The Dark Third
REVIEW BY: Benjamin Ray
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 09/01/2006
I guarantee the following sentence has never been written in the English language before: Pure Reason Revolution is the musical successor to Gentle Giant.
If that sentence made any sense to you, then you will enjoy this CD. If not, then there's always hope your love of early Genesis or early Pink Floyd, or even Dream Theater and Marillion, will propel you to buy this. Because as far as modern progressive rock goes, it's quite good.
For an album to be considered "progressive" the way prog-heads think of it, it must contain at least one song over 10 minutes, undecipherable lyrics about mythology or fantasy, and long winding instrumental passages with virtuoso playing. The Dark Third has all of that, firmly playing by the progressive rules, but there's something refreshing about a band with no intentions of making a commercially viable disc.
This is one of those that takes time to sink in, like any good prog release, and its rewards are revealed on multiple listens. The winding instrumental opener "Aeropause" has the effortless laid-back rock of early Pink Floyd, sort of like "Interstellar Overdrive" but with a firm grip on reality. It segues into "Goshen's Remains," which is where the Gentle Giant reference comes into play; a somewhat medeival yet somewhat rocking sound, with high-pitched twee vocals singing about a lady named Goshen in lyrics that recall Walt Whitman's style of poetry, if you managed to stay awake in English class during "Leaves of Grass." Sample lyric: "Clear words child! Far away plans! / The skies sublime Lunation toward the setting sun / With eyes of pained dilation toward the fragile sun." At least the music is interesting.
This sort of medieval nonsense carried over into "Apprentice of the Universe," which sounds like a musically paler version of the first two songs and features equally dumb lyrics: "Lime and limpid dream colonize / waste the silent orders." (Trivia: What Pink Floyd song begins with the exact same three words?) "Nimos and Tambos" is pretty cool, a sort of love story set to a Dream Theater-like tune, only with the guitars turned way down and the male/female harmonies turned up. The quick burst of synthesizer at the end makes the song, which ends at exactly the right time.
As stated, every good prog album needs an epic, and this one is a 12-minute piece on the "Bright Ambassadors of Morning." Don't ask what it's about, because I'm sure drugs were involved while writing the lyrics, but musically it's a very strong piece. Beginning with a languid drum and some soundscapes, the layered voices come in as another instrument; then, out of nowhere, the track explodes into the chorus. The best part is the middle instrumental break, featuring an all-over-the-place bass guitar soloing on top of a dreamy guitar part, while the drums urgently keep time and the keyboards play slight spacy themes. It's the coolest sound on the disc and it makes up for the stupid lyrics.
"Voices in Winter/In the Realms of the Divine" alternates between soft Floyd passages and noisy King Crimson interludes, to interesting effect, while "Bullits Dominae" is the closest thing here to a "single," sounding a tad like a happy version of Tool. "Arrival/The Intention Craft" has the same feel but is too long, while the closing epic "He Tried to Show Them Magic" rehashes the rest of the disc without offering anything new. Sample lyrics here, you ask? "Freed rediscover gleam-shattered colors / Scream then recover flash door tight claw / By chane in the night we're inside her / She eyes, no one speaks, the light of morning..."
So maybe Pure Reason Revolution has some lyric-writing to polish, but musically they have arrived, and fans of modern or classic progressive rock will definitely enjoy this. And the best part is that, although they merge several disparate prog styles, they somehow forge their own sound through the mess, putting them on par with modern proggers Dream Theater, Marillion, etc. If only the lyrics matched the brilliance of most of the music.