Released: 2005, Sensory Records
I saw these guys perform at last year’s ProgPower USA festival in Atlanta, and it was an impressive show for a band still new to the scene. Now that I’ve had the opportunity to hear their studio work, the array of musicianship is even more apparent.
The title track opens the album, and the very first thing to catch my attention in this song is the vocals. Extremely powerful, perfectly flowing, and he knows how to go from a little rough to a quite soft tone. The guitar/ keyboard solo is amazing too; aside from the vocals, that’s what makes the song.
The next song, “Alive,” is where, well, the album comes alive. The drums pick up, the guitar shreds, the bass stands out, and more of that awesome voice. It’s one you can headbang to, yet sing along as well. They continue this rocking trend into “Endeavor,” perhaps the most killer tune on this album. These guys show off their instrumental songwriting skills here, proving how they were able to pull off their debut album without a singer.
“Role Model” at first seems like nothing special until about five minutes in, a dark riff that completely contrasts the preceding section leads into more of that progressive feeling in their guitar and keyboard harmonies before returning to where it started. The next few songs have that same vibe; slow, groovy choruses that give way to their instrumental greatness, then flow right back.
They kick ass again in “Ion Drive,” which is naturally an instrumental song. This goes to show that even though the singer’s voice is one I admire, it’s when they pick up the pace and let the guitar and keyboards take over that Stride really shines. The one quite disappointing factor of this album is the production on the non-instrumental songs. The vocals are perfect with everything else quite faded behind it. It’s only when it’s time for the guitarist or keyboardist to step to the front that they sound how they should.
But the redeeming song, “Face the Day,” is where the singer sticks with that rough tone that fits the dark, heavy, fast riffs underneath him. It reminds me of Pagan’s Mind with a little Vanden Plas mixed in. Even though the guitar sounds muted, the heaviness is there, and it’s no wonder this was the song that first got me interested in Stride after hearing it on Progged Radio. I think they should have put it earlier on the album, since it’s surely an ear-grabber.
Overall, IMAGINE is a strong album. They definitely have the potential to really take a high spot in the prog/power metal world