Proximal Distance is a collaboration of two American progressive rock groups: Slychosis and Majestic, featuring multi-instrumentalists Gregg Johns and Jeff Hamel in that order. They asked Jessica Rasche from Majestic to do the vocals and from the Slychosis-camp Jeremy Mitchell for the drums. The progressive influences of Proximal Distance are many: Yes, Rush, Genesis, Pink Floyd, Saga and Eloy, just to name a few.
What kind of music does Proximal Distance make? The first track Algo, is a beautiful heavy instrumental opener in the same style as Canadian heavy prog rockers Rush. The middle-section is a bit more relaxed with synths, space sounds and a lingering kind of bluesy guitar chords: Pink Floyd meet Eloy. The Shaman is up-tempo with mysterious dark and distorted vocals in the vein of Maryson, a great contrast to the heavenly voice of Jessica Rasche. Many changes in tempo and breaks held my attention all the time. The beginning of Gypsy strongly reminds me of Renaissance especially the Annie Haslam- like voice. Furthermore, we hear electric and bass guitar playing in the vein of Steve Howe and Chris Squire (Yes). ‘Talking’ guitar solos interact with heavenly voices building slowly to a climax and ending with dramatic singing and an acoustic guitar. Gypsy is a rather long piece that contains plenty of good musical ideas. It’s a perfect piece for daydreaming, but also for playing your ‘air guitar’.
Contemplation Harsh is a short song beginning with ‘attacks’ on the acoustic guitar, then accompanied by high and heavenly singing in the vein of Iona and Renaissance. This song is a welcome rest after all those impressive and tremendous symphonic rock pieces. Flashback To Now (A Happy’s Lament) starts with an Eloy-like bass plucking theme, but you can hear influences of Dutch prog icon Ayreon as well. It’s a rather odd song with strange vocal chords and a weird structure. This one certainly doesn’t belong to my favourites and is in fact the only disappointing track on this album. Fortunately Deep Space Intermission is another instrumental highlight with a spacey and dark start, directly followed by the Pink Floyd/Eloy guitar licks. This piece is brilliantly floating through my speakers while slowly building to a climax. The lyrics and the vocals of Jessica Rasche perfectly fit in the tuneful music. Leaves Fall is a song about sad memories set to music with acoustic guitars and dramatic voices, just like the overall feel of autumn. In Journey to Truth you hear over seven minutes of rocking guitars reminding me of Deep Purple’s Space Trucking with nice interludes of dreamy and spacey Moog-synths and catchy lyrics ending with a dreamy guitar solo. Coherence has a typical Hawkwind-sound starting with news flashes, followed by dark vocals and music in the vein of Dutch prog rock/gothic bands like Within Temptation, Ayreon and After Forever. The middle-section of this song is rather hectic, but the final part is much more interesting with its fast and spacey rhythms and well-played pinball music.
Expanding Universe is the longest piece of the album that starts again with that typical spacey Eloy-sound: howling guitars and bluesy rhythms. This song contains all the elements a good prog song needs: good lyrics and fine guitar, synth and Hammond-solos. This epic piece ends in the same way as the first song Algol began. You will be surprised about the end, but I won’t reveal it. Just buy this album and you will be amazed, because Proximal Distance succeeded in creating a 70-minute debut album containing perfect and powerful progressive rock. This album will certainly belong to one of my favourites this year.
****+ Cor Smeets (edited by Peter Willemsen)
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