ENCHANT — Juggling 9 Or Dropping 10 (review)

ENCHANT — Juggling 9 Or Dropping 10 album cover Album · 2000 · Metal Related Buy this album from MMA partners
4/5 ·
lukretion
As far as I am concerned, Enchant’s 5th full-length album is the pinnacle of their discography. The upward trajectory had already started with the previous album Break, where the US band had managed to find a more personal sound, blending together elements from classic progressive rock, prog metal and AOR / maninstream rock in a way that set them apart from other similar prog bands: Enchant felt less cerebral than Spock’s Beard, less heavy than Dream Theater, but proggier than Kansas. On Juggling 9 or Dropping 10, the band further develop those aesthetics, enhancing the weight of each component while at the same time perfecting the balance between them.

The album is proggier than Break, not so much in terms of the amount of technical extravaganza included in each song, but in the adventurousness of the songwriting. While the songs never get overly complex, their structure is dilated with numerous instrumental breaks and detours. These can get quite wild and exciting, such as the flamenco interjection in the middle of “Bite My Tongue”. Elsewhere Doug Ott’s jittery guitar riffs duel with melodic bass lines and keyboard leads, while Paul Craddick’s drum patterns strike a perfect balance between groove and nuance. At times, dissonances and unusual harmonic developments are used, sparsely and with great effect. Some of the arrangements reminded me of Spock’s Beard – with which Enchant had toured in the previous year -, but Enchant maintain a more accessible and streamlined approach than Spock’s.

The accessibility and memorability of the compositions is where Juggling 9 or Dropping 10 makes big strides forward compared to Break. The quality of the melodies has improved a lot since the previous album. We are still not exactly in the domain of ear-worming hooks, as Ted Leonard’s vocal lines generally follow more nuanced and elusive contours than what would quality as straight poppy ear-candy. But some of the hooks here are rather infectious, particularly in “Bite My Tongue”, “Juggling Knives” and “What to Say”, which is easily the best song Enchant have written throughout their career. What makes the song truly special is also the deep and highly emotional subject matter – about incurable illness and the awareness that the day you have to say goodbye to your loved ones is drawing nearer. Ted Leonard’s interpretation is simply spellbinding and goosebumps are guaranteed by the time you reach the end of the track.

While “What to Say” is undoubtedly the high point of the record, both emotionally and sonically, several other songs leave a strong mark on the listener, making Juggling 9 or Dropping 10 the most consistent album of the band. There are no fillers or duds here, except perhaps “Elyse” which feels slightly bland in comparison to the other tracks. One may raise issues with the fact that many of the songs tend to feature similar tempos, structures and moods (with many exploring the same theme of illness). This is a characteristic that Juggling 9 or Dropping 10 share with many other Enchant’s albums and it is probably one of the limits of the US band. A tad more variation in the songwriting could have probably elevated this and other albums even further.

Despite these minor issues, Juggling 9 or Dropping 10 is where everything fell perfectly into place for Enchant. Inspired songwriting, classy arrangements, top-notch musicianship and some of the best melodies written by the band make this album a must-have for any progressive rock or metal fan. The rest of the band’s discography is also worth exploring, but Juggling 9 or Dropping 10 is the place to start if you are new to this band.
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Warthur wrote:
7 months ago
Great set of Enchant reviews! I think I'm with you at least in so far as thinking it was largely downhill from here; Break has the edge for me over this one, but there's not much in it, whereas after this it feels like they'd kind of said all they really needed to say.

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