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Forward Shapes - Legacy
CD Reviews
Written by Sara Letourneau   
Wednesday, 25 July 2012
Forward Shapes - CD Review
Legacy
Forward Shapes - Legacy

 

CD Info

2012

Self Released / United States
8 Tracks

English Lyrics

 

 

Every now and then, we like to deviate from our main focus of female-fronted metal to introduce readers to something different they may like. Today’s review covers such a band: Forward Shapes, a piano-driven progressive rock project from Orange County, California. Keyboardist Brian Andrews and guitarist Andrei Kryssov founded Forward Shapes in late 2005 while they were studying at Chapman University together. Over the next 2 years, they composed songs with the vision of creating a full-length progressive rock album with female vocals. Add 3 more years of searching for and recording the right musicians to fit that vision, and the end result is Legacy, a sprawling opus of melody, hope, and (for a debut album) surprising complexity.

Legacy sounds like the result of Tori Amos joining forces with American alt-rockers The Fray and then veering into Dream Theater and Rush territory. This record contains tempo and time signature changes galore, and each track twists and turns its way through labyrinthine structures. (Don’t take that last bit lightly; the average song length on Legacy is 7 minutes!) This kind of music requires skilled musicians, and Forward Shapes has plenty of them. Andrews dances his way up and down the piano keys with the litheness that only classically trained pianists have. Kryssov’s prog influences are evident in his quick-fingered riffs and dizzying solos. World-renowned drummer Marco Minnemann (Illegal Aliens, Frank Zappa) puts on quite a show as well; his previous experience with progressive and metal artists comes in handy on Legacy. Alison Vance provides the clean, crystal clear vocals that are also part of Forward Shapes’ trademark. The naïveté and sweetness she conveys matches well with the album’s simple, optimistic lyrics.

For much of its 1-hour playtime, Legacy maintains equilibrium between atmosphere, edge, and melody. The ambient intro of "Degrees of Freedom" is deceptive, segueing into Kryssov’s cartwheeling guitars and Vance’s anthemic first verse. The synth-strings on the second verse intensify the song’s message of emancipation: "I won't regress / This is my chance / To be something more." "Never Forget" has a similarly styled beginning, but is more mellow and surreal in nature. Andrews’ concentration on atmospheric keys instead of a driving piano here may be the reason why.

Legacy does offer some good rock-out tracks. "Proclivity" delivers a rush of sensations with a soaring refrain, rollercoaster guitar and piano solos, and complementing male and female choirs. The instrumental "Elusive" sums up the album’s eccentricities and unpredictability while dipping into calmer, guitar-based atmospheres halfway through. "Mirrors of You" uses a more traditional structure to condemn modern-day ideals on beauty and encourage self-acceptance. According to Forward Shapes’ bio, Vance’s audition of "Mirrors of You" impressed Kryssov enough to invite her to sing on Legacy. If Vance’s audition was anything like the final recording, where she sails through her lines with staggering conviction, I would have chosen her as well.

Despite its expert execution, Legacy isn’t an easy album to fall in love with. This is a music-oriented album packed with technicality and dexterity. Vance may play a crucial role, but progressiveness reigns supreme. Thus, the multitude of instrumental sections may fatigue the listener. This isn’t helped by the frequent changes in time signature, tempo, and key that sometimes jar a track’s overall flow. Also, the ballads on Legacy aren’t that interesting. "Holding On," the album’s single, wades in acoustic waters aimlessly and with little emotion. The 11-minute title track has moments of radiance, especially the cresting guitar/piano waves that begin around the 2:30 mark. Otherwise, it sticks to chorusless meandering and fails to unify its sections into a strong, cohesive epic.

Regardless, it’s impossible not to be moved by Legacy. The record’s ambition needs time to be appreciated, but its spirit makes it worth that time. The lyrical subject matter and the focus on a piano-driven style give Legacy a unique and likeable character. In fact, Legacy makes a decent summer record: It’s smart, upbeat, light (compared to most fare we cover here), and brimming with creativity. And Forward Shapes certainly has no lack of talent, from its leaders Kryssov and Andrews to its herald Vance. Perhaps a smoother, more melody-based album with less technicality yet just as much imagination would be more appealing. A second album may not be in Forward Shapes’ plans, though; the project has announced they have no plans to play live. So maybe we should just roll down the convertible top, play Legacy while driving under a cloudless sky, and let it lift us up.

8 / 10

Best Songs: "Proclivity," "Mirrors of You"

Recommended for fans of piano-driven or progressive rock, or for fans of Tori Amos, Evanescence, We Are The Fallen, and Within Temptation

Visit Forward Shapes’ website to find out where to purchase physical and MP3 copies of Legacy.

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