Shadow Gallery - Room V

10 songs
79:18 minutes
***** ***


A lot of contemporary prog rock or metal bands are hastily dismissed as followers of the Dream Theater movement. This would be unfair in the case of Shadow Gallery who released their debut in the same year that gave us with Images And Words the album that started the trend. If Shadow Gallery had been busier releasing albums, they might be at the top right next to DT, but as things are, Room V is the band's fifth album in thirteen years, with the last album lying already four years back. Possibly not the best way to get people used to you...

Room V is a concept album in two acts, continuing the story from the band's third album Tyranny (1998). Not than anyone remembers that story, and I doubt that many people want to know what this is all about. That's why we get to the music, which is in a few ways different from their last album. First of all, the regular songs are this time only between six and nine minutes long, you won't find a mammoth twenty or thirty-plus minute epic song. Act III, consisting of the first seven tracks, is the shorter one, with thirty minutes running time, and in my opinion shows all that makes Shadow Gallery so great. Starting with a short but violent instrumental, the band segues into Comfort Me, a mellow duet with a female guest vocalist. The Andromeda Strain is so commercially melodic that only few prog bands would dare to record such a piece, but it's the overwhelming harmony vocals and the parallels to Midwestern Seventies prog (do I have to say: Kansas), that show how elegantly Shadow Gallery pull a bridge from arena prog rock to technical prog metal. Vow is another melodic track, neatly crossing the eight minute length. Two short instrumentals lead to a shorter piece, picking up the leitmotif and ending the first part of the album.

Act IV gives us more of the same, this time forty-five minutes long, meaning that there are this time more regular songs, and emphasising the band's heavier side, making it probably more accessible for your general Dream Theater fan, but in my opinion giving up what makes them so unique and original in the first place. Not exactly devoid of highlights (Room V and Rain still rock the house), but neither achieving the compositional greatness of the first part.

Room V should be on the buy-list of every self-respecting prog fan. You should fall in love with the first thirty minutes, and still enjoy the remaining tracks.

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