Shade Of Memories — Glaciers Of Tomorrow
Shade Of Memories is a one-man project from Renton, Seattle, founded and masterminded by multi-instrumentalist and vocalist Jay R. Pratt. And by multi-instrumentalist, I truly mean it. Jay takes care of seemingly everything on this album: all vocals, guitars, keys, drums, mixing, mastering, everything. In fact this has been a long-time labour of love for the musician. There are videos of him performing some of these songs live from over ten years ago, and the song Theater Of Infinity was apparently written as far back as 2004.
The music on offer here, and there is a lot of it, falls somewhere between the realms of power metal, classic heavy metal, and progressive metal, although the amount of each, is going to be difficult to determine. The album often throws everything at you, all at once. Imagine being at a progressive music festival and an army of beer-swilling, power metal fans have taken over the beer garden, to the extent that you can barely even see anything except for miles of Gamma Ray and Helloween shirts. This album would be their soundtrack.
I want to get this part out of the way now. Jay R. Pratt clearly takes himself, and his music, very seriously. This was quite clear from his press release, and that's absolutely fine of course. Yet the initial seriousness that this album exudes was something of a put off for me, at first. Power metal is always best enjoyed with a sense of humour, even if it's not always meant to be. If you shake off the illusion that this is all supposed to be taken super-seriously, and just enjoy this record, it becomes a much more of a fun, and listenable experience.
At times the onslaught of music here conjures comparisons to so many bands it would be impossible to list. Jay is surely a huge fan of both Iron Maiden and Judas Priest, and at times his voice does resemble both Dickinson and Halford, especially in the lower ranges. One of the album's few real negatives however, is when Pratt sings in the higher ranges. His vocals seem to run out of steam somewhat. This can heard during the chorus of Theater Of Infinity. The higher notes just tend to fizzle out, rather than pop aggressively, like his lower-ranged snarls.
This is a minor gripe, as the music itself is, for the most part, quite stunning. The level of guitar playing is absolutely world class; everything is really top quality and performed flawlessly. For an album that was written over such a long period of time, and probably recorded in many parts, the level of consistency with the musicianship is outstanding, truly something Jay should be very proud of. This is also something that is consistent throughout the entire album; all one hour and ten minutes of it. There are few moments of respite, yet the music remains engaging, even if the record does slightly outstay its welcome.
There is a lot of material to digest here, but Pratt keeps it interesting for the vast majority of the record. This is not the kind of album you can skim over, or put on as background music. This demands your attention to get the most out of it. Most of the songs fall into what I would call 'galloping' power metal, as this sort of music often makes me imagine large armies of men on horseback, charging into battle. Yet the moments of cheesiness are kept to a minimum, and that's something this genre of music often fails to achieve.
There are a few parts that made me slightly cringe: the chanting and battle cries during Fight For Freedom are just a bit much, as is the terribly-placed sample at the end of Truth (you'll understand what I mean when you hear it). I actually made me look behind me, as I was listening on headphones while out walking. But as I said, this is fortunately kept to a minimum for most of the album.
The album contains many stand-out moments, rather than individual songs. These moments are often hidden in the middle, or at the end of tracks, which contributes to the level of attention needed while listening through this marathon of a record. Some highlights for me include the epic piano break and subsequent guitar solo during The Ultimatum, the middle-eastern tinge of Arabian March Prelude, and the truly huge ending to Covenant Of The Tornado, which is possibly the most beautifully melodic moment on the album.
I guess I'll leave it to you to make your own mind up. For some this will be a cheesy, over-long, egotistical mess, from a genre of music that shouldn't be taken seriously. But the more I listened to this, the more I began to enjoy it, just for being a fun record. This album makes me want to drive my car really fast and bang my head like a maniac, while wearing a suit of armour. If I was still 15 years old, this would be the coolest thing I'd ever heard.
And after complaining about taking things to seriously, I'll end on a serious note. This is an album that clearly took a lot of work to put together, by a highly skilled musician who has poured his heart and soul into it over many, many years. It may not be the best power metal album ever, but I can't imagine any fan of metal music who won't find, or appreciate, something here. If nothing else, I almost guarantee that if you like heavy music, this will put a smile on your face, one way or the other.