Sound: In April 1998, something amazing was released. The musician? None other than the man himself Dan Swano, multi-musician and nationally renowned audio engineer. The cult classic Moontower has gained a fairly large group of followers who view the album nothing less than perfect, combining elements of Rush and the classic Dan Swano progressive-death metal sound, Dan Swano was even quoted describing it sounding like, If Rush played death metal in the 1970s. It was mastered by Peter In De Betou and released on Black Mark. Moontower is a remarkable display of ingenuity and imagination that is missing in today's music.
01. "Sun of the Night": 5:14 This opening track has an incredibly energetic sound right off the bat. The synth lead combined with the well constructed and bright sounding guitar riff grabs your attention early on. An interesting acoustic/piano transition is a very cool highlight of this song, but the real attention grabber is truly that opening riff. It's a shame this kind of progressive sound is no longer as prominent in this day.
02. "Patchworks": 4:59 Atmospheric keys greet you in this opener, followed by the ever so awesome/classic rock-organ during the verse. This song has a less progressive sound, and more of a straight up...[whatever genre this is] kinda sound. Not the highlight of the album, but definitely a good song.
03. "Uncreation": 5:40 a fan favorite. This dark concept song (about 'evolution in reverse' as Swano puts it) truly sets a grand mood of melancholy and hopelessness. The song later on leaves the dark sound behind for a terrific solo, followed by a brilliant break-down of sorts. By far one of the most memorable songs on the album.
04. "Add Reality": 6:17 Arguably the most popular song on this solo album, Add Reality is a very emotional song, utilizing Swano's flawless clean vocals for the first time on the album, something that had been missing thus far in the album. The incredible piano section/outro is simply stunning, and by far the highlight of not only the song, but the album as a whole. It remains one of my favorite songs, indulging in odd scales the mainstream bands of today are afraid to use.
05. "Creating Illusions": 4:13 a good beat, energetic sound, and overall great song, especially coming directly after the emotionally scarring Add Reality. An intriguing acoustic section phases in somewhere after the second chorus, followed by that Swano synth. No big highlights on this song besides the awesome lyrics, but we'll get to those later.
06. "The Big Sleep": 5:17 The coolest synth/guitar duel riff ever recorded in some time, and all in the name of talking about dying. This song has another great acoustic cut, with Swano plugging in his emotionally haunting lyrics once more. The Big Sleep will make your head bang when you hear the main riff, and your eyes water when you hear the emotion in Swano's voice during the acoustic interlude.
07. "Encounterparts [Instrumental]": 6:06 (encounter+counterpart) Easily compared to Rush's "YYZ" Encounterparts is a musically impressive effort created by the one man band Dan Swano, showcasing his talents not in a "Look how fast I can play and how amazing I can solo" kind of way, in the form of musical finesse. This song will at times make you sit back and just think, almost as if Swano created the song for you to find your own meaning, perhaps analyzing your own encounterparts (whatever that word means, ha.)?
08. "In Empty Phrases": 5:58 an incredible finalizing song, and my second personal favorite on the album. A Blue Oyster Cult-esq overdriven chord section kicks off the song, before entering an absolutely stunning main verse, utilizing Swano's overwhelming growls. The musical section is absolutely epic, filled with tons of progressions, and culminating into an ending as powerful as if it were the climax itself. // 9
Lyrics: Swano has always been a man of interesting lyrics. From fantasy based death metal ballads, to personally expressive acoustic jams, Swanos lyrics are never repetitive, nor are they anything remarkable. Although the songs on Moontower offer some interesting theories and insight on certain topics, Swanos lyrics don't always impress the way we wish they could. This is not to say that poetic masterpieces like Add Reality aren't great, but the album overall offers few quotable lines. On the other side of the spectrum, the lack of annoying 'catchy' lyrics is a plus, there is no corny-ness in this album. As far as the vocal delivery goes, perfect. In Moontower, Swano found a perfect balance between his growls and his cleans, only using the cleans sparingly, accentuating the importance of them. // 7
Overall Impression: Moontower is more than a great album, Moontower is an inspiring album. Unfortunately, the music industry lacks such creativity displayed by Dan Swano on his solo effort. It is a shame that there are no more than eight tracks on the album, but it is good to know that the album doesn't overdo it. I highly recommend Moontower for any metal fan looking for some cool innovations in the genre.
Whom this is for: Fans of metal, experimental work, synth leads.
Whom this is NOT for: Fans of fast beats, those not so into synth. // 9