Album Review: UNIFIED PAST – Spots

Unified Past




Melodic Revolution Records – [Release Date: 11.06.13]

I usually find that, as a general rule of thumb, the more verbose the press release, the worse the accompanying piece of work is – the old ‘empty vessels make the most noise’ adage.

I usually find that the corollary holds true as well – and it’s certainly the case here as the press release runs to just two paragraphs.

Unified Past are an American prog/metal outfit who have been around for a while as ‘Spots’ is the band’s sixth release – but they have definitely been hiding their light under a bushel as this is as good a slab of the genre as you’re likely to find.

Centered around the scintillating fretwork of Stephen Speelman – the proud holder of a master’s degree in classical guitar – who, together with a monstrous engine room of Dave Mickleson (bass) and Victor Tassone (drums) has put together a tremendous album, which, with a few caveats, blows away much of what passes for progressive rock in America.

The band have obviously looked eastwards for their influences as this is much more Yes and Genesis than Dream Theater and Spock’s Beard, and, dare I say it, is much better for it.

Eleven tracks to savour and with the exception of the one minute or so bass solo that comprises ‘G’, it’s a prog/metal tour de force.

Quite a few of the tracks are instrumentals and when you have a guitarist as good as this it is very easy to slip into ‘Malmsteen Syndrome’ where every track, although technically brilliant, sounds exactly like the track before.

Speelman avoids this trap by offering something new all the time, rather in the way that Joe Satriani does, so there’s bludgeoning riffs and lightning-fast runs but there’s plenty of chorus pedal and jazzy fills to keep the listener more than interested – in fact, spellbound (Speelbound?) wouldn’t be an overstatement.

This is particularly evident on the very Yes-like ‘Deep’ and my own highpoint, the instrumental ‘Big’ which is so Hackettesque it could have been a bonus track on ‘Please Don’t Touch’.

If there is a weak point it is probably the vocal side of things. Speelman does not possess the greatest set of pipes and, on occasion, the libretto is a little formulaic.

But away with such trivial things. For all lovers of the heavier end of the progressive rock spectrum and for all who worship at the temple of the guitar God, all your Christmasses have come at once.

If Satriani played prog this is how it would sound.



Review by Alan Jones

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