|Musical Style: Progressive Metal||Produced By: Gary Wehrkamp|
|Record Label: ProgRock||Country Of Origin: USA|
|Year Released: 2007||Artist Website:|
|Tracks: 13||Rating: 90%|
|Running Time: 78:54|
Amaran’s Plight, a progressive rock super group combining the talents of vocalist D.C. Cooper (Silent Force, ex-Royal Hunt) and Shadow Gallery guitarist Gary Wehrkamp, can trace its history back to the guest appearance Cooper made on Shadow Gallery’s 1998 release Tyranny (on the epic track “New World Order”). Fans of Shadow Gallery, of course, have longed for another collaboration between Cooper and Wehrkamp and on Voice In The Light, the 2007 full length debut of Amaran’s Plight, they have the perfect vehicle to showcase the abilities of the two. Actually, “symphonic progressive metal” might be the best way to describe Amaran’s Plight in that the band has created a work fans of Balance Of Power, Symphony X, Theocracy, Dream Theater and last, but certainly not least, Shadow Gallery will get into. Those whose musical tastes stray towards seventies classic rock bands such as Styx, Kansas and Yes, at the same time, will find a home here as well.
The Shadow Gallery comparison is not to be taken lightly in that Wehrkamp plays a major role in the projects songwriting. The album, as a result, reflects the trademark catchy melodies, vocal harmonies and guitar riffs that have delighted Shadow Gallery fans over the years. If anything, Voice In The Light proves in no uncertain terms that Wehrkamp is the mastermind behind Shadow Gallery’s melodic brand of progressive metal. If in doubt then check out “Coming Of Age”, “Viper”, “Betrayed By Love” and “Turning Point”, four tracks standing out with their huge chorus hooks. The group, notwithstanding, is at its best on the ten minute epics “Incident At Haldeman’s Lake”, “Shattered Dreams” and “Revelation”. Notable melodies, particularly on “Shattered Dreams”, abound on the three as well. In the end, despite coming in at over 78 minutes, Voice In The Light comes across as a well rounded effort that seamlessly flows from one track to the next, although the back to back ballads at its midway point, “Reflections Part I” and “I Promise You”, can be a bit anti-climactic.
D.C. Cooper puts forth a professional showing with a vocal delivery characterized by not only a great deal of power and range but emotion and passion as well. This is something best exhibited on the energetic “Viper” and ethereal tinged “Betrayed By Love”. All in all, in terms of comparable talent Cooper deserves mention with the likes of Rob Rock, Corey Brown (Magnitude 9) ), Lance King (Avian) and Tom Collete (Letter 7). The performance of Gary Wehrkamp is equally exemplary, specifically on the extended instrumental sections gracing the epics “Incident At Haldeman’s Lake” and “Shattered Dreams” (these two find him stretching and cutting loose with his melodic but technical soloing abilities). Rounding out the all star cast is accomplished drummer Nick D’Virgilio (Spocks Beard and Genesis) and bassist Kurt Barabas (Under the Sun). Guest lead vocal appearances are made by Michael Sadler (Saga) and Trishia O’Keefe.
Another key contributor to the project is executive producer and lyricist John W. Crawford. It must be noted that Voice In The Light, a “faith based” concept album dealing with one man’s search for answers following a near death experience, draws its storyline and lyrical direction from Crawford’s novel of the same title. More details can be found at: www.johnwcrawford.com/index.html.
Now, normally it is not my policy to go into a great amount of detail behind the lyrics to concept albums for fear of giving away whatever storyline is being conveyed. Nevertheless, when considering the subject matter at hand, I feel a certain amount of time and attention is warranted. The earlier moments to Voice In The Light (“Friends Forever” and “Coming Of Age”) deal with the relationship between the albums main character (John) and a childhood friend (Rachel), while the near death experience takes place on the aptly titled “Incident At Haldeman’s Lake”. The albums remaining material focuses on the characters previously referenced “search for answers” in question: songs such as “Tragedy In Truth”, “Shattered Dreams”, “Viper” (I do not need to let you know what this one is about), “Betrayed By Love” and “Turning Point” all seem to point to a spiritual journey. Things do not culminate, however, until the albums closing track, “Revelation”, as the end of the journey is finally reached:
All the groundwork is set
And what we learn from the Bible, we know
These are the words I believe
I guess you might describe Voice In The Light as not only detailing one man’s search for answers but his ultimately finding truth in the end.
The production values here, as one would expect, are of the pristine and polished variety.
“Room 316” is a short (1:33) but spirited instrumental album opener sustained by a blend of guitar and keyboards.
The ballad “Friends Forever”, serving to introduce the albums storyline and its two main characters, moves slowly ahead to a piano until a touch of rhythm guitar steps forward and takes things to their close in stylish fashion.
“Coming Of Age” delivers a progressive but melodic based sound that cannot help but bring to mind Balance Of Power. The song begins quietly before a hard hitting rhythm guitar abruptly takes over the mix, leading the way with full authority until a chorus advancing at a resolute but upbeat tempo is procured. The following best sums up the albums storyline:
This was a plan of divine circumstance
It is obvious our meeting was not by chance
The eleven minute “Incident At Haldeman’s Lake” is broken down into three parts:
The first, “Blades Of Denial”, puts in place a still and haunting environment its first verse only to pick up in pace as a determined rhythm guitar kicks in for the second. An intently delivered chorus is bolstered by a lush trace of vocal harmonies.
“Nex Per Res”, part two, is a lengthy instrumental allowing Wehrkamp to showcase his abilities on guitar. The song opens acoustically before an ardent blend of rhythm and lead guitar and bass holds sway over its final four minutes.
