Metamorphosis (Laser's Edge)
With so many smart people tryin', it's hard to stand out from the prog pack, but this four record UK act (essentially a duo with a lot of guests), do just that. First and foremost are the fragile, almost fallible, starkly produced vocals of Christina Booth - she is just there, and the world is better for it. Next, writer of the music, Rob Reed, manages a rough 'n' raw vibe that doesn't sound processed to death. In this respect, the main influence is Yes, and intriguingly, it is the Yes of recent times, which is a subtle twist on the Yes of Going For The One backwards, i.e. three or so generations of Yes movements back. So there are a pile of interest-maintaining keyboard sounds, as well as astringent Steve Howe-ish guitar bits. As well, the band is operating in a more spirited, heavier direction than the past, turning in long songs that do loud combat. And just when you start feeling blasted, there's some authentic folk, some Genesis melodies (well, Marillion), and then, always amusingly periodic, every trick in Steve Howe's book. Best of all, no Dream Theater.