Eternity X's The Edge, to this day, is quite possibly the greatest prog metal disc ever released. It's a shame that band is no more, but it came as quite a surprise when three former members of Eternity X teamed up with ex-Seven Witches vocalist Bobby Lucas and a new bass player. Needless to say, I was more than curious to hear their new project, Exhibition, since the guys parted ways with Keith Sudano (Eternity X) on not-so-nice terms and were claiming they had had a finger in the writing of the band's last, and certainly greatest, effort The Edge. Curious to hear how much of it would rub off on their debut album, The Sign of Tomorrow, I picked it up on a whim.
Vocals aside, The Sign of Tomorrow is a very solid debut album and it certainly shares some of the traits available on The Edge, but overall, lacks the great vocal harmonies, lyrics, arrangements, and compositional development. Keyboardist Jamie Mazur, who was a very key element in the perfection of The Edge, is also the driving force behind this release. He plays his keys and piano with almost identical tone, giving the songs a nice open sound with lush sonic elements. Accompanying him on the guitar is his former bandmate, Jeff Shernov, whose melodic and smooth style of playing adds another layer of depth to this album. Drummer Jimmy Peruta is mixed a tad higher this time, adding tons of fills and complex drum beats. The bass guitar sort of recalls the band's previous band as well, but it's less prominent, except on a few songs, such as "Dark Horizon".
However, there is one big problem on this album - vocalist Bobby Lucas. He quite simply displays an atrocious vocal performance, missing pretty much most of the high notes and rendering some of the songs almost 'unlistenable', notwithstanding their epic writing. "Queen of Pain" sees him killing the song with horrible lower register, while the 9+ minute epic, "Voices in the Night", which is otherwise a very good song, is ruined by his constantly off-key delivery. The song would have made a killer instrumental track, as its last couple of minutes suggest, but the vocal harmonies just lose me. Truth be told, they SCREAM Keith Sudano.
Not the entire album is a disappointment though. Jamie Mazur is a delight to listen to, and this album should be bought just to hear his fantastic phrasing. He is more versatile here than on The Edge in spots; his sounds range from dark piano harmonies on "Strange Reality" to vintage 70's keyboard on the intro of "Dark Horizon" and then a hypnotic synth solo that will shred you to pieces! The most exciting moment on the disc to me is the unusual drum-keyboard interplay on the title track. It's a very good idea I wish they had developed a little further. Note the blazing guitar solos from Jeff Shernov also, particularly his crushing riffage on "Strange Reality" and the piano-ballad "Shattered Memories". By the way, the melodic interplay on the closing track is sadly a direct ripoff of The Edge's "Imaginarium". What were they thinking?
Unfortunately the band picked the wrong singer for their album. Bobby Lucas has now left the band and I hope their new vocalist will be a better fit for them. The worst thing about the weak vocal harmonies is that they sort of expected Lucas to do a Sudano-like multi-layered vocal performance, which is downright impossible, since Lucas has always been wailer in heavy metal, not a multi-dimensional genius who can portray a million moods and feelings. At any rate, I haven't given up on this band. It will be interesting to see where they're headed with their sophomore release, which, thankfully, will feature a different singer.
1. Before the End of Time 05:36
2. Strange Reality 06:37
3. Wings of the Dragon 04:09
4. The Sign of Tomorrow 07:01
5. Dark Horizon 08:25
6. Shattered Memories 05:09
7. Queen of Pain 06:43
8. A New Beginning 06:48
9. Voices in the Night 09:28