Surreal -
Prismatic Spectrum

(CD 2023, 55:42, Self-Released, N/A)

The tracks:
  1- Prismatic Opening
  2- The Journey Begins
  3- Muzzle
  4- Summer Hymns
  5- Perfect For A Moment
  6- The Great Divide
  7- Spindrift
  8- City By The Sea
  9- Suffocating
10- Falling Through Time
11- Spectrum Finale

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In 2020 I made a review about Surreal's album Starmaps & Constellations (see review) and stated that this was their best album so far. Now we are three years further in time and the US based band Surreal provides us with a successor on the Starmaps album. The title is Prismatic Spectrum and I must confess that this new album is quite a bit better than the former one. This will give me a problem, but later on more about that.

At first an introduction of the band Surreal. Surreal is a Georgia based progressive rock band and it's situated and built around Corey Lennox. Corey is a former student of Berklee College of Music and graduated with a degree in Contemporary Writing and Production. Beside that he is a multi-instrumentalist and has a great voice. Piano, keyboards and guitar are his main instruments. From 2008 on, Corey wrote a lot of brilliant music. In 2017 he released with Surreal their first studio album, called The Rush. The album contains compact tracks and the style lingers between energetic alternative rock (Green Day-like) and Marillion-like progressive rock. In upcoming years Surreal developed itself more and more into a band with consistent songs. In the former review I stated that at sometimes a band as Dream Theater isn't far away.
Corey's voice has similarities with the voice of James Labrie and his technical style of guitar playing is partly in line with John Petrucci. But of course Corey Lennox has his own style of playing, which is in 9 out of 10 cases extremely melodic. This is probably why I loved his music for years.

For this Surreal album Corey Lennox (vocals, guitar, keyboards and bass) had help from Jeffrey Matthews (drums, guitar) and Anna Lennox (backing vocals). Jeffrey Matthews was already a Surreal member. With regards to the former album Brandon Horsley and Daniel Graham have departed. Daniel Graham and also Jeffrey Matthews are founding members of the band Great Wide Nothing. Great Wide Nothing released in 2023 the exceptional great album Hymns for Hungry Spirits, Vol. II. Insiders will probably know the album.
So, Surreal also was the base of an interesting spin off.

Enough backgrounds, let's go to the album. The album opens with Prismatic Opening, which is a one minute heavy take off on which a double bass pedal is in the lead of the track. The track dissolves into The Journey Begins, which feels like a typical Surreal track. It is up-tempo and has beside progressive elements also some alternative rock elements.

The third track Muzzle reminds me of the band name Mullmuzzler which features James Labrie. But I guess this is a coincidence. Nevertheless Muzzle has Dream Theater influences. The song structure, fast up-tempo, vocals, guitar sound, guitar solo and keyboard parts have some overlap with Dream Theater.
Although it isn't a copy and Surreal sound is eminent present. The track is heavy and I really like it.

Summer Hymns and Perfect For The Moment are less pedal to the medal and are ballad like songs. The first once is more or less cinematic and the second one is more a traditional ballad. Both tracks are once again extremely melodic. In a former review I compared these kind of atmospheres with The Smashing Pumpkins, and that is the band which pops-up in my mind also this time.

The Great Divide is a heavy track that starts ominously and has therefore a rather dark atmosphere. Of course the darkness is always crossed by extremely melodic intermezzos. One of the points that I have to touch on are the vocals. I already said that there are similarities between the vocal approaches of James Labrie of Dream Theater and Corey Lennox. Both use their voice in a more clean way, instead of going over the top. So don't expect grindcore vocals or whatever, the solutions that Corey Lennox chooses are always based on clean vocals. I must confess that I like that a lot. I know it's a personal feeling, so if this is not your cup of tea, I respect that.

The album continues with the track Spindrift, a melodic ballad that drifts on for about 5 minutes. It's certainly not bad, but not my favorite track. Highlight to me is short guitar solo at the end of the track. Further on I like the vocal harmonies on this track.

City By The Sea also is a melodic ballad. To me it feels that this has more depth than the previous track. The atmosphere for example is more cinematic and the construction of this track is somehow more challenging. The bridges are phenomenal and they hit me time after time.

After this track we go to my all-time favorite Surreal track Suffocating. When I heard the album for the first time, I immediately felt that this was an incredible song. Short time later I knew that this was my favorite track the band ever wrote.
The song is heavy and up-tempo and has only highlights. Highlights in instrumental way, highlights in vocal ways, highlights in composition ways, just highlights. What can I say more...please go check it yourself.

Falling Through Time starts with female vocals, so here we hear Anna Lennox, that's for sure. Anna is Corey's wife and does some background vocals on the album. Anna's voice is sharp and cuts like a knife through the track. I like the diversity of vocals in this.
The track is low-tempo and you literally feel that you are falling through time. It has a great keyboard and great guitar solo. Both are modest, which fits perfectly in the track.

After a journey of 50 minutes we arrive at the last track of the album: Spectrum Finale. The last track is as dynamic as the entire album. Quiet passages alternate with more heavy parts. Once more the keyboard- and guitar carpets form the base of this great track. I think it is a fantastic track to end the album on.

To me Prismatic Spectrum is Surreal's best album by far. Personally, I feel more coherence in the tracks and the end product has therefore become more consistence than before.
The album has some references to bands as Dream Theater and Marillion, but always stays on their own course.
I compared the album to a wine which has matured into an extra-ordinary quality. I hope it will find its way to the public. These guys deserve it.

I have followed Surreal for years now and stayed in contact with Corey Lennox. I always had the feeling that this band would one day have a wider audience. I personally think this band deserves a much more wider audience. I still hope that the Netherlands, a country where a lot of progressive bands have some sort of second home, will be the country that discovers the great skills of this band.
Maybe I, as a reviewer, should push Surreal more in the directions of the programmers at our venues. Unfortunately I am not the best salesman on earth.

This album was an easy one to give points to, of course it's a five out of five score!

***** Aad Bannink (edited by Tracy van Os van den Abeelen)

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