Age Of Impact
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Released July 28, 1998
Explorers Club on this expedition is:
Terry Bozzio, Billy Sheehan, Trent Gardner, Wayne Gardner, Brad Kaiser, James LaBrie, D.C. Cooper, Bret Douglas, Matt Bradley, John Petrucci, Steve Howe, Derek Sherinian, James Murphy, Michael Bemesderfer, Frederick Clarke, Matt Guillory
The monster classic album Union from Yes is probably the last time you've seen such an army of progressive rock royalty assembled in one place, to give a full vocals album wings to fly, in this case a far-reaching, universal concept album that charts man's struggle with his often unsavory motivations.
Magellan's Trent Gardner, along with Magna Carta's backroom deal-makers Peter Morticelli and Mike Varney, have brought this to fruition, finally actualizing a concept that has become a bit of a legendary grail in Magna Carta circles, one of Trent's flights of fancy that people joked would probably never happen.
Well the coop has flown, and Gardner's Explorers Club has somehow delivered Age Of Impact, a record that is the culmination of a life of prog rock proselytizing. "As a teenager I can remember continually listening to all the classic prog artists in this 'club'," Trent recalls fondly. "The 'rolling public address system' that trumpeted from my '75 Lemans courtesy of a cheesy cassette machine (at far above 90 decibels) forced every last riff possible upon the unsuspecting and often unappreciative ears of passing motorists with albums such as Thick As A Brick or Close To The Edge. I considered this more of a religious or sacred duty than I did an immature, juvenile prank. I even fantasized about how fun it would be to work with these musicians one day and have them execute a few of my own humble compositions, but with their blazing virtuosity."
Crack back to the present, and Trent has the services of a rhythm section to die for, Terry Bozzio (Zappa, UK, Missing Persons, Bozzio Levin Stevens) and Billy Sheehan (Talas, David Lee Roth, Mr. Big) laying the bed for a five part journey towards the apocalypse, the millennium, truth, fate, chaos, spirituality, human love, or possibly the mere peace of death. Sheehan is astoundingly un-Sheehan-like in this performance, revealing an art rock soul that opens more toward Chris Squire than the Gods of Shred. Bozzio has brought along a lifetime of futuristic thinking, mixing unique electric tones with a deft and witty sleight of hand that recalls Bruford's Crimson work from the early '80s.
From this base leaps a stunning array of relentlessly inventive guitar and keyboard work, all toiling to put flesh to the bone of Gardner's engaging, purifying tale of human struggle. Guitars are represented capably by a core contingent of Trent's brother and Magellan cohort Wayne Gardner, along with Dream Theater's John Petrucci, fresh from the kill with Liquid Tension Experiment. Other soloists lending power to the cause include none other than Yes' Steve Howe and Death's James Murphy, now a solo artist in his own right. Keyboards are mostly Trent's domain of course, while Dali's Dilemma's Matt Guillory and Dream Theater's Derek Sherinian also contribute.
Explorers Club's vocal army is just as impressive. Dali's Dilemma's Matt Bradley, Cairo's Bret Douglas, Dream Theater's James LaBrie, and Royal Hunt's D.C. Cooper deliver Trent's evolving, revolving tale of earthly redemption, often underscoring the tough, progressive metal aggression of tracks that are oddly and refreshingly arranged like the classics, Yes' Close To The Edge and Relayer, Genesis' The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway and Trick Of The Tale springing to mind.
All in all, it swings back to our original premise. Rarely, if ever, have we seen a collaboration of so many prog rock legends from all generations assemble for a record that is not instrumental; but one that makes real a large concept that looks enigmatically at mankind's fate from many angles, arriving (perhaps!) at the conclusion that man must participate toward the betterment of life here on earth, rather than fold his cards and accept misery.
The last word goes to Age Of Impact's overseer. Trent: "For many personal reasons, the timing for this project was exquisite. Most definitely this qualified as one of those 'special moments' I keep referring to. However, I feared that writing for musicians beyond my own level of expertise and clout was going to be an ever so slightly intimidating experience. Even though getting 'fired' from Magellan wasn't likely (given my good rapport with the keyboard player), taking this project on could definitely have put a major dent in the memory of my '75 Lemans, should I come up with some lame or pathetic material that madeus all look, wellless than awake. But in the end, Age of Impact turned out to be the most 'musical' fun I've ever had. Milking my creative juices so to speak, turned out to be an experience that I would highly recommend to others, although I would much prefer you milked your own and not mine (laughs). My most heartfelt thanks go to those involved."