(All Album Reviews by doh)
"Canadian prog" brings to mind bands like Saga, Rush, Miriodor, and well, Rush. Enter the next contestant. The Hopeless Flare is the first release by Seismic Cry, a Montreal-based band headed by Philippe Gaudet. They describe themselves this way: "The influence of progressive, art and classical musics is seen in Seismic Cry's work - they portray something theatrical and bittersweet; fanciful musicscapes igniting the imagination." The best surprise is that this is an accurate description. The nine tracks included are especially heavy on the art atmosphere, but draw on progressive rhythms and classical instrumentation often.
The beginning and the highlight of the CD is a four-part multi-track epic called "Saint Laurent". It combines the deliberate rhythms of early Rush (like "Jacob's Ladder") while recalling the creativity of The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway. It is largely an instrumental piece, although also includes some spoken dialogue. Unfortunately, that part is in French, so I couldn't begin to tell you what it's about other. There is a statement in the liner notes: "Saint-Laurent is dedicated to all the passengers and workers aboard The Empress of Ireland." That ship sunk on May 29, 1914 killing 1012 people, so I assume the dialogue is talking about that tragic event. Although the other tracks are sung in English, I enjoyed the French voiceover in "Saint Laurent" as it only served to enhance the atmosphere of this great piece.
The other tracks on this CD are all fairly strong, but also very different from each other. "Sharing a Life" uses a digitally distorted voice which may be grating to some, but for me just serves to set it apart from the other tracks. It's musically strong, but not as creative as "Saint Laurent". The next interesting track is "Nadir", a short classical guitar instrumental with a strong melody. For some reason, the last five seconds as it transitions to the next track seem to be sampled directly from Gong, but that may just be me. Another track worth mentioning is "Wonderland", which is the closest to a ballad on the CD. It's relaxed and beautifully song by the stellar female vocalist, Marie Neige Chatelain.
Overall, this is a strong release. Although it was released in 2004, most of the tracks seem to have been pulled from the more distant past and, as such, it would appeal more to fans of older, slightly more experimental prog. I can recommend this easily to that audience. There are two audio tracks available from the band's website including one of the parts of "Saint Laurent".
Rating: 7/10. Not enough to blow you away, but definitely enough to enjoy.