New Release: Spots by Unified Past

Spots

This post deviates slightly from my series focusing on the old and the obscure.  I decided to review this album per request of Brad, who suggested this band to me. I must say I was skeptical as I set forth on my quest to tackle this project, as I am not an avid fan of prog-metal.  Nonetheless, there is beauty in all prog, so I gave it a try and I must say I was impressed, but I’ll expound on that later.  Unified Past is the brainchild of singer/guitarist/keyboardist Steve Speelman and drummer Victor Tassone.  This group has actually been around for about 20 years, but this was my first introduction.  Their music can best be described as a blend of Rush and Dream Theater, although Genesis and Pink Floyd influences manifest themselves in some of their songs.  Their album Spots, released in June 2013, features Speelman and Tassone as well as bassist Dave Mickelson, all in top form I may add.  Here’s a brief description of each song:

Blank– excellent heavy drumming, similar to Mike Portnoy; solid guitar that sounds like Alex Lifeson and John Petrucci; the vocals are not that great, but the instrumentation more than compensates for Speelman’s subpar voice

Deep– similar to Blank in sound; solid bass performance by Mickelson

Hot (instrumental)- a fun song with a jazzier feel; would be perfect for a jazz metal swing dance class (if you were so inclined to begin one)

Seeing– opens with a riff that may remind some of Slash’s riff in Sweet Child o’ Mine; the heavy sound of the album continues

Tough– a longer song with a great instrumental passage; Speelman really shows off his guitar skills here

Age– features an intro heavy with a synthesizer, reminiscent of Pink Floyd’s Shine on You Crazy Diamond; picks up the pace eventually though

Sun (instrumental)- explosive opening with loud drums and louder guitar; fine guitar soloing by Speelman

Big (instrumental)- my favorite piece on the album (overall the instrumental pieces appeal to me more); solid bass line; Genesis and Steve Hackett influences are present: listen to Hackett’s Ace of Wands from his debut album Voyage of the Acolyte after you listen to this song and you’ll know what I mean

Wet (instrumental)- another Genesis influenced song similar to Big, but with a heavier sound; picture Hackett, Collins, Gabriel, Rutherford and Banks playing with raw intensity (and a dash of ferocity) and you’ll get the picture

G (instrumental)- shortest piece on the album; Mickelson showcases his talent on bass guitar much like Chris Squire did on The Fish

The Final– the band states on their website that this piece was inspired by Genesis and Pink Floyd, and it’s hard not to agree; a solid ending to a solid album; Speelman is great on both guitars and keyboards; a Rick Wakeman-like synth solo is featured near the end

Overall I was impressed by this album, considering I rarely give prog-metal much of a chance.  For those of you out there who love Rush and Dream Theater, this album will be music to your ears (no need to laugh at that one).  For those who love Genesis, Pink Floyd, and other symphonic prog bands, this album is certainly worth a listen.  Steve Speelman is equally impressive on guitars and keyboards, Tassone can rival any metal drummer, and Mickelson laid down some thunderous but catchy bass lines.  For all those out there who appreciate solid prog (even those like me who don’t care much for prog-metal), this is one album worth a shot.  The songs are available for purchase on iTunes.

Here’s their website: http://www.unifiedpast.com/unified_past/Home_Page.html

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