Date: June 2003
Reviewer: David Cisco
Divided Sky is my kind of band making my kind of music: a guitar-powered quartet cranking out experimental rock that forces its listeners to reconsider their paradigms about guitars and rock music. (Hmm, sounds like King Crimson, dunnit?) Spectral, the groupís debut on their own Divided Sky Music label, is almost startling in its originality, as refreshing as a lungful of air to a swimmer whoís been underwater too long.
What makes Spectral so special? Simply, Divided Sky are musical militants who arenít interested in perpetuating timeworn functions and forms. Mixing instrumental prowess and a singularly rocking vision, Divided Sky mines the same musical strata as Death And Taxe$, King Crimson, Djam Karet, and the California Guitar Trio (and gives a nod to Pink Floyd in Spectralís spacier moments), but the sound is very much their own. The guitars of Sean Crisden and Richard Banister compliment each other nicely, easily switching roles between lead and rhythmic/melodic support. Equally impressive is the rhythm section of bassist Franco Fiorini (since replaced by Art Franklin) and multi-talented drummer Scott Radway; Franco easily keeps up with Crisden and Banister, while Radway uses every bit of his kit to create unusual rhythmic backdrops for his bandmates to build upon.
The songs are thoughtfully constructed and imbued with infectious passion; the results are alternately absorbing and challenging, and always engaging. Divided Sky effortlessly switches gears, moving between oddly-metered heavy metal, acoustic-driven jazz and rock, and the eerie moans of space, often within a single song. Most of the songs flow together, giving Spectral the appearance of a concept work, but thatís a red herring; with the exception of the "spectral" segments, each song stands on its own merits. The best example of Divided Skyís diverse approach is the four-part "Images," which incorporates virtually every trick up their collective sleeve to portray the panorama of life.
Two things that Spectral is not: 1) A progressive metal guitar workout. Divided Sky keeps the soloing to a minimum, choosing instead to use the guitars to create textures within the soundscapes; John Petrucci fans need not apply. 2) An album that everyone will love. Divided Skyís unique vision and their dedication to originality will make Spectral a treat for rock listeners who like their music challenging. The rest - who are the majority, sadly - will likely have a tough time digesting Divided Skyís mixed bag of styles and their aggressively original uses of guitars and song arrangements.
One thing that Spectral is: An excellent first effort. If you like cerebral, dynamic rock and/or looking to expand your musical horizons, Spectral is well worth checking out.