Reviewed by Nuno on 10 Nov 2003
I have been graced with the rare opportunity of listening to a new album still in its “raw”, unmastered version. While waiting for the final resulting sound, mastered by 4 time grammy award winner, Bob Katz, here are my thoughts about the new Visual Cliff experimental journey - Key to Eternity:
Taking a giant leap ahead of their first release, the Lyrics for the Living cd also reviewed here, Visual Cliff has made some changes that now prove themselves to be rightfully taken. The joining of Eric Fuller on Bass has allowed the replacing of programmed bass by the real thing. This replacement has worked as a real bonus, for the sound is now more concise and tight.
While Rob Klan on keyboards has also a more active role in this album than in the previous one, it is my opinion that the overall sound of Visual Cliff wraps around the excellent guitar work of Rob Perez and Rick Mals vivid drums. This last is really up the staircase of quality in this album. In fact, if I was already expecting a great performance by the guitar virtuoso R.Perez, it was the drumming by Rick Mals that blown me away. It is always tremendously rewarding to listen to a drum player that does not confine his work on providing a rhythmic sense to the tracks, but is able to add a soul to his playing and therefore expand the music to new emotional levels.
If the rhythmic section is very well accomplished in Key to Eternity is is mainly due to the fact there is a tight relation and synchronization between the drums and the bass. This is only achievable when there is a common driving force that leads the musicians.
Musically, this album continues the path of its predecessor, providing the listener with a thoughtful mix of Hard Prog, Fusion and pure Progressive moments. If at first listen it sounds pretty much focused on the (again) excellent guitar ability, with further exploration you begin to notice that the other instruments are essential keys to conjure the summery sonic experimentation that goes on.
Stating themselves as a Christian driven band, you may ask how does this reflects on an all instrumental work. Well, apart from the obvious artwork and track tittles, I really feel there is a continuous and omnipresent positive feeling in the music. Not only when calmer shores are visited but also when the tides get somehow more stormy. That positive hallow prevails, flooding the music in a continuous mood lifting attitude.
Maybe now more conscious and trained to provide a unique touch and a self determined sound to their music, still Visual Cliff can be found in the same sphere of musical direction as Tribal Tech Tones or ohm as a whole sounding experience or Vinnie Moore or Chris Poland if you consider the guitar playing style.
Nevertheless there is much more to this, as the band strives to break new ground in their own sound, experience melodic prog moments, hard fusion bursts and all that is in between.
The sound in this unmastered version is already pretty good, so I can only imagine what the final result can be, after the mastering of a master…
This album will only be available in a few weeks, but you can already order it from the bands site. If you are a hard prog/fusion fan, I can really recommend you to do that!