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Roswell Six: Terra Incognita-Beyond the Horizon

Lana Lane, James LaBrie, Michael Sadler, John Payne, Erik Norlander, Gary Wehrkamp, Kurt Barabas, David Ragsdale, Martin Orford, Chris Brown, Chris Quirarte, and Mike Alvarez...many of these names will certainly be familiar to fans of modern day progressive rock. This all-star cast has joined forces with the best selling husband and wife author team of Kevin J. Anderson & Rebecca Moesta to form Roswell Six. The fruit of this union is Terra Incognita: Beyond the Horizon, a sweeping concept album/prog rock opera, that will instantly appeal to fans of Ayreon or Avantasia.

The story behind this project centers around the sacred city of Ishalem and the holy war that is started due to differing religious beliefs. The fantasy universe created by Anderson & Moesta features sea monsters, battles, sea adventures, and an engaging love story. Needless to say it's epic all the way. Vocally, this is top notch stuff, with Lane, LaBrie, and Sadler instantly recognizable and delivering splendid passages throughout, each one playing a specific part in the story, but it's former Asia singer John Payne who really surprises here as Captain Shay, showing a richness to his voice that will surprise many. The Queen of Symphonic Rock, Lana Lane, soars in all her majestic glory on the bombastic "The Call of the Sea", and Dream Theater's LaBrie commands plenty of attention on the epic "Ishalem".

Musically, things don't disappoint either, especially thanks to Norlander's virtuoso keyboard flourishes and the crunchy guitar playing from the duo of Shadow Gallery's Gary Wehrkamp and Chris Brown from Ghost Circus. The guitar tandem lay down some serious riff-o-rama on the symphonic "I Am the Point" alongside LaBrie's passionate wailing and some tricky drum work courtesy of Prymary's Chris Quirarte. The lovely "Letters in a Bottle" is a great vehicle for former Saga frontman Michael Sadler as well as Kansas violinist David Ragsdale, while the driving "Halfway" is all Lana Lane soaring to the heavens. After the near progressive metal of "Anchored" comes the equally heavy "Here Be Monsters", which lets the whole team of vocalists take a stab.

The two part "The Sinking of The Luminara" starts off as a furious instrumental, Ragsdale and Norlander doing battle with Under the Sun/Amaran's Plight bassist Kurt Barabas, and the second part is a symphonic hard rocker led by the powerful pipes of Lane. "Beyond the Horizon" is a pleasing, lush acoustic ballad, while the closing bombast of "Edge of the World" ends things on a real high note, driving guitar riffs and Norlander's vast array of symphonic keys give this ending instrumental a real ELP meets Dream Theater feel.

ProgRock Records has released a real treat here, as Terra Incognita: Beyond the Horizon not only delivers stunning sound, and quality musicianship, but the packaging & artwork is quite appealing as well. Featuring full lyrics, you can easily sit back and read along to the story as the music sweeps you away. As all-star projects go, this one's a real winner. Let's hope we see another Roswell Six saga in the not too distant future.


Track Listing
01 - Ishalem
02 - The Call of The Sea
03 - I Am The Point
04 - Letters In A Bottle
05 - Halfway
06 - Anchored
07 - Here Be Monsters
08 - The Sinking of The Luminara
09 - The Winds of War
10 - Swept Away
11 - Beyond The Horizon
12 - Merciful Tides
13 - The Edge of The World

Added: November 9th 2009
Reviewer: Pete Pardo
Score:
Related Link: Band's MySpace Page
Hits: 5394
Language: english

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Roswell Six: Terra Incognita-Beyond the Horizon
Posted by Jon Neudorf, SoT Staff Writer on 2009-11-09 20:42:07
My Score:

Roswell Six is the unusual creation of esteemed science fiction writer Kevin J. Anderson, keyboard maestro Erik Norlander and ProgRock Records main man Shawn Gordon. When Gordon contacted Anderson the idea unfolded and Anderson's epic novel The Edge of the World turned out to be the vehicle upon which this CD was created. The talented roster reads as a who's who of progressive rock including the vocal talents of James Labrie (Dream Theater), Michael Sadler (ex-Saga), Lana Lane and John Payne (recent Asia, GPS). With music written by Erik Norlander and a fine cast of supporting musicians, the expectations were very high indeed and I am happy to say this CD is a delight to listen to.

The album's concept is similar to some of Ayreon's other worldly exploits, however, instead of exploring a space theme, Anderson's epic fantasy occurs on more solid ground. The concept takes place on a fictional world where two continents (Tierra and Uraba) fight to control the known world. Suffice to say the story is quite elaborate and worth exploring in greater detail but I will leave that up to you.

If you like dramatic music you need to listen to Roswell Six. With feet firmly entrenched in bombastic rock the players really delivery a tour d force. The metal riffs mix beautifully with Norlander's ambitious orchestrations. His playing is excellent throughout and is complimented by violin and cello, performed by David Ragsdale and Mike Alvarez respectively, adding a certain warmth to the sound.

