Schooltree is a Boston (US) based collective that is the brain-child of keyboardist/ vocalist Lainey Schooltree. After their acclaimed debut Metal Mother (2011) and the follow up Rise (2013), bandleader Lainey Schooltree began work on Heterotopia, with the intention of creating a modern rock opera rooted in the classics of the genre while also reaching for a depth of thematic development characteristic of classical music and literature.
While the CD(s) really need to be listened to as a complete package for optimal effect and appreciation, the track Radio is my personal favourite section (far too short though). The brilliant creation of characters and pieces moving through various styles to match those characters makes this album flow. The musicianship is top notch, and the vocals are superb- ranging from Kate Bush-like smoothness (Edge Of A Dream) to rough-edged, almost Ramones-inspired, toughness (Rocksinger). This is a concept album for the ages ranking up there with some the classic “rock operas” of all time.
Tom Collins on drums and Peter Danilchuk on synth and organ give stand out performances, without being over-powering or, at any time, out of place. The classic progressive elements (odd time signatures, classically-inspired sections and literary inspired lyrics) are all there and elevate this work to unexpected levels.
While I truly hate to throw comparisons to other bands, Schooltree is really a sound unto themselves, fans of Kate Bush and Tori Amos will find plenty to like here as will fans of classic progressive rock that is theatrical without being overly bombastic.
An incredible collection and a worthy addition to anyone's collection!
**** David Carswell
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