The Great Divide

Ice Age

Magna Carta Records, 1999

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


The more I listen to progressive music, the more I am getting convinced that this genre is the next flavor of heavy metal. And, if metal is indeed on a commercial upturn as other reviewers and I have been predicting for over a year, then this might be the way for progressive rock to finally step up to the plate again after almost 30 years out of the "superstar" mode.

If all of this comes to pass, then I would not be surprised to see Ice Age leading the pack. Their recently released album The Great Divide is a work that should make believers out of even the greatest skeptics, and should bring a lot of joy to listeners due to solid songwriting and performances.

Sounding uncannily like Styx in their heyday (albeit more progressive, less commercial), guitarist Jimmy Pappas, bassist Aaron DiCesare, vocalist/keyboardist Josh Pincus and drummer Hal Aponte take building blocks from such bands as Emerson, Lake & Palmer and Genesis, but they dare to throw in a little UFO, Iron Maiden and Metallica into the mix with a harder edge to the music. The end result is one that might surprise the die-hard prog-rock fans, but is a welcome breath of fresh air into the genre.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Tracks like "Sleepwalker" and "Join" hook the listener, thanks in no small part to Pincus's vocal similarities to Dennis DeYoung. (With DeYoung's recent health problems, I am very surprised that Styx didn't consider asking Pincus to tour with the band, and have Ice Age serve as the support act.) But if you think this is a Styx clone, think again; musically, Ice Age has their own agenda, and thanks to the interplay between Pincus's keyboards and Pappas's guitar licks, The Great Divide plows its own path and challenges the listener to accept this band on their terms.

The pure pleasure of the musicianship - as well as a gauge of how much fun the band is having - comes on the instrumental "Spare Chicken Parts", a number in which each band member is given a chance to strut their stuff. At times, Aponte's drum work reminds me a little bit of Rush's Neil Peart, although he doesn't go into all the complexities of percussion. (Good thing, too; if he did, people would say he was ripping Peart off.)

What is special about Ice Age is that they can launch into a song that is over 10 minutes in length, but the time seems to fly by. This is not something that every progressive band is able to do, and for Ice Age to nail this skill on album number one is very impressive. Songs like "Perpetual Child," "To Say Goodbye" (which is really two songs labeled as one) and "Ice Age" seem to pass like traditional radio singles - and they make for great repeat listens.

The Great Divide might not win over those who believe that progressive rock should be its own unique animal, and it may take some time before the metalheads really get into a disc like this. But if both camps gave it a fair shake, they might soon realize not only how much this disc complements each style, but how much each form of music has in common. (Seeing that I'm noticing a lot of progressive acts being tagged with a "metal" label as a description, it might be that people are waking up to this fact.)

The Great Divide is a solid debut effort from this quartet, and it makes me very excited about this band's future potential. Mark my words: if metal is truly making a comeback, Ice Age is going to be one of the bands that inject new blood into the genre's veins.

Rating: A-

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 1999 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Magna Carta Records, and is used for informational purposes only.