"Ishalem", the album's longest song begins the story in fine fashion with Norlander's dramatic organ sounds and melodic backing vocals. Heavy guitar riffs, strong vocals from Labrie and Lane and a lovely violin solo makes this a heavy prog delight. The layered multi part vocals remind me a little of Queen. The progressive metal of "The Call of the Sea" featuring the vocals of Lane and Norlander's fine symphonic arrangement, is pretty accessible ear candy but still enjoyable. Sadler's vocal performance is nothing short of awesome especially in the poignant "Message in a Bottle" a mellow piece featuring acoustic guitar and a gorgeous string arrangement. The Zeppelin inspired "Here Be Monsters" with its slow plodding Kashmir-like guitar riff is another highlight and showcases another excellent vocal performance from Sadler, Lane and Payne. The guitar work of Gary Wehrkamp and the soaring vocals of Lane make "Halfway" another melodic rock gem. Wehrkamp's signature guitar can be heard throughout the album. The disc ends on a strong note with "The Edge of the World" where lighter shades of melodic keys meet heavy Zeppelin-like riffs.

Although not the most original release I have heard this year, I found Terra Incognita: Beyond the Horizon extremely well executed and professional in every facet and has remained a permanent fixture in my CD player since I brought it home. I strongly recommend this album to purveyors of heavy progressive rock and operatic progressive metal. Fans of melodic rock should also take note. Enjoy!


Roswell Six: Terra Incognita-Beyond the Horizon
Posted by Duncan Glenday, SoT Staff Writer on 2009-05-22 16:05:07
My Score:

The album starts with a rich church organ, followed by military drums and a chanting male chorus - then breaks into a strong riff snapped off the bass strings ... and you know this is going to be interesting!

And to add to the interest, have a look at the album's (probably) unique pedigree:
A best-selling author has written a book, due for release in early June (The Edge Of The World by Kevin James Anderson.) At the same time, he wrote lyrics for a concept album that picks up on book's the main story line. Progrock Records assembled a project that includes many of its luminaries, and among them they produced a progressive opus that will - in the label's words - have tremendous "crossover" appeal.

The project is called Roswell Six and this first release is long, it's proggy, it has a metallic edge, it features excellent musicians with powerful contributions, and it's a sweeping epic that tells a sci-fi story of life, religious wars and romance on a distant planet. That may sound like one of the projects from a certain Dutch master of that genre - or it may sound suspiciously similar to another Progrock project, Amaran's Plight.

The production and the overall idea were courtesy of Shawn Gordon. The lyrics were from author Kevin Anderson and his wife Rebecca Moesta. The music was written by Erik Norlander. And the all-star lineup includes James Labrie (Dream Theater), Michael Sadler (Saga), John Payne (Asia, GPS) and Lana Lane on vocals. Keyboards are courtesy of Erik Norlander (Rocket Scientists), guitarwork is from Gary Wehrkamp (Shadow Gallery) and Chris Brown (Ghost Circus), Kurt Barabas (Under The Sun) plays bass, Chris Quirarte (Prymary) plays drums, Kansas's David Ragsdale is on violin, Mike Alvarez on cello, and IQ's Martin Orford on flute. And if you don't think that's an all-star cast, then consider this: Anderson has sold over 20 million books in 25 languages, and among them, the creative team have sold over 40 million copies.

The music itself is well written and richly layered, and each singer portrays a different character in the storyline. The overwhelming focus is on clean and memorable melodies, and the sophisticated production, the evolving song structures and the variety provided by the wide cast of artists yields a body of music that is at once approachable, and nicely "progressive" in its overall composition.

Opening track, the 11-minute "Ishalem", sets the tone for the album - the choral vocals may not have universal appeal, but they're limited and it quickly morphs into a constantly developing piece with nice structures, and David Ragsdale's violin adds a wonderful dimension of sophistication. Lana Lane is one of the very few woman vocalists since Heart's Ann Wilson who can successfully - and credibly - front metallic music with feminine mid-range vocals, and her singing is one of the key elements of Terra Incognita: Beyond The Horizon.

"Letters In A Bottle" is a standout piece - a power ballad that starts with elegant violin & cello over acoustic guitar., then Michael Sadler's delivery showing why he was such a commercial success for so many years. Wonderfully expressive singing, describing a love letter the singer hopes will find its way to his lady. The closing track - with the same name as the book that was the album's genesis - starts with dark tones, and quickly builds into an upbeat, optimistic reprise of many of the album's themes - a solid all-instrumental encore piece that closes out with a few bars of Lana Lane's soulful crooning.

Powerful.

This kind of music may not be groundbreaking but it's an interesting take on a popular style, wonderfully executed, and those catchy melodies will stay with you long after the CD has stopped spinning.

If we'd had the time we'd have read the book and played the music at the same time - to experience all aspects of this body of work a single, consolidated experience. That opportunity didn't arise, but it would be a nice exercise at some time in the future.

Recommended to fans of operatic, hard-edged, melodic progressive rock.




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