One quick look at the song lengths should tell you that the latest release from After the Fall is nothing short of an epic prog rock statement. On their fourth CD, titled Knowledge, the four-piece from Connecticut have pulled out all the stops, delivering three tunes in the 20-minute range, plus three shorter pieces, resulting in 80 minutes of symphonic and organic 70's styled prog, American style. While some of the music fits squarely in the melodic neo-prog style, the band delivers plenty of muscular arrangements that are not quite progressive metal, but rock pretty hard.
Instrumentally speaking, After the Fall are very impressive. The opening epic "Came the Healer" has plenty of references to classic 70's bands like Kansas and Rush, thanks to the sinewy bass playing of Jeff Brewer, the tasty and fiery guitar work of Mark Alden Benson, the wonderful and vintage keyboard sounds from Ken Archer, and the nimble drum work courtesy of Rich Kornacki. This tune is extremely complex in spots (check out the wild keyboard/guitar/bass interplay near the climax) and ultra symphonic in others. If you listen carefully there is also a slight jazz-fusion element going on as well. Things slow down a bit on the emotional and melodic "The Call", which almost sounds like something the British band Magnum would do, as it's more of an symphonic AOR rock piece, with lush keyboards and acoustic guitars, plus a closing electric guitar coda that sees Benson really hitting some high spots. The lead & backing vocals on this one are pretty good as well, as they are throughout most of the album, but I'm wondering if somewhere down the road the band might be best served having a full-time singer, especially if they are planning on doing some live shows. "Motherland" is another symphonic and lengthy gem, featuring plenty of wonderful keyboard styles and textures from Archer. Broken up into five parts, this one goes through many twists and turns and takes the listener on a nice journey. Again, hints of Kansas, as well as Toto, Aviary, and even Styx, can be heard on this one.
After the brief and moody acoustic piece "Between Images Flesh and Shadows" comes the hard rocking "Precariously Poised on the Precipice of Pandemonium", complete with crunchy guitar work and stabbing synths. This one will certainly appeal to fans of Rush, Shadow Gallery, or Dream Theater, as not only does it hit hard but has plenty of intricate moments of musical virtuosity. The closing monster "Ode to Man" starts off fairly pastoral in nature, before taking on Yes-like proportions with heaps of orchestral synths, melodic lead bass lines, layers of harmony vocals, and biting guitar work. Archer gets a good chance to show off not just on synths but also Hammond organ on this one, and Brewer's gymnastic bass playing is a pleasure to listen to.
This is a really strong contemporary prog rock album from After the Fall, with just enough references to classic 70's bands mixing with their own individual style. If anyone thinks that there's a lack of good progressive rock coming out of the USA these days, give this a try.
1) Came the Healer (19:20)
2) The Call (7:54)
3) Motherland (20:43)
4) Between Images Flesh and Shadows (2:49)
5) Precariously Poised on the Precipice of Pandemonium (7:35)
6) Ode to Man (19:40)