PURSUIT - QUEST (*NEW-CD, 2004, Indie)
Progressive Metal for fans of Spock's Beard, Threshold, Dream Theater!
REVIEW BY ANGELIC WARLORD
After independently releasing its full length self-titled debut in 1995, Pursuit returns nearly ten years later with the all out progressive metal assault of its very fine 2004 sophomore effort Quest. Taking a very technical and complex approach to its art, Pursuit is certain to appeal to fans of Dream Theater, Threshold, Symphony X, Revelation Project, Theocracy and a host of others. The band, at the same time, must be given credit for its penchant to compose epic length numbers with extensive instrumental passages in which it exhibits the abundant strength of its musicianship. Along that line, guitarist Dan Wolfe is a very fine musician whose fluid and sharp sounding lead guitar work comes across reminiscent to that of John Berry (Jacobs Dream) or Pete Johnson (Stairway). The technical drumming of John Sebring combines with the steady bass lines of Dan Wolfe to form a tight sounding rhythm section. Andrew Zuchlke brings a strong classic tenor lead vocal style that brings to mind Dale Anthony (Zaxas), Don ZuZan (All Too Human), Michael Sweet (Stryper) or even Ronnie James Dio.
The professional sounding production values to Quest ranks among the finest this reviewer has heard on an independent release (right up there with Revelation Project's self-titled debut). The rhythm guitar is produced in an upfront and crunchy sounding manner. The lead guitar and bass guitar both stand out above the mix and combine with a good clean drum sound. This is the way metal should sound!
Please note that the only problem I have with the band resides in its name. What's wrong with "Pursuit"? It does not sound progressive enough! As a matter of fact, it does not even sound progressive at all. It is this reviewer?s opinion that if you are going to play music of this type then it is essential that you have a "progressive sounding" name: Fates Warning, Dream Theater, Shadow Gallery, Threshold, Symphony X, Magnitude 9 and Revelation Project all easily fit the bill. If these guys are going to continue to pursue a progressive influenced metal sound then name change comes highly recommended.
I find that the album cover, displaying a photograph of an individual holding an umbrella in downtown New York, to be on the plain side. At the same time, the albums packaging also fails to include any photos of the band.
The power metal of album opener "Good Fight" reminds me of Jacobs Dream at its best. Getting started to a brush of keyboards and a drum solo, "Good Fight" advances at an upbeat tempo until it culminates for a sweeping chorus underscored by double bass. The song breaks out in hard hitting fashion as Zuchlke exclaims "Fighting the good fight!" before it tapers off in pace for Wolfe's slowly played almost bluesy guitar solo.
An upfront mix of catchy rhythm guitar backed by keyboards impels "Automaton" over its first minute and a half. Maintaining its prevailing guitar driven momentum, the song progresses with a plethora of sublime class to a resounding chorus accentuated by synthesizers. Pursuit displays the strength of its instrumental sound during an intricate two minute long instrumental passage.
"The Feeling Of Tomorrow's Better" is a highly complex nine minute progressive metal number broken down into two parts.
The first commences to a minute of acoustic guitar and keyboards that underscores Zuchlke's bountiful voice during its first verse. Picking up in pace when the rhythm guitar enters the mix for the second, the rhythm guitar plays a reduced role in the mix as the song slows for the acoustic laced chorus that follows.
A minute and a half long instrumental passage driven by a combination of acoustic guitar and upbeat rhythm guitar carries the song between its first and second part.
The songs hard rocking second half is carried forward by an upfront mix of crunchy rhythm guitar until it evenly flows to a catchy hook filled chorus. Another extensive instrumental passage opens to a driving riff that gives way to a very well done fluid guitar solo. In the end, "The Feeling Of Tomorrow's Better" is a song about faith:
Sometimes it seems I've lived a thousand lives
Still I know it's only been this one
As I await the Master's grand design
I will live my life by faith
It is better now than ever before
The Son of God will see you through
From broken lives to mended hearts
What are you going to go?
The Kansas-like grand piano initiating the albums title track transitions to a symphonic riff that takes the song through its first minute and a half. Slowing as a piano carries its first and second verse, "Quest" picks up in pace for its third as the rhythm guitar gradually returns to a place of prominence in the mix. Following thirty seconds of bluesy lead guitar work, the song advances in an emotionally charged manner as it details a believers cry of faith:
So lead me on
With Your guiding hand...
