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One Of 2009's Biggest Surprises - 92%

pinpals, July 31st, 2009

I’ll be honest, I had never heard of the Roswell Six project before I had been assigned this review, but boy am I glad I got the opportunity to hear "Terra Incognita: Beyond The Horizon". The idea behind the project is that this album would be a concept album where the story is written by bestselling author Kevin J. Anderson and his wife, also a successful author, Rebecca Moesta. There is an accompanying book of the same name that was released, and if the in-depth liner notes are any indication, then this book is a must-read. The album does include liner notes that explain what is going on with the story during each song. They are quite thorough, so one does not need to get the book to understand the story or concept.

This review, however, is about the music. Said music was composed by keyboard extraordinaire Erik Norlander, who aside from his solo work might be known for his contributions to his wife’s Lana Lane’s band or from the band Rocket Scientists. It features guests such as Dream Theater vocalist James LaBrie, Michael Sadler, who was in 70s and 80s prog rockers Saga, John Payne from Asia and the aforementioned Lana Lane. On guitar is Shadow Gallery guitarist Gary Wehrkamp and Redemption’s Chris Quirarte is on drums.

The music is very keyboard driven, but do not let that discourage, because the music is top-notch and the keyboards never drift into self-indulgence. They really bring to life the story, which involves floating sail-boats, sea-voyages, war and a truly touching love story. One can see the images of the hero of the book going off to sea in "The Call Of The Sea". The music itself is hardly metal, a better description would be "progressive rock". Unlike many modern progressive bands that copy the sound of 70s bands like Yes, the music in here is quite unique, drawing from earlier influences without replicating them. The results are just outstanding. "The Call Of The Sea" and "Here Be Monsters" have themes that stayed in my head for days afterward. Both are outstanding compositions. "Ishalem" is an appropriate epic opener and "The Edge Of The World" is an instrumental closer that replays earlier themes; almost like an overture.

As previously mentioned, the keyboards are prominent, but guitar riffs are present as well. The musicians never go off into crazy time signatures and instead service and enhance the story. There are a few guitar and keyboard solos on the album, but the listener will find that the most enjoyment comes from the songs as a whole. The guest singers are all fantastic, especially LaBrie, who is usually hit-or-miss most of the time. There are most likely parts that will stick out on the first few listens, but the real rewards come with patience and repeated listens, yielding an album that gets better and better as time goes on.

This project is a resounding success. The story ends leaving me wanting more; I really hope that there is a sequel planned. This is not exactly metal, but all metal-heads reading this are encouraged to give this a few spins, I guarantee you will be hooked. Personally, I will be heading to the local library or bookstore to see if the accompanying book is there so I can read the whole thing (while spinning this CD of course). I almost missed out on this amazing project, don’t make the same mistake as me.

(Originally published at www.metal-temple.com)