'Terra Incognita: Beyond the Horizon'

(Prog Rock records)

MARK: 84/100

Reuniting under the same project a concept adapted by a popular Science Fiction/Fantasy writer an his wife with an all-star band representing the cream of Symphonic rock, Progressive metal that altogether has sold over 45 million copies so far, along with an ample array of additional classical instruments is an excellent idea that seems to me to have no precedents in the history of Rock and Metal. That's why it's strongly felt in me the hope that this will bring to a non-temporary project in the future.
The fantasy storyline tells that after the sacred city of Ishalem burns to the ground, a holy war breaks out between the world's two major religions. But that is also a time of exploration and discovery: the young sailor Criston Vera (sung by Michael Sadler) feels the irresistible call of the sea and signs aboard the Luminara, a sailing ship that will explore beyond the horizon. After listening to Captain Shay (John Payne) tell glorious stories about the wonders of the world, he says goodbye to his wife Adrea (Lana Lane), promising to return home. Meanwhile, Soldan-Shah Omra (James LaBrie) follows the drive for vengeance demanded of his faith and raids rival enemy villages, captures the woman, taking her away with him...while Criston himself barely survives terrific ordeals such as sea monster attacks and the sinking of the ship he led. The two unlucky lovers, swept apart, must cling to their love, the promises they made to be faithful to each other and try to find each other no matter how long it has elapsed.

The detailed esegesis begins with "Ishalem", a fascinating journey containing a great Power/Speed fugue of violin and drums, and then a keyboard solos; winding, reinforced by a heavy slow tempo, followed by an electric violin intervention, the song is closed by a piano and a flute.
Suitable for a videoclip or a single, "The Call of the Sea" mixes patterns of piratical assault with symphonic parts, whereas "I Am the Point" includes a pretty effective refrain, making it one of the best written songs; its theatricalism and a Middle Eastern intermezzo repeated in the end the way Santana is accustomed to doing make it very special and will confirm everybody we are not dealing with a project set up to earn easy and fast but there has been a hard and chiseled songwriting process.
"Letters in A Bottle" will conquer everyone: dreamy, based on an acoustic guitar and a cello duetting with the vocals, the real protagonists here, helps to prepare us for the melodic mid-tempoed "Halfway", a composition dedicated to the thousands of the armed forces' families serving on the seas; simple, yet very effective Rock.
"Anchored" is a heavy mid-tempo indeed, definitely suitable live; eccellent are the vocals and the combination of the Hammond organ and the vocals, while "Here Be Monsters" seems a successful melting between Dio and Uriah Heep on one side and the best of Prog/Symphonic metal on the other one; taking inspiration from the ancient maps where unexplored regions where marked with similar catalogings, the song lines request the highest performance from Lana Lane, opposed to the baritonal voice of John Payne.
The instrumental "The Sinking of the Luminara" displays a wonderful bass solo and a successive piano fugue, making it an avant-gardist track that even ultratraditional classical music lovers might understand (and therefore appreciate). By the way, full of grace is the drum work as well, while the electric violin seems preceded by an uncredited sax.
"The Winds of War" has a big potential owing to the superb refrain, nevertheless the rhythmic section shouldn't' have been tucked away in a corner during the mixing, whilst "Swept away" shows a steady improvement, thanks to the alternation of male and female vocals, consistently with the lyrics narrating the tribulations and the far-off love of a couple forced to become separated by unlucky events.
Song of transition, "Beyond the Horizon", sees a flute, vocals and acoustic guitars working in turn to create a deign and credible sonic portrait of the lyrics, telling about an uncertain wait and a feeble, yet never-ending hope.
"Merciful Tides/Letters in A Bottle (Reprise)" is a masterpiece of nostalgia, dignified demeanour and a frustrating feeling of powerlessness; here you'll find the best guitar solo out of the 13 tracks; excellent stereophony of the guitars and female vocal lines full of pathos complete the picture.
The closure stands on the shoulders of "The Edge of the World", an instrumental track destined to please either fans of Space rock and Emerson, Lake and Palmer; the heavy parts and the layers of Prog keys and several plain reprises of previous songs make it a summary of the record, so if you're in a hurry, listen to this composition and decide of this record is for you; it's a pity that the drum sounds are a bit cold and artificial, but it looks acceptable if you consider the over 72 minutes of recording.

Every musician and singer has brought a lot and the best of their background and very impressive is the artwork in impressionistic style (Monte, Pissarro, Sisley, Degas, Renoir, Cezanne, etc.); the only big and surprising disappointment comes from the story, completely not original; from a professional writer co-working with his wife it is right to expect more creative efforts, while here we cannot talk about influences but a copy, cut and paste of the following opera: "The Bible", Homer's "Odyssey". The influences and references are indeed: Jules Verne's "20,00 Leagues under the Sea", H.P. Lovecraft and Edgar Allan Poe.
Besides this, fans of Epic/Prog/Symph/Melodic metal and Science Fiction/Fantasy/Mythology readers may rejoice and give a warm welcome to projects like Roswell Six's.


Line-up on this record:
Lana Lane (also in Joshua, Lana Lane), Michael Sadler (also in Saga), James LaBrie (also in (Dream Theater, Mullmuzzler, Winter Rose, Frameshift, John Macaluso & Union Radio, True Symphonic Rockestra, guest for: Ayreon, Fates Warning, Shadow Gallery, Henning Pauly and Tim Donahue), John Payne (also in Asia)- vocals
Erik Norlander
- keys (also in Joshua, lana Lane, Rocket Scientists, Expedition Delta)
Gary Wehrkamp (also in Shadow Gallery, Explorers Club, Star One, Expedition Delta, Amaran's Plight), Chris Brown (also in Ghost Circus) - guitars
Kurt Barabas (also in Under The Sun, Amaran's Plight, guest for Glass Wolfe)- bass
Chris Quirarte (also in Prymary, Redemption)- drums
David Ragsdale - violin
Mike Alvarez - cello
Martin Orford - flute


Official site:


-Terra Incognita: Beyond the Horizon (CD - 2009)