:
Related Link: Band Website
Hits: 190
Language: english

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