Shadow Gallery - Digital ghosts 4.5/5

Reviewed: 12-18-09





Tracklist:

1. With honor
2. Venom
3. Pain
4. Gold dust
5. Strong
6. Digital ghost
7. Haunted


Replacing a lead singer, whether by choice or by a sad turn of events as in this case with the death of Mike Baker, is never an easy change for the sound of a band as the singer's sound is almost always the most recognizable in the band. In this case, however, with no intent to diminish the loss of Mike to his family and friends, Shadow Gallery continues on with little affect on the quality, sound or style of the music. There are 2 main reasons for this. First, Mike had few songwriting credits in his time in the band so the songwriting we are used to from Shadow Gallery remains intact. 2nd, on this CD, as on previous efforts, the lead singer, while impactful to the sound, is joined by thick and plentiful backing vocals which comprise about half of the vocals on the CD. One of the first things that seems clear about this CD, that turns out to be wrong, is the song titles seem to be focusing on the death of Baker. While 'Digital ghost' was rewritten after his death, the rest of the CD, written before Baker's death, has remained intact; which is somewhat surprising when looking at some of the song titles: "With honor", "Pain", "Strong" and "Haunted". With the songwriters and Shadow Gallery sound intact, this sounds exactly like what it is, a Shadow Gallery CD with a new singer, not a band that will never be the same having lost an irreplaceable part.

The biggest question, of course, is what is the new singer like. His name is Brian Ashland and he is very effective. He has a lower range than Baker did, sounding closer to Queensryche's Geoff Tate than any other well known singer. Ashland has a strong, powerful voice with plenty of personality which blends well with the frequent, massive backing vocals. The songwriting is strong throughout; each track is consistently interesting to listen to despite the tracks bearing an unmistakable similarity to each other. 4 of the tracks clock in at between 6:22 and 6:50 while the other 3 are between 9:37 and 9:59. And length isn't the only thing that's similar about the tracks, as you will see when listening to them they bear a strong resemblance to each other while not sounding like copies.

The 2 tracks that are most different from the rest of the CD are "Venom" and "Strong", each of these tracks features a guest singer who gives the track a heavier, rougher feel than is found on the other tracks. The finale, "Haunted", lives up to its name with a slow, quiet, haunting melody. The rest of the tracks are classic Shadow Gallery recalling previous tracks like "Crystalline dream", with huge choruses while staying heavy and fast. None of these tracks quite make it to the melodic perfection of "Crystalline dream", but they are along those lines of songwriting. Through all these different tracks are what you would expect from Shadow Gallery; melodies that never seem to end, absolutely perfect production and massive, tight backing vocals.

'Digital ghosts' is what you would expect from Shadow Gallery. I have no doubt they will quit before they release a mediocre CD and they certainly aren't to that point yet. Despite the loss of their singer, the sound hasn't changed very much and the quality hasn't dropped at all. The CD is in the top half of their discography so far, which says a lot given the quality of their previous work, but doesn't quite beat 'Carved in stone' for its amazing melodies nor 'Tyranny' for its originality. In comparing it to other CDs it is probably best to call it a combination of 'Legacy' and 'Tyranny'; the former for its similarity between tracks and for latter for the warmth of the melodies. This CD fits in a solid number 3 for me in their discography which, again, means that it's excellent and would be the peak of the career for the vast majority of bands.



DAVID




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