Netherworld

Netherworld

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This eponymous album is actually the first CD reissue of Netherworld's sole LP, 1981's In the Following Half-Light, augmented with ten minutes of bonus material. One of the most talented American groups of the early-'80s neo-prog contingent, Netherworld deserved a better fate, as this album testifies. Sure, the music touches on every cliché of the genre, but it does so with class and it works very well. The influence of Genesis and ELP is palpable, while similarities with contemporaries like early Marillion, IQ, and Twelfth Night strike immediately. Where Netherworld carves its personal niche is in its use of vocal harmonies and counterpoint. More complex than your run-of-the-mill neo-progressive rock, it announces the marriage between thrilling complexity and pop sensibility that will be Echolyn's trademark a decade later. "Too Hard to Forget" is the group's strongest effort: Tight and eventful, it features excellent vocal parts. "Maybe if They Burn Me" hits another peak. When songs stretch longer they get closer to drama-heavy neo-prog, "Sargasso" providing the best example. A bit chaotic (and shaky in terms of mix), the piece hits almost as hard as Marillion's "Forgotten Suns," but the lyrics never get that angry. In fact, the lyrics (generally too long, forcing singer Denny Gorden to squeeze them in unnatural ways) stick close to the intellectual, metaphorical style developed in the '70s by the tenors of symphonic prog. The three-part instrumental "Cumulo Nimbus" makes a welcome bonus, its simple but catchy lines strongly reminiscent of IQ circa Seven Stories into Eight. All in all, this is a good effort, worth rediscovering.

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