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Hourglass: Oblivious to the Obvious

If Hourglass wanted to really create some waves in the genre known as progressive metal, the way to do it is take nearly 5 years between releases and put together a masterpiece like Oblivious to the Obvious, a stunning 2CD set that contains everything that fans of the prog-metal style want and crave. That's right, a double CD set totalling 140 minutes of mind-bending music, squarely in the Dream Theater/Fates Warning/Vanden Plas mold, featuring soaring vocals, crunchy guitar work, lots of solos from both the guitar and keyboards, plenty of symphonic elements, and memorable melodies. And, did I mention epic? Well, silly me...yes, lots of long tracks abound on this one, including the monumental title track that takes up over 30 minutes on Disc 2.

As there is so much music here, don't expect all of Oblivious to the Obvious to sink in and connect with you on the first listen, or even the second. There's a lot to take in here, and much of it is demanding and extremely complex stuff. However, after multiple spins, the crushing riffage, the delicate keyboard passages, the mix of powerful and lush vocals, all start to play out. Hard to pick favorites, as this almost plays out like a complete, epic work, but lead off cut "On the Brink" is a manic, heavy slice of prog-metal heaven, and "Homeward Bound" offers up plenty of goergeous, melodic prog, somewhat in the style of classic Enchant. If you like intricate, complex metal with plenty of nuance, there's "Pawn II", and of course, the two major epics, "38th Floor" and the title track are amazing, extended journey's into well constructed, heavy prog, featuring some splendid ensemble playing from the guitar, bass, keyboards, and drums. I should also mention the excellent instrumental "Delirium", a fine place to hear all the musical virtuosity that this band possesses, though they show that throughout each and every track on this set. Kudos to singer Michael Turner, whose lead vocals are simply outstanding here, especially on the already mentioned "38th Floor", where his soulful crooning on the second half of the piece just sticks with you long after the song ends.

It's a shame that more people aren't talking about this one, as it's easily one of the highlights of 2009 so far, though surely to get eclipsed by the latest Dream Theater release when all is said and done. Hourglass are the real deal folks, and if you don't believe me, dive head first into Oblivious to the Obvious and find out for yourself.

Scary good!!

Track Listing
1 On the Brink
2 Homeward Bound
3 Pawn II
4 Faces
5 38th Floor
6 Facade
7 Skeletons
8 Estranged
9 Delirium
10 Oblivious to the Obvious - Part 1 - No Chance
11 Oblivious to the Obvious - Part 2 - Realization
12 Oblivious to the Obvious - Part 3 - Remember Me
13 Oblivious to the Obvious - Part 4 - In My Hands
14 Oblivious to the Obvious - Part 5 - Redemption

Added: June 25th 2009
Reviewer: Pete Pardo
Related Link: Band Website
Hits: 5744
Language: english

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Hourglass: Oblivious to the Obvious
Posted by Brad Fields on 2009-07-20 00:35:02
My Score:

I could not agree more with all of the praises for the new Hourglass masterpiece. I am in the middle of the prog rock genre, and have over 40,000 tunes on 6 ipods. I have loved Hourglasses music for years and am still amazed that this band keeps going unnoticed in this modern music age. Why they are not on the Prog. Nation tour this year with DT is a crime. These guys can definately hold their own against the prog greats out there.
Their new 2 cd set OTTO has elevated their status in my books. I must also give notice to the great bass playing on these songs. Eric shines on many of these songs. I hope that the wheels of media keep spinning in favor of this band so we can finally get a chance to see them arrive at the level they should be seen at..... The TOP!!!

Hourglass: Oblivious to the Obvious
Posted by Lane Miller on 2009-07-08 11:52:36
My Score:

Oblivious to the Obvious (OttO) is my first taste of Hourglass - and quite a meal it has been. No fast food or meat and potatoes progressive metal here. OttO is a ten course dining experience in a classy restaurant with an eclectic menu of diverse fine foods, a full range of flavors to stimulate the palate. The service is never rushed. Evening light through stained glass windows forms shadows among the paintings on the wall, a collection that captures the drama of life.

How many bands issue double CDs of all new material? Not many. The most obvious to strike comparison with is Dream Theater's Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence (6DoIT). Actually, such a comparison is not too far off base. Both lyrically probe the corners of the mind and the singularities of emotion. Both are dark, leaving feelings of uneasiness. Neither is confined in any way, certainly not to the 5 minute riff-verse-riff-verse-solo-verse compositional formula. Only three songs come in less than 10 minutes. Even with songs of this length, OttO is not hard to digest, while initially I did struggle with 6DoIT. Both OttO and 6DoIT have moments of the harshest hammering that progressive metal can deliver and moments of quiet elegance with a lighter than air buoyancy. However, don't get the idea that OttO is a 6DoIT rip-off. OttO is flooded with its own originality and personality. While I really like 6DoIT, I don't consider it among Dream Theater's best work. As bold as it may seem, I claim that OttO is better, which is saying a lot.

