Album review: EXOVEX – Radio Silence

EXOVEX - Radio Silence

Self-released: www.dalesimmons.com  [Release date: March 2015]

Greenville, South Carolina. Hardly a town known as a creative hub for progressive rock one wouldn’t have thought – but, something is stirring in downtown Greenville and all fans of the genre had better get their maps out…

Exovex, the alter-ego of multi-instrumentalist Dale Simmons is about to change the way you think about progressive rock from America – which, with the notable exceptions of Spock’s Beard and Dream Theater, has generally been below par when compared to the European brand.

Simmons has written everything, produced the album, designed the cover, sang everything and, with a few notable exceptions, has played everything on what is a quite brilliant album.

Those notable exceptions should get a mention as they give a clue as to the direction of travel of ‘Radio Silence’, particularly Richard Barbieri (keyboards) and Gavin Harrison (drums) who, despite only playing on one track apiece, demonstrate that the over-arching influence here is Porcupine Tree and particularly Steven Wilson.

Simmons’ voice in fact, especially on the early tracks, is a shoo-in for Wilson’s dulcet tones, but despite the obvious influences there is much more at work here than slavish imitation – influence, yes; plagiarism, definitely not.

In many ways the music on ‘Radio Silence’ is an amalgam of PT, Gilmour’s guitar phrasing with ‘Floyd, a little Steve Hackett and the occasional burst of Cobain – circa ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’.

Two and a half years in the making, the concept of the album focuses on the downward spiral and ultimate demise of a man due to the psychological and physical effects of self-imposed isolation – presumably a la Major Tom in the vastness of space.

The music itself is absolute top-drawer progressive rock with delightful, spacey guitar arpeggios segueing into classic rock rifferama, soaring keyboards and Simmons’ Wilson-alike vocals all underpinned by his exceptional fretwork – check out particularly the Gilmouresque solo on the excellent album closer ‘Daylight’ – gives ‘Comfortably Numb’ a run for its money and there’s no higher accolade, trust me.

If all this smacks of ‘I’ve heard it all before’ – think again, as there is a distinctive vein of innovation running through the album that induces a listener’s nod of approval – as an exempli gratia check out the vocal phrasing of the lyric ‘I know what you’re thinking but I know what I saw’ being used almost as an instrumental riff on ‘Dead Reckoning’.

As a piece of outstanding, contemporary progressive rock ‘Radio Silence’ is almost peerless – a result of both its influences and its innovation coupled with outstanding musicianship throughout – now where’s that map of South Carolina?…

Exceptional.

*****

Review by Alan Jones

 


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