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Dyonisos: Ages High

Dan Cowan's Dyonisos's project 2008 album Ages High does not suffer from the same acute Pink Floydian similarity of his previous effort An Incidental Collection: the Gilmour-ish lead guitar phrasing is still there for sure but the songs are now compositionally removed from that soundscape. Surprisingly, given that I'd said in my review of An Incidental Collection that it suffered from comparison with that famous band, this one suffers even more as a result of the departure. Simply put, these "art-rock" (or "crossover prog") songs are just not strong enough to warrant about 75 minutes of music.

The most effective songs are those where the tempo is just that little bit higher than the album's norm of slow and where we get some beefy guitar - the opener "Ages High" and the instrumental "Doctor Madman". The other instrumental on the album, "Windward Bound", is less successful, its melody, like on other songs, lacking sufficient emotion. A lot of the singing is vocoderised - it's an effect that wears after a while when there appears to be little positive, if any, effect gained from it and it begs the question whether its over-use is attempting to make up for a shortfall in the inventiveness of the songs. The last two on this album are particularly poor - "Gee Dubya Bush" has to be the worst protest sonmg I've ever heard and "Cryptograms" centers on an irritating conversation with an old hag that can't speak properly. Oh dear...

There will be people who are so taken with Dan Cowan's guitar playing that they find that its qualities overcome the deficiencies in the song-writing but, for me, his playing just doesn't have sufficient musicality. From the song-writing point of view I think he would benefit from having other writing collaborators on board his project, both to provide their own songs and add synergies to his compositions. I think this has the potential to add the spark that is missing from Ages High.

Disappointing.

Track Listing:-
1) Ages High (4:42)
2) Charity (5:39)
3) Winds of Change (3:52)
4) Windward Bound (4:15)
5) Portal to Evermore (5:14)
6) The Source (5:18)
7) Peggy Plant (4:00)
8) Doctor Madman (3:51)
9) Black Crosses (4:21)
10) Got Memories to Meet (2:27)
11) Prog Coalition (3:15)
12) The Little Voice Inside My Head (3:19)
13) We Are The People (5:13)
14) Play My Song List Again (5:35)
15) Gee Dubya Bush (2:30)
16) Cryptograms (13:05)

Added: May 6th 2009
Reviewer: Alex Torres
Score:
Related Link: Artist's MySpace page
Hits: 2922
Language: english

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Dyonisos: Ages High
Posted by Jon Neudorf, SoT Staff Writer on 2009-05-06 20:41:43
My Score:

This is my first exposure to Dan Cowan, otherwise known as Dyonisos. I have heard much about the artist but until now have not heard his music. Apparently, one of the common perceptions is how much some of his music sounds like Pink Floyd, although not so much his latest release Ages High. To these ears, the Floyd comparison is very accurate, and in a moment I will tell you why.

There is no doubting Cowan's talent as a musician as he tackles pretty much everything himself. The good thing is this does not sound like a one man band as he produces a full and well rounded sound. The album begins with the up tempo "Aces High" which sounds like it could have come from Division Bell era Floyd. From the vocals to the guitar, this has David Gilmour written all over it. The melodic guitar and stark piano that is "Charity" again strike a resemblance to Floyd, especially the vocals during the chorus. I am not going to sit here and tell you this is the most original music you will ever here because it isn't. Is this music derivative? Perhaps it is. Even so, this was still an enjoyable listen, mostly due to Cowan's excellent guitar playing throughout the album and the obvious nods to Pink Floyd. More Floyd comparisons can be made with "Portal to Evermore", especially the use of distant and slightly fading background vocals. The first track that doesn't remind me of Floyd is the catchy "The Source", a straight forward melodic rock song built on solid song writing and Cowan's electric guitar.

It is not all good, as my esteemed colleagues have pointed out. The protest song "Gee Dubyr Bush" is plain silly and does not fit in with the rest of the CD. If you want to listen to a protest song try something from Neil Young's Living With War. The epic thirteen minute "Cryptograms" works in places but the spoken word segment is very distracting to the overall flow of the song. At times it feels a little too choppy as some of the segments do not flow together smoothly.

That being said, there is still plenty of music I enjoyed and Cowan's guitar playing is absolutely superb in places. This is a solid rock album with just enough proggy overtones to keep me satisfied. Listen to some samples and decide for yourself.

(originally reviewed for www.progressiveears.com)



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