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The Great Gamble - "Book One" (CD)

The Great Gamble - "Book One" CD cover image

"Book One" track listing:

01. Release The Kraken
02. The Marketplace
03. Legends of Symmetria
04. The Ghost of Three Reflections
05. Breach at Fort Mycenae
06. The Sleepwalker Pt. 1 - Tears of Dagon

Reviewed by on December 8, 2012

"A debut this powerful practically begs to be followed by another comparable follow-up if the band can keep it up, with the abundance of inspiration evident in the song lengths."

When releasing a debut album, the "great gamble," if you will, is the overall sound of the meshing of the band mates into a cohesive whole. When achieved, it often turns out wildly successful, although the flip side of the coin happens far more often, a bland stew of ingredients that neither boils nor could be saved by a little seasoning. Luckily, The Great Gamble's odds were stacked in the band's favor before preparing the meal for a debut, with little gambling at all. The mates' mutual musicianship almost guarantees self-indulgence, but the band smartly blends well.

At first glance, you'd know to prep your ears for either progressive or drone metal, given that the majority of the songs are over ten minutes long. At first listen, it's immediately obvious that the band laid the roots down in the progressive field. "Release The Kraken" drops into the action with most of the band's sound already assembled and in motion. Told from the perspective of the mythical creature itself for at least part, if not all, of the song, the chorus of "Release me, unfailing fire, becoming what I desire" puts the age-old beastie's plight in the spotlight.

The band's rhythm section is tight without being rigid or coldly clinical, and often employs tasteful fills where called for. Drummer Steve Michael Joseph is an inventive constructor ripping pages from the Mike Portnoy and Gavin Harrison playbooks, choosing to remain in-pocket while still adding his signature stamp in his additional hits. His brother, guitarist/vocalist Al Joseph, is a welcome change from your typical prog metal vocalist. You can tell he didn't grow up singing exclusively metal, and probably enjoys a lot of other genres, making his vocals full-bodied with notes of soul, exemplified in "The Ghost of Three Reflections.” Often, he will layer choruses and backgrounds. The way in which he constructs his riffs and acoustic lines smacks of modern Symphony X with decisive bits that rarely meander.

"The Marketplace" into "Legends of Symmetria" easily groove the hardest on the album, with the latter's syncopated chorus forcing a head-bob reaction. Much of the lyrics are from a first-person perspective and action-based rather than thought-filled, which is a common thread in most of the songs. During instrumental passages, the superbly technical guitar solos are given a shredder's spotlight right out front, but don't overshadow the other instruments, and often involve a cathartic climax. Matt Weaver provides backing vocals and violins, which is refreshing to have in the mix of low-level synthesizers and piano.

The final songs are more uptempo and contain a great deal of theme development and diversity, both rhythmically and in tone color, with "Tears of Dagon" having powerful performances by both Joseph brothers. Bassist Christopher David had his work cut out for him keeping up with their lead, but fit in the mix nicely and added his own contributions. A debut this powerful practically begs to be followed by another comparable follow-up if the band can keep it up, with the abundance of inspiration evident in the song lengths. Further, the mixing and engineering work are top-notch -- a real pleasure to listen to.

Highs: Development of themes, level of technicality, and the soul-driven vocals.

Lows: The level the band reaches can be hard to maintain for a follow-up.

Bottom line: A fine shot at the big leagues of prog metal, akin to early Symphony X, but with more soul.

Rated 4 out of 5 skulls
4 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)