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CD REVIEW: Pericardium - Salutary
By Alex Jasperse - 05/25/2009 - 10:09 PM EDT

Artist: Pericardium
Album: Salutary [2009]
Label: Dosh Records
Genre: Progressive Rock and Neo Progressive
Production/Musicianship Grade: 7.0/10
Songwriting Skills: 7.0/10
Performance Skill: 7.0/10
CD Review:

The path to creating new and exciting progressive music that genuinely blends the ethos of the classics with the sonic onslaught of the new is a trying endeavor. Venture too far in either one of these directions, and it’s easy to have one’s record reduced to frisbee status. Straddle too many of the crossroads of prog at the same time, and you risk collision with a rabid music critic community. So is it possible to convincingly pull off one classic sound, let alone the best of both worlds, at the same time?

Musically situated somewhere between classics such as Yes and the moderns such as Frost* and Nemo, Pericardium convincingly delivers a showpiece album that proudly stands as their strongest work to date. While they don’t throw away the notion that prog music has to be grounded in something derived from the best of the 1970s, their ability to convincingly incorporate heavier elements of the prog continuum into established traditions, makes Salutary an enjoyable release.

The title track opens the album with a delicate clean electric guitar passage stroked with lead singer Sean Sullivan’s sustained and drawn-out vocals that stream across the fluctuating soundscape. Quickly transitioning into the elaborate prog metal, “A Hymn for Doves to the Rhythm of Hawks”, the sound erupts energetically, rising to the forefront with guitar and drum dominated passages. When the hand-trippingly fast and distorted guitar speeds – alongside the lush, well-spaced vocals – begin to unwind, “21st Century” enters with an almost laissez-faire tint, with a more playful personality than the previous piece, shifting from technicality to simplicity with great effect.

Minus a few lyrical content gripes, the strength of Salutary up to the half-point marker is undiminished. Pericardium’s knack for employing strong melodies resonate once again in “Unattainable”, continuing along the same path as “21st Century” with shimmering, upbeat electric guitars, decorated with some light synth window dressing that keep it anchored to the band’s underlying prog influences. Although it’s one of the slowest pieces on the album, the song is driven by strong rhythmic patterns courtesy of the band’s drummer, Luis Munoz. Momentarily the pace quickens as the epic “Ecliptic Corridor” enters in full grandeur. Highlighting the stellar bass work of David Marshall, drifting guitars illuminate the sprawling soundscape, and the piece soon evolves into what sounds like a near effortless, freeform-sweetened interplay between all instruments. Continuing this relationship long into the bombastic “Ataraxia’s End”, the pace of the album picks up, marking the return of the band’s prog metal stylings that had been camouflaged in favour of classic prog rock markings.

Once again giving vocals, guitars and drums a more prominent role, “The Mist of May”, proceeds with a metal flair, merging various elements from each of the album’s previous pieces into its sonic being. Winding down, “Neverending” finishes off the album in the same vein as it began: soft spoken synths, sprawling vocal passages and almost disinterested drum beats all pull at the sonic reins – gracefully bringing Salutary to a close.

The balance between classic and modern elements enables Pericardium to construct a neo-prog universe immaculately decorated in the band’s deep and evident understanding of the prog world. Several songs do border on being musically claustrophobic for the sake of being technical over textural, but these weak spots aside, for the vast majority they are far overshadowed by the majesty of Salutary as a whole. This album will both satisfy those looking to seek out the defining features of all things classic progressive rock, and speak just as easily to those interested in following the path to the genre’s future.

For more information, please visit Pericardium’s official website.

The Verdict: 7.0/10

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