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Progressive motions without progression - 31%

Napero, November 18th, 2009

Exhibition's one and only full-length, The Sign of Tomorrow, is supposed to be progressive metal, and somehow this piece of music has ended up in the bargain bins as far away from the origins as Finland. How the shiny pieces of plastic managed to get produced, shipped, handled, tagged with the price, stored and finally sold at the price of 18 cents (euro, not US$) is a mystery, but the price range seems to be rather convenient and fitting match to the quality found on the CDs. You get what you pay for.

Exhibition goes through the motions of making progressive metal, and on the first spin, they even sound like they actually played something like it. The production, vocals, and the chosen instrument sounds are familiar from dozens of proggy metal bands, and a sample of, say, 2 seconds might well fool an occasional listener not too well versed in progressive metal to accept it as a fact if someone claimed the band in question is Dream Theater. But, unfortunately, that's pretty much it, as far as progessive metal goes.

Exhibition's main problem as a prog metal band is the lack of prog in their music. Progressive metal, while often sticking to various conventions soundwise, is based on ideas that progress from the norm, and executing then with a certain level of expected technicality and, you know, generally progressing somewhere, and Exhibition has too few of those ideas. The Sign of Tomorrow does not revel in odd time signatures, the songs on it do not progress from their rather run-of-the-mill basic structures, and the technicality has settled on the "decent band" level. As progressive metal, Exhibition displays very little in the way of anything progressive, and that's rather boring, to be honest. This album is almost 20 years late, and everything heard here has been done a thousand times, often by bands that cannot be considered progressive, but rather mainstream metal bands.

Well, does it work as non-progressive metal? The answer, depending on the listener's taste, is "maybe". There's nothing really wrong with their music, but it isn't remotely interesting, either, and lacks hooks that might grab attention. The guitarwork is decent, the bass and drums do their work, and the vocals, perhaps the element closest to the music of better-known progressive metal bands, are all right. The vocals do suffer from the occasional falsettos that seem more like things the band has assumed are an integral, unavoidable part of their chose genre, but turn out to be mildly annoying things glued onto the songs. They serve little purpose, and the album might be better background music without them.

Sometimes bands that can't pack enough progressive elements into their music turn into power metal or some more aggressive subgenre to reinforce their music and cater to some other audience than the pure prog crowd. Exhibition fails to do that, too. They keep their sound faithful to the progressive metal traditions, and end up sounding like one of the scandinavian light-weight prog metal bands, the easy-listening alternative for those who want their prog to be easy to digest and non-thought provoking. Only, well, those bands at least have the progressive component somewhere. Exhibition lack aggression and speed as well, not just the prog part.

The Sign of Tomorrow goes through the motions, but turns out extremely boring. It's not toxic waste, or even trash, really, but on the other hand, it offers too few interesting moments and ends up filed under "dull" on the CD rack. Well worth the 0.18 €, but not much more.