Perhaps Enchant's A Blueprint of the World is not only their best album, but also one of the finest prog rock debuts released in the 90's. Although they have matured and improved both musically and technically over the years, the songs on their debut are some of their warmest and most sincere offerings to date. It's not often you can get the mighty Steve Rothery of Marillion to produce almost half of the tracks on your debut release and even get him to contribute some guitar and e-bow playing. Had Rothery not seen the magic in these guys, I doubt he'd have bothered helping them out. His presence is without doubt central to the success of this album, as the songs are replete with melodic hooks, moving vocal lines, and excellent instrumentation to boot. On the opening track "The Thirst", Rothery weaves Marillion-like texture playing an immense e-bow melody, and the band opts for an intricate drum pattern and then lets vocalist Ted Leonard leave his signature imprint on the piece. Leonard has always reminded me of the amazing Steve Walsh and Journey's Steve Perry, but similarities to the vocal harmonies on earlier Styx albums are also evident. He has a warm and emotionally engaging voice that will immediately resonate with any prog rock fan and capture him after only a few listens.
Drummer Paul Craddick's involvement in the songs has rendered them a very Rush-like intricacy that has resulted in Enchant being compared to the Canadian prog gods for years. Craddick fills almost every song with nuanced rhythms that actually have a profound effect in the songwriting, since each fill and roll from him helps diversify the album and make everything more progressive. Glistening cymbals, complex multi-rhythm beats, and even percussive sections abound the songs while guitarist Douglas Ott produces thick and ethereal lead solos that underlie Michael Geimer's dreamy yet at the same time insanely emphasized keyboard work. Ott has a large and elaborate playing, and is quite possibly one of the most expressive guitarists in American prog rock. Besides his sumblime chord progressions, which change from lush acoustics to dynamic electric leads, it is mostly the way he chooses to finish his solos. The ending riffs on both the dark-tinged "Catharsis" and the acoustic ballad "Acquaintance" suggest intensity of the highest order. While most guitarists in the genre either overplay or run out of ideas in their solos, it seems Ott only climaxes in his final note leaving the listener's jaw wide open. What's more is he also possesses a great sense of immediacy in his phrasing, giving the songs an almost live feel, best seen on the fast-paced and hard-rocking "East of Eden", which sounds like Alex Lifeson cutting it loose in an overcrowded Rush concert. This song also features a fantastic bass solo by Ed Platt whose restrained yet ever-present input explodes like a dynamite halfway through the piece.
"Oasis", now one of Enchant's most classic anthems, is catchy, rocking, and utterly progressive at the same time, and demonstrates a breathtaking duel between fierce guitars and striking synth leads. On the instrumental "Mae Dae", creepy keyboards generate thick atmospheres with a repeated guitar theme that builds on eternally until the breaking point, which once again, is the last second. "Nighttime Sky" is the other piece with Steve Rothery on lead guitars communicating with Douglas Ott. The song contains an infectious chorus that sticks and never lets go, siren-like keyboard wails, and a beautiful passage filled with finger-picked Latin acoustics. The song then secretly breaks into a two-hand tapping harmony accentuated by a soaring lead guitar tone where two guitars are layered on top of each other. The epic instrumentation on "At Death's Door", defined by thoughtful lyrics, is comprised of a marching trumpet and grooving bass motif, before nuances of tribal percussion work and a vaguely folk-flavoured harmony is detected. How all these unrelated elements are blended into a single song is beyond me.
My copy of A Blueprint of the World contains an acoustic bonus track of "Enchanted", but it's a bit shorter than the original version. As a matter of fact, the original pressing of this album contained only nine tracks, but when the band signed to Magna Carta they added "Open Eyes" and then finally the acoustic number. Try to get the most recent version if possible. The packaging is awesome too.
- The Thirst
- Mae Dae
- At Death's Door
- East of Eden
- Nighttime Sky
- Open Eyes
- Enchanted (acoustic)