Released: 2007, Prog Rock Records
I tend to approach reviews a bit hesitantly when I see the term "supergroup" attached to any particular collaboration project of well-known musicians for fear of the possibility it could turn out to be a half-hearted affair relying on the individual fame of its members to sell albums rather than the quality of the music contained on the disc. Such is definitely not the case with VOICE IN THE LIGHT, the debut from Amaran's Plight, whose membership includes Royal Hunt / Silent Force vocalist D.C. Cooper, Shadow Gallery guitarist Gary Wehrkamp, Under The Sun bassist Kurt Barabas, and Spock's Beard drummer Nick D'Virgilio. While all four members are excellent performers in their own right, under the guidance of musical director, lyricist, and author John W. Crawford, they have managed to exceed the sum of their individual accomplishments and create a phenomenal conceptual piece that stands as one of the best purely progressive albums I've heard in years, quite possibly equalling the genius of Ayreon's THE HUMAN EQUATION.
Based on Crawford's novel of the same name, VOICE IN THE LIGHT is a seventy-six minute telling of a fascinating and heartfelt tale of a man's journey through life, dealing with a near-death experience, love, heartbreak, and difficult decisions about what paths to take in the future. It may take a couple listens to understand everything that's going on in the story, but it's well worth the effort. If you guess by that description the album will be dramatic to the point of being considered a theatrical rock opera, you've guessed right. Multi-instrumentalist Wehrkamp composed all of the music and many of the vocal melodic and harmonic arrangements, and not surprisingly, a majority of what's presented sounds a good deal like that of his primary band Shadow Gallery, though there is a strong infusion of Pink Floyd-like and Yes-ish progressiveness throughout most of the tracks. For those not familiar with Wehrkamp's musical capabilities, his superb soloing skills on both guitar and keyboard are on prominent display throughout the album, nearly always showcasing a perfect balance of melodic elegance and technical wizardry. However, it is his ability to compose memorable musical textures that truly makes the disc shine as the tone follows the ebb and flow of the storyline perfectly from the driving riffs of tracks like the energetic "Viper" to the beautiful balladry of "I Promise You" to the Floydian atmospherics of instrumental "Consummation Opus" and everywhere in between. Equally effective in the mix are the vocals of veteran singer D.C. Cooper, who brings a high degree of intensity to his delivery whether dark-toned as in the thirteen-minute epic "Shattered Dreams," tormented as in "Betrayed By Love," or passionate as in "Coming Of Age." His emotional duet with Trisha O'Keefe on the aforementioned "I Promise You" is another high point of his performance, though for some reason it reminds me a little bit of a Phil Collins song. Not to be ignored either are Barabas and D'Virgilio, who together form an incredibly tight and effective rhythm section, their individual skills coming through on the longer and more complex prog-infused pieces like the powerful and vaguely-ominous "Incident At Haldemans Lake" and the exceptional self-reflective closing number "Revelation." The album does unfortunately suffer from one weakness...one I've noted in some prior Shadow Gallery albums, namely the fact the production, while nicely-balanced, sounds a bit thin. It's not as noticeable on the more melodic pieces, but on the more metallic-oriented songs, it could definitely use some beefing up. With all that the album does right, however, that minor complaint is entirely forgivable.
VOICE IN THE LIGHT isn't going to be for every visitor to this site, as it's actually far closer to progressive rock than it is to metal, but for those with open minds who appreciate intellectual lyrical concepts and brilliantly-delivered, emotionally evocative musical and vocal performances, this is just about as good as it gets. This is one "supergroup" who deserve the tag. Here's hoping Amaran's Plight doesn't turn out to be just a one-off project - there's far too much potential for more in the future.