“Breath Of Life” closes out “Incident At Haldeman’s Lake” in hard rocking fashion. The rhythm guitar plays quite the commanding role here, creating an atmosphere of a near dignified if not stately capacity as the main character goes through the near death experience in question:
Been to a place that few have seen
Who was the voice in the light?
Why was I there? What did it mean?
Resurrected by a breath of life?
What we have in “Breath Of Life” is a beautiful song highlighted by a great deal of melody.
An acoustic guitar shores up the full extent of the classy ballad “Reflections Part I”. This is an emotional piece that hints at “Dust In The Wind” by Kansas. The only complaint is that I wish it were a few minutes longer.
A piano leads the way through the first verse of “I Promise You”, the second ballad in a row, before the rhythm guitar steps forward to back the flowing chorus that follows. Trishia O’Keefe puts forth a very fine performance in trading off on lead vocals with Cooper.
The instrumental “Consummation Opus” starts slowly and ominously to a blend of keyboards and bass until, as initiative is gained, the rhythm guitar imbues the mix with just the right amount of edge.
The guitar driven “Tragedy In Truth” serves as a brief mid-tempo interlude preceding the albums second epic, the thirteen minute “Shattered Dreams”.
A keyboard based introduction that builds in tempo gets “Shattered Dreams” underway. The tranquil ambience is maintained as a gently played guitar underlines the songs first verse, the pace picking up when the rhythm guitar kicks in and drives things to a chorus giving rise to an abundance of hook driven momentum. A seven minute instrumental section finds Wehrkamp adding lengthy stretches of melodic guitar harmony and intensely delivered lead guitar work. “Shattered Dreams”, a song that is perfect in every way, ranks with the best Shadow Gallery compositions every recorded. A crossroad is faced on the track:
Driven by this silent voice, driven by my eyes
I curse the hands of time that are tearing me apart
Now as I exit the haze of discern
I enter the crossroads of life
There is no time for penance or pity
The truth I can’t deny
The up-tempo hard rocker “Viper” reminds me of the Shadow Gallery track “Legacy” (off Legacy). The song commences to an energetic stretch of rhythm and lead guitar before powering through its first and second verse in a tenacious manner, not culminating until a catchy chorus reinforced by a hint of vocal harmonies is obtained. Another extended instrumental section showcases more adeptly played lead guitar. All in all, the hook here is huge and you will be challenged to rid it of your mind. “Viper” is aptly named:
A serpent comes to slaughter all their innocence with greed
Bottom feeder eating up selfish looking deeds
Emotionally bonded you lose all your self-control
As his fangs are sinking deep, deep into your soul
The instrumental section carrying “Betrayed By Love” through its first minute and a half begins to a keyboard solo that smoothly transitions to a crisp sounding rhythm guitar. Compelled through its first and second verse at a refined mid-tempo pace, the song decelerates even further for an atmospheric chorus guaranteed to pull you in with its elegant ardor. The instrument section closing the songs final two minutes starts acoustically before a sublimely played lead guitar takes over. “Betrayed By Love” continues the search for answers:
The bleeding hearts have been opened by all the truths that I’ve exposed
Besieged by all this mystery from all the pain that I’ve imposed
Engulfed in isolation, inside my world alone
Imprisoned by the secrecy, I do as I was shown
After quickly fading in, “Turning Point” moves forward at a guitar driven up-tempo pace. The song proceeds to settle down to a quietly played guitar line for its first verse, the untroubled setting held up prior to the rhythm guitar returning in time to fortify an acutely driven chorus of an infectious variety. Similar to “Viper”, the hook here is prevailing and almost comes across commercial in feel. A literal “turning point” is reached here:
By all accounts, we’re in the red
We’ve all been hanging by a thread
The secret it dwells inside of me
It’s barely alive but they cant’ see
“Revelation”, the albums third epic at just over thirteen minutes, features a guest lead vocal appearance by Michael Sadler. A blend of piano and orchestration gracefully introduces the song, the calm setting carrying over into its verse portions until the rhythm guitar makes its presence felt for a sublime chorus accentuated by the abundant feel to Sadler’s vocal delivery. A near perfect blend of guitar and keyboards underscores a two and a half minute instrumental section. As previously stated, the albums storyline reaches its culmination here:
The whispered truth has lead me to this revelation
My setting sun will turn the page
A prophecy born of grace and its dedication
My broken body will be shed
These hidden truths can lead you to salvation
The trumpets call will turn the page
Words of wisdom are cloaked in careful narration
‘Cause the fallen world soon shall pass
Review by: Andrew Rockwell
Track Listing: “Room 316” (1:33), “Friends Forever” (2:56), “Coming Of Age” (4:58), “Incident At Haldeman’s Lake” (11:34), “Reflections Part 1” (3:21), “I Promise You” (2:57), “Consummation Opus (4:24), “Truth And Tragedy” (2:57), “Shattered Dreams” (13:29), “Viper” ( 5:36), “Betrayed By Love” (7:16), “Turning Point” (4:48), “Revelation” (13:06)
D.C. Cooper – Lead Vocals
Gary Wehrkamp – Guitars & Keyboards
Kurt Barabas – Bass
Nick D’Virgilio- Drums
Michael Sadler – Lead Vocals
Trishia O’Keefe – Lead Vocals
Jim Robert, Joe Stone, Chris Alla – Guitars
Shawn Gordon - Keyboards
Also Reviewed: Shadow Gallery – Room V