Proximal Distance: Proximal Distance

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It seems only yesterday I was reviewing the latest Majestic disc Arrival. Needless to say, I was quite happy when Proximal Distance arrived in the mail. I had no idea the project even existed so it was a nice surprise. Proximal Distance is the new collaboration between Jeff Hamel of Majestic and Gregg Johns of Slychosis. Also included are Sarah Hamel (vocals on “Shaman”), Jessica Rasche of Majestic on vocals and Jeremy Mitchell and Todd Sears, both of Slychosis, on drums and percussion. Although I have never heard Slychosis before, I can tell you the music does bear a strong resemblance to Majestic, which is a good thing in my opinion.

The band lists a variety of influences such as Yes, Genesis, Pink Floyd and Saga. Their sound is deeply rooted in classic progressive/space rock, probably most resembling Pink Floyd, as the guitar of Hamel and Johns is definitely inspired by Dave Gilmour. Listening to Proximal Distance was a real treat, and although they sometimes where their influences on their sleeves, they are not a clone of all things retro. The musicianship on this album is very good and with the music being so melodic, it should appeal to many fans of progressive rock. The songs vary in intensity from full symphonic aural assaults to pastoral acoustic passages and dreamy keyboard parts, often within the same song. With two songs over eleven minutes and four songs over seven, and a total time of over seventy-four minutes there is a lot of music to absorb, and I have to say boredom was never an issue. An added bonus are the vocals of Rasche as she continues the fine job she did with Majestic on this release. Her voice has a nice warm tone and is a great fit for the music they make.

There are no duds here, which is quite a feat considering the album’s length. Beginning with the symphonic heavy prog of “Algol” where the subtle orchestration slowly builds and the atmospheric guitar leads to heavier riffs, the album is off to an impressive start. “The Shaman” incorporates mellower keyboard sections with heavier prog, combining eerie voice samples and choral background vocals. Yes and Pink Floyd came to mind and the guest vocals of Sarah Hamel are very good. Another fine proggy build up begins “Gypsy”, an eleven minute tour d force of crisp electric guitar leads ala Gilmour, moody keys and a brief electronic section reminding me of Alan Parsons.

Other intriguing moments include the acoustically driven ballads “Contemplation” and “Leaves Fall” and the intense “Flashback (A Hippy’s Lament)” complete with stabs of buzz saw guitar and an overall 60s psychedelic vibe. Two of my personal favourites are the trippy “Deep Space Intermission”, with some of the best guitar work on the album and the album ending epic “Expanding Universe”, that has the band playing at their progressive best, loaded with crisp clean guitar, metallic riffs and wistful keyboards.

As you immerse yourself in the music, have a look at the mind numbing artwork of Vladimir Moldavsky, you will enjoy the ride that much more.

Hamel and Johns have done an excellent job with Proximal Distance. I urge all fans of progressive rock to get on board and enjoy the trip. It is one you will want to take again and again.

Track Listing:
1. Algol (Instrumental)
2. The Shaman
3. Gypsy
4. Contemplation
5. Flashback to Now (A Hippy’s Lament)
6. Deep Space Intermission
7. Leaves Fall
8. Journey of Truth
9. Coherence
10. Expanding Universe

Added: March 20th 2010
Reviewer: Jon Neudorf