[The first of at least two reviews of Fire Garden, Sound of Majestic Colors (Fire Garden Music, Chicago, IL, 2014). Official Website for the band and label: http://firegardenmusic.com/. Kevin Williams will also be reviewing the album. Frankly, I’m not qualified enough re: prog metal to review this. But, my love of the album kind of forced my hand.–BjB]
With no intention of being jingoistic, I’m very happy to see a nice resurgence of progressive rock in America. The English and the Scandinavians currently provide the touchstone, but I would hate to see the Americans not compete at all!
Of course, when it comes to North America, we’ve had some great prog bands and individuals in for the long haul: Rush, Glass Hammer, IZZ, Dream Theater, John Galgano, Kevin McCormick, 3RDegree, Neal Morse, Spock’s Beard, and a few others. Recently, we’ve seen the rise of Hour of the Shipwreck and Astra as well.
Now, we have Fire Garden, a new progressive rock/metal band from America’s third largest city, Chicago.
The brainchild of professional photographer Zee Baig, Fire Garden will release its first full-length album, Sound of Majestic Colors, tomorrow. This closely follows the band’s first EP, The Prelude, which came out at the beginning of the year. Three songs overlap: “Time Machine,” “Far from Grace,” and “Forsaken,” though the former two appear in slightly different versions on the EP and the LP. Certainly, each of these releases from Fire Garden is well worth owning.
When I first heard the Sound of Majestic Colors, I wrote my thoughts down quickly:
Confident, melodic, intense, moving, driven. Fire Garden is the present and the future of progressive metal. Sound of Majestic Colors is a triumph in every way.
Additional listens have only added to my wonder and astonishment regarding this album.
First, let me discuss the superficials, that is, the appearances of things. Visually, Sound of Majestic Colors is an incredible package. The CD case (very important to me) provides a fascinating mix and incorporation of black and white photography, psychedelia, Macintosh imagery (a play on the spinning beach ball of doom—at the center of the cover photo), and weapons of mass destruction.
If I had to compare it to anything, I would compare it to the best packaging Dream Theater ever produced—that for Train of Thought LP. But, frankly, Train of Thought’s artwork tried to be a little too psychedelic., little too Floydish. The eyeball on the cover has failed to age well, and it now appears far less creepy than it does derivative. Fire Garden avoids the clichés, creating its own vision for the album. Far from contrived, its psychedelia comes from the heart and the soul.
My copy of Sound of Majestic Colors arrived with business cards, bumper stickers, circle window stickers, a full-size poster, and bookmarks (see photo below). All of this is done with absolute class, and I welcome such things greatly. Indeed, I will be keeping these things in a very safe place accompanying similar items I’ve collected and received from Rush, North Atlantic Oscillation, Porcupine Tree, etc.
Second, instrumentation, performance, and ability of the musicians. My first reaction to my even asking this is simply: “Holy Schnikees! Are you kidding me?”
Though these guys are young, they sound so very, very good. I am not a huge fan of Dream Theater, as I feel they really have little soul and more or less write music to chase notes, all of it trapped in a graceless cycle. I have always, however, respected the talents and abilities of the individual musicians in Dream Theater. Imagine that same ability, but augmented by and with real story telling strengths and melodic overrtones and undertones. Combine Dream Theater’s skills with some serious artistic class, and you have Fire Garden. Kevin Pollack—vocals. Perfect. Zee Baig—guitars. Sheesh. Beyond perfect. Frank Lucas—keyboards. Perfect. Barry Keliber—Bass. Perfect. Chuck White—Drums. Holy Moses. More than perfect.
Production and mastering—perfect. The depth to this recording is astounding. Everything is clear, everything is deep, and everything is layered. Again, imagine Dream Theater’s production, but even more top notch.
Third, lyrics. I’m a huge fan of good lyrics, and I consider them essential to the success of any album. Lyrically, this album is as layered and dark as its production. Lots of angst, guilt, and questioning in the lyrics. In the end, though, the lyrics exist for a real and meaningful purpose, a poetic one. Song titles such as “Alone,” “Endless Memories,” “Redemption,” “Forsaken,” and “Far from Grace” reveal everything about the seriousness and intent of the album. That Baig offers his greatest thanks in the booklet to Almighty Allah says about everything that needs to be said. Baig is a serious man, and he takes his art as seriously as he takes his faith. If you’ll permit some Aramaic—Amen, Zee.
If you’re looking for something well done, something taken seriously, and something that—in terms of style—varies from heavy to metal to prog to AOR to arena and back to prog metal, look no further.
Fire Garden is not just the present and future of American prog metal, the band is the present and future of all prog metal.