In the 1960s and 70s, the term “progressive-rock” to define artists that were elevating rock music, putting aside the typical verse-chorus-verse structure and typical rock riffage for something more intricate and disparate, drawing from classical, jazz, and world music. Bands like Yes, King Crimson, Pink Floyd, Rush, and Emerson, Lake, & Palmer are some of the more familiar prog-rock bands of the era. At the time, the style was groundbreaking, creating some truly unique and lofty music.
“Progressive” is defined as making use of new ideas, moving forward or onward. So the idea of a band making progressive-rock in 2008 that cops the style of its 1970s forbearers is almost ludicrous. Sound&Shape make prog-rock, plain and simple, and it bores me to tears.
The title track opens this EP with ripping guitar and singer Ryan Caudle’s lofty vocals. And it’s done before I even notice the last fret-climbing guitar solo has passed. “The Space Between” is a tad less progressive because of more emphasis on singing, until those echoey guitar solos come back in, but it’s no better. The EP’s true saving grace is the instrumental “And the Clouds Begin to Part,” which really does suck me in due to its more creative pace, and I’m inclined to overlook the “oooo” vocals that adorn it and the echoed guitar. The vocals are better on “And We Began as Two,” but it’s back to prog-rock and melodramatic lyrics like “You and I we are the sun / You cut me and we bleed love.” There’s some saxophone here, though, that is a nice touch. Unfortunately, it leads back into “The Solitary Journey,” another prog-rock song that’s tight as hell but completely unremarkable.
There’s no doubt that these three musicians are incredibly talented. The guitar is incredibly tight, the rhythm intricate and involved. And Caudle’s voice reminds me a bit of Elliott’s Chris Higdog, possessing a rich and soaring style. It’s just that the style is so played out. Even a friend who still listens to his Floyd and ELP albums regularly found this release boring. When your “progressive” is another person’s “retro,” it’s time to rethink your approach.