Room V

Shadow Gallery

How do you describe a masterpiece? How can you write down on paper (on a […]
By Michael Dalakos
April 30, 2005
Shadow Gallery - Room V album cover

How do you describe a masterpiece? How can you write down on paper (on a word editor in our case) the feelings you get from heavenly music? Why do bands like Shadow Gallery exist only every once in a million? Why is it that every time a trendy music jerk starts talking crap about Metal I want to stick a Shadow Gallery album up his... mouth? So many questions. Ladies and gentlemen: salvation has been reborn! The new Shadow Gallery album is in our hands. Room V has taken seizure of my stereo and I don't know when I will get to listen to the rest 100 CDs I have for review.
Shadow Gallery is simply the best Progressive Metal act having exploded in the Metal scene during the last fifteen years. Don't let people tell you you should listen this and that. All you have to do is to purchase the discography of this mega act and you will be covered. What may require a million lifetimes for other bands to achieve, those Americans have conquered it with their first album back in 1992. From there on the band keeps releasing outstanding albums every three - four years.
They have toped everything with their Tyranny CD in 1998, a concept album about two individuals realizing the disintegration of the system and their attempt to tear it down. Tyranny is simply one of the best concept albums (musically and as a story) standing side by side with colossal releases such as Operation: Mindcrime from Queensryche and Mental Reservation by Scanner. Well, their brand new Room V is the follow up to this concept. Its timeline kicks in eight hours after the end of the first concept album. The album is divided in two acts (like the first album was).
I could spend countless hours talking about the splendor of this band's music. I could simply summarize it by DARING to say that Shadow Gallery is for Metal what Queen was for Rock. It's simple as that. If you can assimilate this, good for you. As the band says Those who have ears listen, it's much more than music. Sadly I don't have the lyrics to Room V so I can't really speak about them. I have figured out some things concerning the song titles and some scattered lyrics I caught here and there. What follows is a breakdown of the album. I tried to explain as good as possible what the listener will listen in each song. There is a fragmentation in my thoughts for each song. Sorry about this but I wrote my thoughts for each song while I was listen to it. So this is kind of a real time review. I've listened to the album for about five times before I started writing about it. Still as with every Shadow Gallery release I am pretty sure that I will discover lots of more details as time passes by. However I hope all fans of the band will find the following presentation interesting. So, here we go!
Manhunt: A short intro, starts in a quite furious way to only to slow down in the middle and be enhanced by a wonderful piano part.
Comfort: the first song of the album is an amazing mid tempo / ballad where Mike Baker duets once again with Laura Jager (we have also heard her in the Tyranny album). There is a short use of flute while the song has a nice break with a colorful guitar solo. The refrain can be described as redeeming. There is a short contrapuntal part in the end (repeated below the refrain).
The Andromeda Strain: The first heavy song of the album. Though the song sounds quite modern, the refrain is classic Shadow Gallery bringing in mind the refrain of Mystery (from Tyranny). The guitars are really heavy while the keyboards unravel some really cool ideas. I have never heard Baker sing this low in the past. There's an interesting brake with faster drums adding a lot of dynamics in the song. After that the song slows down, gets moody with the usual keyboards / guitars combination. Definitely this is a really modern oriented song.
Vow: Starts as a ballad where the vocals paving the way. It brings in mind a bit of Don't Ever Cry, Just Remember (from Carved In Stone). Quite a chill out song, it gets a bit heavier in the refrain. The song manages to create a feeling of uncertainty especially from its fourth minute with the vocals harmonies and the climaxing guitar riff.
Birth Of A Daughter / Death Of A Mother: These are actually two short instrumental tracks trying to describe two very important events in the story line of the concept. As you can imagine the first one is a warm song while the second one sounds like an omen of all the bad things are going to happen from now on. The first song has an extensive use of acoustic guitar while the keys create an amazing depth in the background. Then it gets really heavy with fast drumming. In the end the song gets a pick and breaks down to a quite dramatic / dark guitar riff. This is the beginning of the second song. There is an extensive use of piano (quite experimental approach I must say). The guitar kicks in with a great solo.  
Lamentia: this is also a short song. It is based on piano and the magnificent voice of Baker. Listen him crying with his known melodic voice And now you've gone away, I beg you babe, please don't go. This one lasts only a minute but feels like a lifetime. Brings in mind Broken (from Tyranny).
Act IV
Seven Years: This is another instrumental track. The song starts with acoustic guitars and keyboards. It has an epic vibe through its duration.
Dark: This is actually a quick intro for the next song. It manages to put you in motion for what is about to happen.
Torn: The song goes on as a dark mid tempo, mostly atmospheric, theme where Baker delivers once again an amazing performance. There is a polyphonic part somewhere in the middle and in the end. Though this can be considered as a low profile song it has a strong vibe mostly by the moody vocals performance. Hey it also lasts around eight minutes!
 The Archer of Ben Salem: The song kicks in quite heavy. Slow paced with heavy drumming while the keyboards add depth, it brings in mind a bit the music concept of Cliffhanger (from Carved In Stone)? Yeah I think so. It gets a bit faster but keeps an epic feeling through its duration. Probably one of the heaviest songs in the album, also one of the most straight metal songs in here. It has a lengthy instrumental part in the end.  
Encrypted: based in the vocal lines of Mike Baker Encrypted is a messenger of the chaos about to strike with the next song. It is an atmospheric breath before the storm. It reminded me a bit of Roads Of Thunder (from Tyranny especially the bridge of the song).
Room V: The storm I mentioned before. Really heavy song, groovy with catchy vocal lines. Not too fast but with amazing refrain. The guitars have a really heavy rhythm, brings in mind the first couple parts of Ghostship. It gets a little bit faster in the guitar solo parts but drops again its speed to repeat the refrain melody lines (right after the solo, without vocals this time at first).   
Rain: the closing song. The end of the saga? It has a lengthy instrumental start (roughly two minutes). Mike Baker delivers once again the goods. At times it brings in mind the melodic lines of I Believe and Victims. This song managed to leave a bitter-sweet feeling to the listener.
There you have it. My thoughts about the brand new Shadow Gallery album. I know there are things I have neglected probably to mention. Sorry but it takes more than five listening sessions to speak with 100% certainty about such a wonderful album. What more can I say? Patience till the end of May!

10 / 10


"Room V" Track-listing:

Comfort Me
The Andromeda Strain
Birth of a Daughter
Death of a Mother
Seven Years
The Archer of Ben Salem
Room V

Shadow Gallery Lineup:

Gary Wehrkamp - Guitar, Keyboards, Piano & Vocals
Carl Cadden James - Bass, Flute & Vocals
Mike Baker - Lead Vocals
Brendt Allmann - Guitar & Vocals
Chris Ingles - Piano & Keyboards
Joe Nevolo - Drums

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