Sound: Following the release of their first EP Ameliorate in 2008, An Endless Sporadic makes their return a year later in the form of their first full-length LP. On this, their second overall release, the progressive two-man project from California have finally managed to escape the garage so to speak, and have put out a work of art unlike any other to follow their critically acclaimed debut.
Those expecting a sound similar to that of Ameliorate will be in for quite a surprise. Whereas that release focused on sounding like a more modern version of Rush, this one takes a page from Pink Floyd's bible, if anything. The album still retains quite a few of the elements that made its predecessor so great, but also pushes an emphasis on projecting many slow, thoughtful moments as well. While Ameliorate touched on the band's softer side at certain instances throughout its 20-minute or so run-time, for the most part it focused on being up in the listeners face, pummeling them constantly with odd progressions and time signatures. On this release, it is quite the opposite, with multiple cues taken from Genesis, Yes, and the aforementioned Floyd utilized throughout, in addition to some Jazz influence on a couple of songs.
The entire album is one unified concept, making use of various themes and progressions that reappear in different songs over the course of the album, and allowing each song to seamlessly transition into the next to provide a sense of continuity. While there are no lyrics whatsoever, the music itself flows in a way that it seems to be telling a story even without words to describe it. I would compare it to listening to a score from a movie, one that rather than watching, can be pictured in the mind of the listener. Given Zach Kamins's studies at Berklee College of Music in writing film scores, it is more than an assumption this is what he and Andy were aiming for in creating this album. Because of this grand scale, the album is best listened to all in one sitting rather than listening to each song individually.
01. Waking Hours: This short piece serves as the intro to the album and the beginning of an epic story told only through music itself. It begins with the sound of birds chirping, followed by a very eerie acoustic chord being strummed continuously. The sound is very disorienting, contributing to the feeling of waking from a deep sleep as the title of the track suggests. Soon, wind chimes and keyboard enter, followed by a new, happier sounding chord progression which serves as one of the recurring themes of the album. The only issue here is that near the beginning of the song, they forgot to take out the sound of the metronome being played over in the studio, as it can be heard very faintly in the background under the acoustic guitar. Whether this was intentional or not, I do not know.
02. From the Blue: Transitioning straight from the somber intro, this song bursts into fast keyboards, complimented by equally powerful drumming. Later in the song, the keyboards and guitar begin to solo in unison, displaying the band's skill in full force.
03. Point of no Return: This is more like the second half of From the Blue. Heavy, proggy, and complete with a pretty cool guitar solo. Other than that, there's not much to it. Like I said, it's really half of a full song.
04. Shell: This is a beautiful, jazzy piano piece. It just gets so emotional after the one-minute mark. One of my personal favorites just because of how simplistic and soothing it is. The only problem I have is one similar to the metronome problem in Waking Hours. Here, every measure or so, there is some form of white noise in the background. I can't tell if it is a pair of maracas being shaken once, or some sort of electronic noise, but it takes your attention away from the piano enough that it proves to be a bit of an annoyance. It isn't nearly as noticeable listening to the song in stereo, but with earphones, it can be a little offsetting.
05. Treading Water: Continuing from Shell, here is another Jazz piano based song, but now with more prominent drums and bass. This one just sounds so cool, a lot like lounge music. By the end it gets even better with an awesome guitar solo with some definite John Petrucci influence. Another one of my favorites.
06. The Triangular Race Through Space: Beginning with a marching drumbeat and some very seventies keyboard work, this song slowly evolves into a shred fest, with all sorts of odd progressions and riffs included. Being one of the few truly guitar driven songs on the album, it is quite a standout.
07. Eternal Bloom: What Sun of Pearl was to Ameliorate, Eternal Bloom is to An Endless Sporadic's debut album. This one begins with some very soothing Spanish guitar leads, which already puts this track on the same level of beauty as Shell. Then, sometime after the two-minute mark, it transforms into a progressive masterpiece, with some of the best guitar work on the album. Eventually, it settles back down to normal tempo, and ends with more phenomenal solo work, and another central album theme being played. This is probably one of the best songs An Endless Sporadic has ever written and a must have for any progressive rock fan.
08. Subliminal Effect: The song begins as a reprise of Waking Hours, but with the chirping birds replaced with eerie pick scrapes and all sorts of weird effects. After the reprise is finished, the song becomes a groovy jam session for the keyboard to show off. This is mostly a transitional piece, and so it is relatively short. I do feel the second half of the song could have been extended a little however.
09. Beyond the Horizon: The grand finale. This one officially puts the brakes on the entire album and finishes up with some beautiful piano and keyboard work. It ends it all with the theme played at the end of Eternal Bloom, and then more birds chirping, perhaps taking a page from Dream Theater's Octavarium. The story ends where it began. // 9
Lyrics: As with Ameliorate, there are no lyrics at all. And why should there be? Why ruin such wonderful music with the imperfections of the human voice? I will pick a suitable score to average out the total.
And now, like the last AES album review, the lyrics section requires more filler to be posted. So here it is. // 8
Overall Impression: An Endless Sporadic's debut is not a perfect record, but it proves to be a very well-composed effort from a pair of immensely talented musicians nonetheless. Fans who are expecting the fast-paced onslaught of progressive music that Ameliorate was will probably be let down, but those who are not against opening their ears to different musical styles will find plenty of proggy goodness to tide them over. If for some reason you do not like the album after the first listen, I highly encourage you to listen to it more. Spend a few days with this album, it really grows on you. If this album were lost or stolen, I would buy it again no questions asked. Remember, support talented musicians! // 9