From the deepest recesses of the cellars of American prog rises this Maryland quintet, and they're a little late — ten years too late. When Spock's Beard was the "hot new sound" back in '96 or so, Shrouded Unity may easily have capitalized on an opportunity by emerging as the Beard's eastern complement. Not so fast! Though Shrouded Unity is discernibly Kansas, Yes, Saga and Styx influenced, the parallels end there. Now "comfortably middle-aged," the band has completed and independently released a pair of albums, The I Factor being the slightly more "classic" sounding of the two. Prime mover Arnold Jerrell has his mitts on everything, playing lead and rhythm guitars on every song, bass on those songs Mike Routh isn't, and even drums on others ("Mother Told Me," "The Breakdown Of Imaginary Separators," "Gladiator") — "Olivia" is a guitar instrumental. Jerrell's Unlimited Realms Studio (a.k.a. "Arnold's Garage") is also where the recording came to fruition. Larry Parsons sings, Mike Kirby drums on five of the nine band tracks, and Dave Durst helms his electronic keyboards. Routh is more the bassist's bassist, evidenced by that nifty fretless groove on "Elevation" and his dexterous poise on "Mother Told Me." The band as a whole are more than competent though no one tends to stand out save Routh and certain keyboard and guitar parts; listeners may tend to focus on Parsons and his DeYoung-Pack tone and style.
The I Factor is also reasonably thematically chameleonic, a plus for a newer (so to speak) act that needs to get noticed — the first several tracks are uniformly in-your-face and conformist; a little further in and we get "A Creative Response To Poor Planning," a concise instrumental with deft synth shadings and remarkable bass and guitar work. The forecast calls for a very warm reception for "Empty Room" — with disturbing lyrics elucidating a parent's pain concerning a missing child, quasi-metal guitar, a noisy synth ostinato, and a one hundred-eighty degree instrumental finale, this is the band at its heaviest. The other approaching-ten-minutes cut, "The Breakdown Of Imaginary Separators," is likewise more intense, more chops-intensive than some of the lighter fare here, and is largely instrumental. The first and third vocal-oriented sections are separated by a rather long middle that fits comfortably into the context of prog-fusion, and thus has more in common with Syzygy than the bands mentioned above. "Gladiator" smacks of an older resurrected piece — the lyrics aren't very interesting, the arrangement somewhat predictable, even if the playing and singing are passionate. Shrouded Unity is a band to watch.
1. Cliché (6:42)
2. Cerebral Conflict Part II (7:00)
3. Elevation (6:26)
4. A Creative Response To Poor Planning (3:26)
5. Empty Room (9:47)
6. All The Same (5:51)
7. Mother Told Me (4:45)
8. The Breakdown Of Imaginary Separators (9:43)
9. Gladiator (8:23)
10. Olivia (2:08)
Total time – 65:24