Appeared in "Big Shout Magazine", written by Dave Hamill
Who says you need to travel to Merrie Olde England to find a group of young lads who still play that tried-and-true, musically elaborate, thematically grandoise, '70s-style progressive rock?
Say hello to West Point, Pennsylvania. Say hello to Echolyn.
Since forming in late 1989, this quintet of enterprising musicians - keyboardist Christopber Buzby, bassist Thomas Hyatt, guitarist/vocalist Brett Kull, drummer PauL Ramsey and lead vocalist Raymond Weston - have established a loyal local following, released their own 11-song CD and garnered airplay on an impressive number of commercial and college radio stations across the country.
But before going any further, a quick disclaimer is in order. If you're the type who avoids Pink Floyd, says "no" to Yes, gives Rush the bum's rush, thinks Genesis actually improved after Peter Gabriel left, and has never even heard of Marillion, you're likely to be unimpressed by the band. But if the high concepts, elaborate stage shows and cool costumnes are all part of your rock 'n' roll fantasy, then step right up and give Echolyn a ride. You won't be dissapointed.
This is not a group that's apt to be confused with anyone else currently populating the tri-state music scene. After all, any band that takes inspiration from The Velveteen Rabbit and Ayn Rand's The Fountainhead for its songs certainly distinguishes itself from the shot-and-a-beer crowd.
In addition to these literary pretensions, the Echolyn CD also contains the obligatory pre-recorded sound bites and an occastional violin, cello or alto sax to augment the traditional guitar/bass/drums troika. Even the cover photo is artsy: a grassy field embraces a cluster of provocatively placed personal items of undetermined signifigance, overseen by a vaguely disturbing circus clown who peers - wide-eyed, palms extended - from the background.
Instrumentally, these guys are as much about substance as they are style. The members of Echolyn have already graduated far beyond what anyone has a right to expect of an unsigned local band. Kull's superlative guitar work is reminiscent of early Steve Hackett - or more recently, Marillion's Steve Rothery - while Buzby's keyboard skills encompass equal parts Tony Banks and Keith Emerson: a snippet of delicate piano concerto here, a bold wash of synthesizers there.
Principle songwriters Weston and Kull also share vocal duties. Weston's dynanmic range and delivery beg comparisons to Marillion's current lead voice, Steve Hogarth, while Kull adds a luster element a la that band's former frontman, Fish. It's an effective combination, although one suspects both singers will further develop their own individual styles over time.
Indeed, the biggest knock on Echolyn at this point is that many of the musical passages and vocal phrasings on their debut sound an awful lot like their aforementioned art-rock progenitors. But to their credit, they take each of these elements and stamp them with a style and attitude all their own - a propensity which bodes well for their future. This is one "progressive" band that tryly seems to have the capacity to progress.
Echolyn will be appearing at Philadelphia's Theater Of The Living Arts (334 South Street) in a special showcase concerrt on Thursday, August 13. With the TLA's excellent sight lines and superb acoustics, it's a golden opportunity for the band to really strut its stuff. I plan to be there - unless you're part of that strange breed I referred to earlier, you should, too.Back to Article Listing