Shadow Gallery - Tyranny
Few albums have the strength to endure regular listens for more than ten years. Even fewer have a concept where music, story and performance unite into something completely convincing. Most concept fail in some way on one or more levels. Tyranny is one of the rare concept albums where everything works 100%. The experience lingers on long after the album has finished playing and has kept me coming back to the album for so many times it could be diagnosed as unhealthy.
The music is progressive metal of the highest caliber and manages to marry the technical and melodic aspect in an astounding way. Convincing emotions tie everything together and draws the listener into the midst of the well thought out story. Covering the course of a year the story evolves from its origin in war and corruption into something completely different, handling themes of belief, death, trust, technology and love along the way. 
Not to downplay the importance of the other band members but the standout performer on the album is vocalist Mike Baker (R.I.P.). His voice is incredibly emotional and has a soaring quality that is without comparison. The teamwork of Carl Cadden-James who comes up with the vocal melodies and Mike Baker as the expressionist was a perfect match. 
Mike Baker's voice embodies every song with an extra emotional layer. Just take the way he conveys the feelings in Broken. He was an amazing singer who is no doubt singing with angels right now.
Beginning in a stressful and chaotic mood the album ends on a peaceful note which also describes the journey the main character makes. The band has a way of bringing the story to life through the songs which is quite amazing. There is a very visual, almost movie-like quality to the experience and that doesn't happen often.
Stiletto in the sand is a fast and intricate instrumental introduction, which rises in intensity to an explosive level before it gives way for War for sale, a second assault on the senses. Being both fast-paced and unbelievably melodic the song shows the unique qualities of the band straight away. The vocal harmonies and the technical, yet smooth feel the music has are two elements the band marries to perfection.
Gary Wehrkamp's wailing guitar sets the tone right away in Out of Nowhere (Or is that Brendt Allman? The booklet doesn't specify who plays which solos). The song has a feeling of being lost, searching for new ground and everything from the guitar tone to the vocal harmonies and the atmospheric keyboard layers that generate a thick foggy background reverberates this feel. Through the song the guitar has a very immediate, aggressive feel to it and the superb keyboard solo which ends the song successfully makes the transition of the atmosphere into something more positive.
Mystery grasps this transition and makes the most of it in a song that is so melodic it hurts. The first time I heard this I was sold. Just a small thing like the way the keyboard leads into the first verse is pure perfection and enhances the song greatly. The opening instrumental section builds up great momentum, Mike Baker's captivating vocals are convincing with a tinge of vulnerability and the chorus moves the song even further into the stratosphere. A great keyboard and guitar solo is the icing on the cake. I may have mentioned this before but Shadow Gallery really mix the technical and melodic element into something special.
Melancholic piano notes open Hope for us? and soon the rest of the band joins in. However they are reduced to rumblings in the background as Mike Baker's mesmerizing voice is the all embracing power in this song. As he sings the lines "Entranced - we danced their dance. The stage is set, the crowd is on their knees" in tune with the rising wave of the keyboard melody there is suddenly a chilling sensation in the air. Gary Wehrkamp and Brendt Allman deserve a special mention as the guitar solo completely grasps the feelings in the song and gives them a hard twist. Throughout the album the guitar work is exquisite and another essential piece of the band.
Victims sets a darker tone and Broken ends Act I with a beautiful sorrowful piano ballad.
Act II begins with realization, and a death. I Believe is a fantastic song, weaving gracefully in and out of moods.
Roads of Thunder has a wonderful passage leading into the first verse where Mike sings with a feeling of held back emotion and it brings the song extra intensity and a tinge of hope. It is a song that evolves and gets better and better with each listen.
Several guest singers play small roles on the album. James Labrie sings a superb part on I Believe. Laura Jaeger and Mike Baker share the most amazing duet on Spoken Words where they perfectly capture the feeling of shared hope and connection. Spoken Words is one of those rare pieces of music, instantly captivating and forever memorable.
DC Cooper gives New World Order just the right paranoid, menacing feel.
Ghost of a Chance and Christmas Day end the album on a bright note. There is a real lively feel to these songs, a sense of presence which is very compelling. I'm always hooked by the way Mike sings the line "Walking down some highway, midnight North Dakota" in Ghost of a Chance. Moments like these are scattered through the album and create a fascinating experience.
Tyranny is a classic. It is also one of my very favorite concept albums. Do yourself a favor and check it out if you haven't already, it is an extraordinary album.

When you turn on the faucet to Shadow Gallery's free-flowing progressive metal and get a taste of the formula you will not be able to turn it off any time soon. Trust me, this band is amazing.

Written by Steen
Friday, February 27, 2009
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Steen: 9/10

Members: 9/10 - Average of 1 ratings.

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Profile pictureLittle Drummer Boy

Rating: 9/10
What needs to be done is to listen to this great release and then Room V (2005) back to ba... · Read more ·

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Comment by gizmo (Member) - Friday, February 27, 2009
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Comments: 140
Ratings: 4
It is funny when I lock in and read some retro review of albums I have had for ages but did´nt find interesting at the time. The reading your reviews giving me a feeling that I should really give these albums another chance. Happened with Vicious rumors and now happens with this album ;0)

Not a 9 in my book but still an album I should have listened to more than the 3-4 times i did 10 years ago. The reason I did´nt was because I never really liked Progressive metal at that time and does not now, but these guys are among (maybe the best) the best I have heard.

Posted by gizmo
Friday, February 27, 2009

Comment by Steen (Staff) - Thursday, March 5, 2009
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Comments: 518
Great. That's exactly the idea behind the retro reviews. To discover some long lost gems.
Shadow Gallery certainly have something special.

Posted by Steen (Staff)
Thursday, March 5, 2009

Review by Little Drummer Boy (Member) - Tuesday, March 31, 2009
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Comments: 166
Ratings: 46
What needs to be done is to listen to this great release and then Room V (2005) back to back to get the entire story. It should also be noted that these 2 releases were bookends to the Legacy and is not an easy task of continuing the concept 7 years apart. Incredible writing and should be released as a 2 CD set with an additional CD of extras to honour the late Mike Baker. I hope they do because these are landmark releases that should be heard together for new listeners of this genre (or any for that matter) to really grasp the brilliance this band had "collectively".

Rating: 9/10

Posted by Little Drummer Boy
Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Review by Steen

Released by
Magna Carta - 1998

01. Stiletto in the Sand 1:57
02. War For Sale 5:35
03. Out of Nowhere 4:20
04. Mystery 5:42
05. Hope For Us 6:00
06. Victims 5:13
07. Broken 1:54
08. I Believe 8:41
09. Roads Of Thunder 6:06
10. Spoken Words 4:38
11. New World Order 8:11
12. Chased 4:36
13. Ghost Of A Chance 5:19
14. Christmas Day

Progressive Metal

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Shadow Gallery - Official Website

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Interview with Gary Wehrkamp - (Steen)

Room V - (Steen)

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