Begin your work in me
So others may believe
A sweeping two minute instrumental section precedes the songs final verse as it culminates by comparing a believer?s spiritual walk to a journey or a quest:
So lead me on
This could be the hour
Lead me on
In my quest for You
The three minute long "Restless" moves in a more melodic based metal direction. Introduced to an aggressive sounding riff, "Restless" tapers off to a guitar driven mid-tempo pace for first its verse before attaining a chorus reinforced by pounding double bass. "Restless" presents a basic and straightforward salvation message:
Can't you see He loves you
Don't think that you're not loved
Receive the gifts He's given
By faith you will be saved
A near mesmerizing guitar riff exquisitely drives "Answer The Call" through its first verse before it picks up in pace in a hard hitting manner for its catchy second verse. Slowing for the third, "Answer The Call" moves on to an awesome three minute instrumental passage in which the band once again showcases its compelling instrumental sound. Zuchlke asks a relevant question as the song again slows for the verse that follows:
Think on these words
The Master's calling you
It's your choice won't you hear His voice...tonight?
Another season ended
And it echoes that it's time
Time to answer His call!
A second instrumental section carried by Wolfe's piercing lead guitar work helps take the song out past eight minutes.
"The Trilogy" is a three part track adding up to nearly fourteen minutes of music.
"Time" begins "The Trilogy" in the form of a progressive rock semi-ballad. Taking off to several seconds of rhythm guitar, the song slows as a piano supports its first verse before the rhythm guitar returns hard and heavy. Repeating the same pattern during the second, "Time" transitions to a majestic instrumental passage in which a pounding riff is underlined by more piano. The song continues in a guitar driven manner through its third verse until it culminates for its smooth sounding fourth verse:
Surrender all to Christ, make room
for His perfection
And have more than you can need
through God's Son
"Your Power" immediately kicks in at an upbeat tempo before slowing to a piano upon attaining its first verse. Subsequent to picking up in pace for the second, the song crests for a worshipful chorus fortified by a near perfect mix of crisp rhythm guitar:
Send your power
Let Your word be my heart
Send Your power
May Your Spirit live in me
Pursuit makes a statement of faith during a strong guitar driven bridge backed by vocal harmonies:
Through the darkest night
Through the greatest reign
Through the brightest day
Through the toughest pain
You'll see me through
With Your power...
The minute long instrumental passage that follows is carried by a keyboards solo before Wolfe takes over with several seconds of lead guitar work.
Opening in a fast paced manner before slowing to a heavy duty guitar driven tempo for its first and second verse, "Song Of Victory" picks up in pace for a chorus also projecting a worshipful feel:
Honor and glory to the King of Kings
and the Lord of Lords
We give our lives to the worthy Lamb
And this will be our song of victory
The bass guitar plays a prominent role in the mix at the start of a sweeping instrumental passage showcasing a blistering guitar solo. I like how "Song Of Victory" tapers off to a near bluesy tempo for its bridge prior to moving on to another extensive instrumental passage.
A steady rhythm guitar sound introduces "His Kingdom" before it launches directly into a catchy chorus with an anthem-like feel, the heavy guitar driven mid-tempo pace maintained as the song transitions to the verse that follows. An awe-inspiring instrumental passage coming in at just under three minutes gives Pursuit yet another opportunity to display the abundant strength of its musicianship. "His Kingdom" sums things up best during its third and fourth verse:
Jesus is coming back
His Kingdom is drawing near
Perfect love to Him
Will cast away every fear
When His Kingdom comes to earth
Death will have no sting
And the grave has no victory
His praises we will sing
All around, Quest adds up to a terrific progressive metal album showcasing the commitment of Pursuit to the quality in the areas of production, songwriting and musicianship. While every song holds up under repeated play, its most noteworthy number, in my opinion, include its more progressive influenced ones such as "Automaton", "The Feeling Of Tomorrow's Better" "Quest", "Answer The Call" and "His Kingdom". If you are a fan of Dream Theater, Threshold, Revelation Project, Theocracy or Jacobs Dream then I cannot help but give Quest a strong recommendation. Let's hope it is not another ten years before we again hear from these guys!
Review by: Andrew Rockwell
Track Listing: "Good Fight" (4:31), "Automaton" (6:47), "The Feeling of Tomorrow?s Better" (9:50), "Quest" (6:55), "Restless" (3:14), "Answer The Call" (8:37), "The Trilogy" (14:21), "His Kingdom" (6:45)
Andrew Zuchlke ? Lead Vocals
Dan Wolfe ? Guitars & Keyboards
John Sebring ? Drums
Tim West - Bass