Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Dream After Dream


Journey's new disc Eclipse is out and I got it this week, and I have found it their most addictive release since - wait for it - Frontiers. It is that good. I've played it four times over in the last 48 hours. But it is also gonna be a tough sell to a mass audience. I don't think many of the fans they won over with Revelation is going to like Eclipse. It's not a very romantic album. Not a lot of heartache and heart break here, which is what a lot of people like about Journey's music.

When it comes to Journey, people expect power ballads ("Open Arms", "Faithfully")and self empowerment anthems("Be Good To Yourself", "Don't Stop Believin"). On Eclipse Journey ditches the former and goes all in on the latter. Every song on the album depicts struggle against the odds and fighting to get to the top because as they are sure to tell you "Anything Is Possible" when you "Resonate" at the "Edge Of A Moment" in the "City Of Hope".

To be honest, I was really ready to not like Eclipse before I even heard it. I had read online about the uncommercial tact of the new album and when they had done this type of thing before on Red 13 or Generations the results kinda sucked. When I hit play on my Ipod for this sucker, I braced myself for a lot of non melodic jams with excessive guitar soloing.

So I was shocked, shocked I tell you, that the melodies are killer on Eclipse (like the dramatic "Chains Of Love" where the building chorus is awesome). And while there is a ton of guitar on this disc, I didn't find the solos excessive. Plus drummer Deen Castronovo gets a chance to really shine here, playing with both weight and dexterity. Arnel Pineda has settled into the frontman role nicely and sounds at home here. There is a very real prog rock edge to Eclipse with moments that deftly recall the Next / Infinity days ("Venus" and "Human Feel") combined with some slick choruses a la "La Raza Del Sol".

While Schon's unmistakable guitar and Cain's hooky choruses stamp the music as Journey, I was thinking about how much I like the album but not in the usual Journey way. Then as Arnel Pineda got near operatic singing over Jon Cain's classical sounding piano during "Tantra" it hit me: Holy Crap, Journey made a Dream Theater album. A really freakin' good Dream Theater album, I'm talking Images And Words era DT. Producer Kevin Shirley once produced a Dream Theater album so he definitely knows the territory. And it explains why Castronovo's drums has so much presence, he's got Mike Portnoy room to work with in the songs.

Some people might think I'm putting down Journey for sounding like DT but I'm really not. Regardless of whether the homage is accidental or intentional, this music goes to the heart of the type of music I love - 80s AOR with proggy overtones. It's not for everybody, I remember in high school being the only guy owning Toto's Isolation album let alone liking it, but this sound is definitely for me. I won't be surprised if Journey ditches this musical style by the next album, so I plan to enjoy it while it lasts.

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