Magna Carta Records MA-9047
Legacy (released April 10, 2001)
Over the course of three great albums, Shadow Gallery have become one of the most beloved bands in progressive metal. In a field filled with sound-alikes, they have done something that few have managed to they've created a sound that is clearly their own. There is absolutely no mistaking Shadow Gallery for anybody else.
Shadow Gallery is a band which thrives on challenges, and always have. Mike Baker and Carl Cadden-James paid their dues in the 1980's in the band Sorcerer, flawlessly pulling off cover songs that other bands wouldn't even touch Malmsteen, Rush, and the like. The band was signed to Magna Carta in mid-1991 they were only the second band to be signed by the label and two years later, with the addition of guitarist/keyboardist Gary Wehrkamp, the lineup was in place. Shadow Gallery was born.
1993's self-titled debut resonated within a community which was just beginning to discover itself; the progressive underground was starting to connect, driven by artists like Shadow Gallery and Magellan. By the time 1995's Carved in Stone rolled around, that underground had discovered that great progressive music was still being made. The album was an enormous critical success; its epic sound and movie-like structure won the hearts and minds of intelligent metal fans everywhere.
In 1998, the band released Tyranny, a full-on concept album that was their most ambitious stroke to date. Hailed by power prog fans around the world as a masterpiece, Tyranny took the band to new creative heights - and left fans eager to hear what they would accomplish next.
Finally, a new album is here, and like every disc before it, Legacy takes the signature sound of Shadow Gallery a step forward. The hallmarks of the Shadow Gallery sound are present in full force on Legacy, and more impressive than ever: gorgeous piano-centric compositions, larger-than-life vocal harmonies, melodies that resonate in your head after first listen, and that lush, lovely, clean audiophile production that this band is so well known for. This album will make you want to buy those big, expensive speakers you've been eyeing for so long.
Power prog bands often live or die by their vocalist; in many cases, the listener's crucial first impression is formed by the singer. Here is an area where Shadow Gallery excels: Mike Baker is a vocalist of staggering maturity, unwilling to wail and belt for attention when a more sublime melody is what is called for. Too often, power prog music is not much more than vehicle for the singer's histrionics; in the case of Shadow Gallery, the vocals are a part - a crucial part, but still just one part - of the composition as a whole.
Equally important to the band's sound is their skill at crafting unusual harmony vocals. "Wall of sound" is not too strong a descriptor for the Shadow Gallery harmony approach - choruses that sound like they're sung by a huge choir, immaculately arranged and incredibly stirring.
And of course, the standard of musicianship is as high as ever. From the metal drive of "Society of the Mind," built around lyrics which transcend the dungeons-and dragons imagery of much prog, to the almost half-hour "First Light," one common thread runs: the music is the key. These are songs written with loving care, honed and refined until perfect.
Long-time Shadow Gallery aficionados will appreciate the musical and lyrical nods to the band's past. The opening track, for instance, is "Cliffhanger 2," picking up a story line laid down six years ago on the Carved in Stone disc. It's more than just a continuation: melodies and imagery from the first song are reworked in new ways, casting new light on existing musical ideas. Through such adventurous literary structure, the band proves that they are more than mere monsters of shred: these are storytellers.
All of the elements are in place on Legacy: rich and adventurous songwriting, adept musicianship, challenging melodies and invigorating choruses. In short, it's everything that you love about progressive metal, done with style and elegance to spare.