A Promising Debut
The self-titled debut from Shadow Gallery is a bit of a mixed bag. Although I find it to be a very enjoyable release, a few problems really diminish most of my experience. It's really a shame that this album has quite a few issues in terms of production and consistency, because there are some really mind-blowing parts on Shadow Gallery.
Shadow Gallery plays a soft progressive metal sound on this album. There is a strong neo-prog influence, especially in the keyboard tones. Power metal is also a big influence on this debut, though you won't hear the heavier side of the genre. Shadow Gallery leans much closer towards progressive rock than progressive metal, despite a few metal riffs here and there. This sounds a bit like When Dream And Day Unite-era Dream Theater, although this album is slightly softer. I personally love their charming neo-prog flavored power metal sound, but I'm sure some people could accuse this album to be a bit cheesy with the vocals and keyboard tones. I enjoy eating cheddar cheese, and in this case I enjoy listening to it as well!
This album consists of 7 songs, which lasts for almost an hour. The songs are on the longer side, ranging from 5 minutes to 17 minutes, with most songs residing around the 7 minute mark. Some of the songs (especially the epic The Queen of the City of Ice) could have been trimmed a little bit since there are some uninteresting parts. There are no throwaways on this album, which is of course a good thing. All of the songs have something great and unique about them. My favorite song is (by far) the opening track The Dance of Fools. That is a 5 star song for sure! Mystified and Say Goodbye to the Morning are the next best songs in my opinion. As mentioned earlier, none of the songs are weak. The Queen of the City of Ice is a bit of disappointment, although it has some worthwhile moments.
Even though I keep giving this album compliments, one key issue makes this album far below its potential. The production is terrible, even for this era. The bass is inaudible, there is far too much treble, the vocals are overproduced, and the drums sound very irritating. It's a shame because the album is really great otherwise.
The musicians are really fun to listen to. Mike Baker's vocals are really fantastic, and it's such a shame that he died in 2008 of a heart attack. He was a very skilled singer. Brendt Allman is a great guitarist, and his melodic playing style fits the music well. He is one of the few people who can deliver an emotional guitar solo, while still showing that you know how to really shred! I can't hear the bass from Carl Cadden-James, so I can't even really comment on him. He plays flute occasionally on this album, which adds some nice variation. The keyboards from Chris Ingles could be criticized for being a bit cheesy, but I personally love his synth tones and melodic playing style. The drums are a bit of a problem. They simply don't do very much, and are far too simple for this type of music.
Shadow Gallery is a solid and promising debut, despite a few issues. If the production were better, I would give a higher score, but for now this is a 3 star album. If you're into soft and melodic progressive metal, this album is for you. This is an underappreciated gem from the early 90's, and one of the better debut albums in the young progressive metal genre.