Release DetailsLABEL N/A
RELEASED ON 11/26/2006
Beneath An Alien Sky
posted on 2/2007 By:
Sweden's Prometheus is a progressive band playing it safe. As odd as it sounds, Beneath An Alien Sky features atmospheric progressive music without complicated and convoluted song structures. In a way, they're working within set confines (or limitations, depending on how you see it) for the majority of the album, those being a "basic" verse/bridge/chorus construction. The simplicity of this design enables them to embellish these straightforward sections with active bass lines and intricate leads on the keys. In a sense, it's almost as if Prometheus inhabits the middle ground between prog's focus on musicianship and pseudo-goth rock/metal's focus on hooks.
The big problem with playing it safe in this manner becomes clear after a few tracks: these songs lack variation. It's a dual-edged sword. Sure, Prometheus is free of the fat, the self-indulgent display of musicianship that cause some to despise prog's tangents, but one feels that they're a little too boxed in by form. For instance, the guitar is relegated to a support role, usually playing chunky riffs (what I like to call "metal marches," see the beginning of Opeth's "Master's Apprentices" for an example) or following the double bass-driven stutter. Certainly par for the course when it comes to bands with classical/symphonic elements (synth strings pop up from time to time), but the repetition of these ideas from track to track makes the release sound rather one-note. That means, even with the contrast of the busy bass and keys, the music tends to fade into the background, seemingly only there to be accompaniment for the vocal hooks.
Granted, for a lot of listeners, enjoyment hinges solely on how good those vocal hooks are. Those that like their vocalists to be, for lack of a better phrase, operatic divas need not apply. However, to say that Sharon Lind is not a good vocalist based exclusively on those terms is missing the point. Her pleasing timbre is unadorned by extravagant virtuosic vocal acrobatics, which fits the band's overall M.O. well. Think of a simplified Julie Kiss or Diana Serra. When Prometheus creeps into heavier territory, it's hard to shake the visual of a furrowed brow and a slight sneer growing on Ms. Lind's face as her voice slides closer to a younger Kristin Hersh type (though, obviously, not nearly as dramatic). Again, like the rest of the band, she knows what her place in the music is and she seems to be unwilling to push her given boundaries.
As previously stated, the deal breaker on Beneath an Alien Sky is how you feel about the band sitting in their comfort zone for forty minutes. Prometheus never falls in the pits that plague their lesser peers, but because they don't take chances, because they don't take the opportunity to be truly progressive, they never hit the upper level that the top tier bands consistently reach. The best moment, "Endgame," is a three and a half minute rocker that matches an appropriate build up with the album's best hook; easy to grasp, easy to understand, and it's worthy of getting pressed as a single. That's Beneath an Alien Sky's whole story in a nutshell. Madder Mortem they are not, but at least they've created a solid base to build upon.
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