On the Brink starts off plowing through minutes of pure head banging, exercising multiple tempo changes. The sound is perfectly transparent allowing all the instruments to shine through. A brief piano interlude launches the song back into brash riffing - this time with choirs chanting overhead. Michael Turner's fine voice finally comes in with angst ridden lyrics. While almost all of the vocals throughout OttO are clean and melodic, there are brief moments of vocal cord overload. At the end of the first vocal passage, Turner lets loose with a throat grinder, belting out the title of the song. The instrumental section is dazzling with a combination of free ranging individual solos and structured duets. On the Brink concludes with voice upon lumbering riffage.

Eric Blood (cool name) takes a turn at the microphone on Homeward Bound. His voice is very different than Turners, but is no less melodic. At times, he sounds like Ian Anderson's twin brother while delivering a message to pull yourself out of the rut we all fall into at times. Brick Williams (an extra cool name) is an exceptional guitarist, possessing plenty of speed but always playing well within the artistic context of each song. His playing is often the basis of the changes in mood for OttO. Brick's solo in Homeward Bound soars with passion.

Pawn II starts off with beautiful Spanish guitar that builds to a heavy electric riff with refined piano flourishes from Jerry Stenquist. In fact, Stenquist and Williams set the standard for tastefully combining piano and heavy riffing. Pawn II winds through an evolving collage of sounds. Just when you thought you were listening to an instrumental piece, Turner delivers lyrics of being trapped in a hopeless, controlling relationship.

Faces floats on a flowing stream of melancholy. Turner's lovely voice brings a message of loneliness and emptiness amid the crowds. The 38th Floor finishes off Disc I with a 20 minute plus song of feelings similar to Faces. This time the emptiness is the over homogenized, robotic life in the corporate world where boredom and stress co-exist. Drummer John Dunston has plenty of opportunity to batter the entire kit as the intensity builds.

Disc II leads off with Façade - an exploration of true motives versus putting on a show and commitment to meeting expectations versus lip service. Brick brings out all of the effects: digital processing that sounds initially like keyboards and reminiscent of Robert Fripp, volume control swells, muted note riffing, solo phrases punctuated with pinched notes, and the good old wah wah pedal. With a heavy riff and Uriah Heep-like vocal layered buildup, Skeletons, less than 7 minutes, seems to pass in a blink of an eye. Estranged sounds doubly familiar with a tale of being abandoned and with melodies that are so easily consumed that your mind races to identify where you may have heard them before. Delirium is a lengthy instrumental. All instruments get a complete workout. Eric Blood, in particular, is all over the fret broad. As the title suggests, there is more than a bit of craziness here but a sense of class is never lost.

Now for the coup de grace... The title track, Oblivious to the Obvious, is an emotion laden epic. At over 30 minutes, Brick's lyrics, at the least, leave a hollow feeling in the stomach and, at most, bring feelings of hatred and guilt. The story is one of neglect and abuse breeding neglect and abuse. Abruptly confronted with mortality, hope to be remembered follows regret. The need for remembrance gives way to seeking forgiveness. Forgiveness brings the accountability to change. Commitment to change yields redemption. Musically, the composition opts for space over density. Mood prevails over technicality. It is hard to think of a song or an album where the bass is given such equal footing with guitar and keyboards - not the typical brief bone thrown to the thick string player. Blood certainly does not blow the opportunity. Oblivious to the Obvious concludes with an instrumental set perfectly to complete the journey though self examination and critique.

With the feast concluded and a satisfying aftertaste, Oblivious to the Obvious will, for me, be a contended for the Album of 2009. A measure of my satisfaction with OttO is that I have subsequently purchased both of Hourglass's previous releases. Further, I purchased two additional copies of OTTO for each of my prog metal sons, so that my copy doesn't disappear!

Track Listing:

Disc I
1) On the Brink 12:39
2) Homeward Bound 9:58
3) Pawn II 13:41
4) Faces 11:53
5) 38th Floor 21:22

Disc II
1) Façade 14:50
2) Skeletons 6:58
3) Estranged 7:05
4) Delirium 10:20
5) Oblivious to the Obvious 30:33

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