Prog Archives - Home Away From Home
Home Away From Home is the first album by New England based Elephants of Scotland. Once I got over the lack of elephant trumpets or bagpipes, I was treated to a fantastic concept album detailing, to the best of my understanding, the destruction of the Earth and the concurrent escape of an ark of humanity, admittedly, not the happiest of topics.
"Geograph" slaps us from the get go with an energetic keyboard metronome giving the rhythm section of bassist Dan MacDonald and drummer Ornan McLean the first spotlight as they set the groove for the song. The first thing I noticed is how great the toms sound on the drum lead in, and, throughout the rest of the album. Kudos to the band as they have a beautiful mix. After a few moments of chunky groove, chaos crashes in by way of the guitars and organs before we get back to the groove. Next up, we get to hear Keyboard player and main vocalist Adam Rabin voice for the first time. Rabin's voice reminds me of Peter Murphy, fairly unique in prog circles. Geograph goes on from there, maintaining the initial energy throughout. John Whyte shines on his first solo of the album, his tone vaguely reminiscent of Chad Taylor of Live. One other note, major points for having a song about geology (why yes, I'm glad you asked, I am a geologist).
Adam Rabin has another chance to shine again on "Full Power" as his piano leads the way in the beginning of the song to transition to a more atmospheric and lush second half of the song. The interplay between bass, guitar and keys leading into the lush part is wonderful and Rabin's keyboard solo is hauntingly beautiful.
Guitarist John Whyte performed in a 'one-man act that did a lot of Rush songs' prior to playing with the Elephants. "Starboard" was obviously influenced by Rush and Mr. Whyte's work as the song could easily fit on any late seventies Rush album. Whyte also sang the lead on this song, and frankly, he even sounds like Geddy Lee. The interplay of textures between Rabin and Whyte's voices at the end shows a wonderful contrast of styles.
"Home Away From Home" is an interesting song, starting with some very informative vocals, over an almost Police like groove. While the lyrics are crucial to the story line they sometimes stumble over themselves as the words all try to come out on time. The good news is that things really pick up at about the minute-fifteen mark with a nice, driving bass line by MacDonald. Rabin sits back and adds to the atmosphere while Whyte adds a disco-esque rhythm as MacDonald and McLean groove for the next few minutes before Whyte takes over with another wonderfully penned solo. From there the intensity grows until the song climaxes with a chorus over the groove. Great song!
"Errol McSquisitor" is another nice, down-tempo, atmospheric song, most likely the best of the bunch (Full Power, The Seed being the other two). It does show a nice progression in intensity from beginning to end.
All in all, this is a solid first effort, it sounds fantastic, especially for a self-produced album. I'd love to give this a five star rating, but the trio of 'down-tempo, atmospherics' take up a little too much of the album for my tastes. Their sound is unique and an interesting combination of styles. Guitarist John Whyte shows his nineties roots mostly by his tone, while Bassist Dan MacDonald pulls off a fantastic groove reminiscent of a heavier Les Claypool meets Bootsy Collins hybrid. Ornan McLean does a lot of intricate cymbal work throughout the release and finally, Adam Rabin melds it all together adding exactly what is missing at just the moment you realize it's missing. Couple this with the differing voices and you've got a winner. If you like the complexity of classic, symphonic prog with the modern tone associated with the Neo-Prog genre, then give these guys a whirl. A solid four star effort.
4 out of 5 stars