Echolyn – Echolyn

Call it ‘symphonic prog’ or whatever you want, but the classic style of progressive rock is alive and well. There was once a point where I felt it was nothing but a playground for the dinosaurs and those tribute acts that loved them, and it’s a good thing I’ve since changed my mind. This is not to say that a band like Echolyn and their long-awaited eighth album don’t have a lot in common with the progressive innovators of the early seventies, but there is a distinctly modern, up-to-date approach these Americans take with their music. Petty stylistic contexts aside, you’re not bound to find too many albums with the same kind of emotional intensity as this. Fusing the new with the old, Echolyn manage to hit a sweet spot, balancing technical chops with tenderness and intimacy. It’s near perfection, really, and it’s simply one of the essential prog experiences of the year.

Although I have long known of Echolyn’s influence and respect in the US prog scene, I hadn’t checked them out before this. On what I know however, I understand that their album “Mei” is considered something of a modern-day classic. If that’s indeed the case, then I’m having a difficult time seeing how “echolyn” (with the lower-case, yes) could be one-upped. Although this music could have fit onto a single disc, Echolyn have divided this into two halves; too parts of the same journey. In a similar sense to what Kansas did, this is very vocal-driven prog. The instrumentation flirts plenty with complex time signatures and skill- testing arrangements, but a listener going into this expecting something of a purely cerebral nature will be blown away, much as I was. “echolyn” is a journey into the heart moreso than the mind, but there is still an excellent standard of musicianship kept up throughout the entire record.

Ray Weston’s vocals are one of Echolyn’s greatest signatures. There are times when he reminds me of a ballsier version of Marillion’s Steve Hogarth, but the truth is that his vocals are best described in terms of warmth. His voice is one that could mesh well in both an intimate coffee shop environment and a more energetic rock venue. His range is impressive, but he never once feels like he’s ‘forcing’ a note in order to be flashy. Although it’s never entirely overt, much of his performance is layered with lush harmonies, the likes of which become incredibly reminiscent of Crosby, Stills & Nash. Pair this with some gorgeously poetic and metaphorical lyrics, and you have the sort of vocal performance that dreams are made of.

Many of the vocal melodies and harmonies sound like they could have been written in a late sixties, and the instrumentation is a fitting contrast. The musical foundation here certainly rests on the innovations of the ‘classic’ symphonic proggers, but Echolyn distinguish themselves for their modernization of the sound. I would never have expected it, but there is a decided sense of post-rock texture and ambiance built into the tapestry. Soft guitar ambiance and accent-chimes recall Sigur Ros, although the biggest modern comparison I could draw would be Porcupine Tree. Given my belief that Porcupine Tree is among the greatest acts of the new millennium, this is a big compliment; the spacious production and diverse instrumentation gives the impression of something rich and relevant to the current progressive rock scene. Most of these songs rest around the ten minute mark, and Echolyn manages to make each interesting and rich, although the driven “Headright”, wonderfully poetic “Some Memorial”, and emotionally gut-wrenching “Lampblack” account for my favourite cuts.

In short, it’s wonderful, it’s lovely, it’s like falling in love with progressive rock all over again. They don’t sound a world apart from what has come before in symphonic prog, but I can see this being an album that will only grow with time. Hats are off to Echolyn for another masterpiece!


1. Island (16:38)
2. Headright (3:00)
3. Locust To Bethlehem (5:11)
4. Some Memorial (11:54)
5. Past Gravity (7:11)
6. When Sunday Spills (8:48)
7. Speaking In Lampblack (10:45)
8. The Cardinal And I (7:20)


* Ray Weston – lead & backing vocals
* Brett Kull – guitars, lead & backing vocals
* Chris Buzby – keyboards, backing vocals
* Paul Ramsey – drums, percussion, backing vocals
* Tom Hyatt – bass, backing vocals

* Nina Beate – violin (1)
* Kaveh Saidi – violin (2)
* Lori Saidi – viola
* Rajli Bicolli – cello
* Mark Gallagher – baritone saxophone
* Jacque Varsalona – backing vocals


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