"More Than a Dream" (2007)
Itís always fascinating to me how many bands toil away in the progressive rock genre. Itís clearly a passion for something other than fame and fortune, because those two commodities are in short supply in the genre. However these days the melting-pot that is progressive rock is certainly seeing some unique musical blends. Take for example the Australian band Unitopia. Their first official release entitled More than a Dream has just come out and there is a lot here to recommend.
Having their origins in 1997, Unitopia is really the brainchild of Mark Trueack (vocals, hand percussion) and Sean Timms (keyboards, vocals, mandolin). They have since added to the line-up Matt Williams (guitar, vocals), Shireen Khemlani (bass, vocals), Monty Ruggiero (drums, percussion), Tim Irrgang (drums, percussion) and Mike Stewart (saxophones, flutes, keyboards). Each member brings their influences to the table and the music of Unitopia is better for it, displaying a wide range of styles and inspiration.
More than a Dream is melodic, song-oriented symphonic progressive rock at its finest. There are a number of sonic touchstones here. At times the vocals hint at a Peter Gabriel style, then there are times where musically Iím reminded of the eco-band Gentlemen Without Weapons but most of all, this whole CD reminds me of Alan Parsons at his most complex in terms of song structure and arrangements. This is especially true by the time track 4 ďRideĒ hits the player with its symphonic orchestration provided by the Adelaide Art Orchestra, who also make dramatic appearances on at least three other tracks as well as the very moving ďSlow Down.Ē Think of all the moody drama and lush orchestration from Parsonís first recording and you get a feel for whatís happening on Unitopia. The band expand on this with some absolutely gorgeous melodies and harmonies throughout the CDís 9-compositions. These compositions are delicately textured with hints of crunchy guitar here and there and expansive keyboards including some nice Mellotron patches in the outstanding opening track ďCommon Goal.Ē
The longest track here clocks in at over 12 minutes, with a couple in the eight-minute range and others in the four or six minute range. This allows for more complexity than you might imagine. However this complexity isnít from the performance per-se, but rather in the song structure and arrangements. While everyone here is clearly a great player Unitopia doesnít focus on individual musicianship but rather the group sound. All the way through these tracks I keep hearing a kind of Alan Parsonís feel, like for example in the title track ďMore than a DreamĒ there is a distinctive bass line and vocal harmonies that are most pleasing to my ears. In addition to Khemlaniís bass work, her vocals sprinkled throughout the CD are a highlight.
Unitopiaís first release More than a Dream is really quite a stunning release. Itís upbeat, itís lyrically thought-provoking and thoroughly enjoyable on so many levels. There is no denying the talent in this group and the over all high level of composition. Iíve made mention a couple times of the comparison to Alan Parsonís work but Iíve got to add that Unitopiaís music is more complex and varied even than Parsonís work. This was a surprising find and I can heartily recommend Unitopia to fans of melodic symphonic progressive rock. You will not be disappointed.
Review by Jerry Lucky
July 19, 2007