This Massachussets quartet (soon adding a full time keyboard player, if the rumors are correct) have been playing together since 2001. An Other Life is the band's debut disc. The heart and soul of the band (more on the soul later) is guitarist, keyboardist, vocalist, lyricist, producer Michael Tenenbaum. His nimble fretwork permeates the disc's four lengthy tracks from start to finish; accentuated with sparse, yet tasteful keyboard excursions.
The disc opens with the title track. "An Other Life" is a 16:36 excursion into the realm of Akacia's harder edged sound, at times reminiscent of pre-2112 Rush. Vocalist Eric Taylor does have certain power and range problems, but his voice is not unpleasant and he does seem to come across stronger on subsequent tracks. The lyrics (and here's where we return to the soul) are heavily entrenched in Christian beliefs. I am not speaking of vague spiritual innuendos here, but full-fledged "Jesus is the Light" worshipping. This may be a deterrent to some, and I usually don't go for this type of preaching, but in judging the lyrics of so much popular music these days, this uplifting message goes over fairly well .
The second track "Mary" is the shortest number on the disc. It has an almost R& B feel to it, similar to early American hard rock bands such as The Doobie Bros. More religious lyrics (I believe it's about The Virgin Mary or Mary Magdalene- no lyrics sheet included with the disc).
Track number three "Hold Me" may be the most solid one on the disc. Mr Tenenbaum showcases a very bluesy and soulful side to his guitar playing. It begins rather softly with a David Gilmour type intro and slowly builds to a cresendo with a chop heavy solo, before shifting gears with the introduction of the keyboards and a very funky bass line. Interspersed with Jimi Hendrix-like psychedelia in the middle portion, this track really grooves.
This brings us to the album closer, the epic "Journal" which clocks in at 22:41 . This may be the proggiest track on the disc. It opens with a very Chris Squire-like bass line , and some pleasant keyboards, before more Christian lyrics are introduced. Sub-divided into 7 sections, the track acts as a great vehicle for the band to show it's many sides. Although the track is very lyric-heavy in a Neo prog kind of way, there are still a few instrumental passages where Mr Tenebaum can display his fairly honed chops.
Akacia may be a little rough around the edges but they show plenty of promise. The addition of a full time keyboard player ,and playing live whenever possible, can surely help this band round out and tighten it's sound. Perhaps a vocal coach for Mr Naylor would help him reach some of the higher notes and really bring the lyrical message across with more conviction. They've recently signed on with the great French label Musea to distribute An Other Life and that can only mean brighter days ahead for this band.