Image © SOCAN 2008
More Dream Aria
Review and Interview:
In The Wake (2005)
Tigress: Ann Burstyn (lead vocals)
Image © Dream Aria 2008
(17 August 2008) Three years after their debut album In The Wake (review and interview), the Canadian progressive rock band Dream Aria return with a full length second album entitled Transcend. Dream Aria is fronted by stunning lead vocalist Ann Burstyn (also harmonies, lyrics, vocal melodies). The band lineup is completed by Donald Stagg (composer, lyrics, keyboards, arranger), Garry Flint (producer,drums, engineer), Jon Casselman (bass). Guest musicians featured on the new album include Steve Agelakos (guitars), Tim Welch (guitars), Kurt Schefter (guitars), Jozef Pilasanovic (guitars), Lonnie Glass (bass) and Alberto Suarez (congas).
Transcend is comprised of eleven tracks, short by progressive rock standards, most running under the 5:00 minute mark. It leads us to say that this album takes the band into straight rock territory. But that said, the significant diversity of the themes written into the album doesn't take away from Dream Aria's solid progressive rock roots. The rhythmic and symphonic and worldly style of the title track clearly demonstrates the band's well honed instrumental chops and Ann's powerfully soaring vocal style. Offset by Steve Agelakos' ripping guitar solos, Ann's vocal harmonies are simplly chilling.
The rhythm guitar and equally thick rocking instrumental arrangement of "The Rhythm of Now" immediately demonstrate the growth of Dream Aria since In The Wake. Ann's immediately recognizable soaring lead and vocal harmonies, ripping guitar solos and Wakemanesque keyboard passages illlustrate the strength of the Canadian outfit. The fast-paced "Labyrinth" further develops the album's theme. Much care was taken to mix Ann's voice above the vast instrumental arrangement. A quiet instrumental bridge provides a perfect backdrop for each musician to demonstrate their virtuousity.
Released earlier as a single in the run up to Transcend, "Serpent Nile" is a radio friendly and memorable rocker. Rich with instrumental bridges, and full of lovely vocal harmonies Ann's remarkable range shines through the number. Fueled by instrumental thunder, we were especially pleased with the mix of Ann's soaring vocals in the powerful rocker "Pandora's Box." Contrasted by the keyboard laced ballad "Rebecca," is the highly memorable metal-edged guitar rocker entitled "Tigress." Keyboard washes add great texture in the choruses.
Onward to another album standout, "Secret." Listen for the Chris Squire bass line and Steve Howe electric styled guitar lead and the fast paced 90210 Yes inspired arrangement underneath Ann's lush vocal harmonies. A dramatic tempo change in the keyboard instrumental bridge provides a dramatic contrast before the song concludes. Released as a single earlier, Ann's vocal prowess shines right through instrumentals in the lovely new age/rock crossover entitle "Compassion." The addition of acoustic percussion to the mix works extremely well with light guitar work, soft keyboard textures and the finely produced vocal layering.
Dream Aria's album concludes with their own rocking rendition of the classic "Flower Duet." The late 1990s British Airways theme, sung and layered beautifully and well played, replete with powerful guitars, this arrangement will draw attention from a very broad audience. Perhaps better suited to the territory of a bonus track, we would have preferred another original Dream Aria song to conclude the album. We were also surprised that the band's gorgeous 2007 single "Anne Bonny," recorded for the forthcoming various artists compilation Pirate's Tales was omitted from Transcend.
Transcend is a superb follow up to the band's debut. Order the CD today via the band's website. The band remains clearly grounded in progressive rock and may therefore leave some hard core listeners wanting longer arrangements chilled. That said, Dream Aria are amongst a rare bred of bands (like Britain's Magenta) producing quality female fronted progressive rock music. Bravo!