Age Of Impact

Explorers Club

Magna Carta Records, 1998

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


I think we're nearing the saturation point of progressive-rock supergroup collaborations.

Oh, it was cool when Bozzio Levin Stevens put out their effort last year (and I do hope rumors of a second collaboration between them are true). Then there was Rudess Morgenstein Project last year. Levin's teaming with Bill Bruford was also a welcome addition to this year's releases. By the time Liquid Tension Experiment (featuring Mike Portnoy and Jordan Rudess) hit the market, I was starting to wonder if we were experiencing too much of a good thing.

Now comes the mother of all supergroups, Explorers Club, featuring Bozzio, Billy Sheehan, Dream Theater's John Petrucci (who also took part in Liquid Tension Experiment) Derek Sherinian and James LaBrie, just to name a few. And while musically this is a solid disc, it does seem to mark for me the fact that the supergroups are beginning to get a little out of hand. (I could name all the performers, but that would take a lot of space in the review. For a complete rundown of the players, check out my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Magna Carta's web site.)

How can I say this? Well, frankly, it's very hard for me to tell on these five songs who is performing what vocal or solo. Is that keyboard work being handled by Sherinian, Matt Guillory or Trent Gardner (Magellan)? Who did that vocal: Bret Douglas (Cairo), Matt Bradley (Dali's Dilemma), LaBrie, D.C. Cooper (Royal Hunt) or Gardner? Some fans of prog-rock will probably declare me ignorant for this reason; I guess I'd have to agree with them. But while I'd really like to know if that was Steve Howe handling the guitar work (the acoustic work from Howe and the nylon string guitar work from Frederick Clarke sound quite similar to my ears), in the end, it's the music that matters more.

Ah, the music. For progressive rock, Age Of Impact is nowhere near as bombastic as some might have expected it to be. The overall feel of the music is quite good, ranging from all-out rock ("Fate Speaks") to more introspective works ("Fading Fast", "No Returning"). Lyrically, I was not able to follow the preparation of man to step into the new millenium and the pitfalls that await. (Obviously people are more concerned about the Y2K computer glitch than I thought.) Pity - this might have been an interesting concept, had it been a little clearer in the presentation.

Age Of Impact could be considered a concept album, as pieces tend to blend into each other, and everything comes full circle to a point in the album's closer "Last Call" before it musically branches out into its own unique voice. And, unlike a lot of progressive rock albums I've listened to, if you're not paying attention, it will be finished before you're even aware that 53 minutes have passed. In this aspect alone, Age Of Impact stands out from some works I've listened to over the last decade.

Oh, don't get me wrong, I have nothing against progressive rock, nor am I against the creation of supergroups in the field. However, after seeing so many of them in the last twelve months, one wonders if Explorers Club should mark a moratorium on such pairings for a while, lest the whole concept get real stale real fast.

Age Of Impact is a solid effort from some of the genre's most talented musicians, and even though you need a scorecard to figure out who's playing which part, it's still very much worth checking out for the musical knowledge that emulates throughout the disc.

Rating: B

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 1998 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.