Spotify killed the Album Oriented Rock star or, at the very least, took their best stab at it. The fact remains that not long ago, millions of people used to huddle around their record player like frostbite-plagued travellers around a campfire. The records had a beginning, a middle, an end, and a story that was woven through it. Those that would not or could not adhere to these principles were usually discarded. At best, Top 40 radio nitwits could deal with them.
Advent Horizon’s “A Cell To Call Home” is a love letter to the listeners who still hold the album format in the highest esteem. This is sophisticated prog-rock music, yes. But the intention is not to dazzle but to pull people in. The best thing one can say about any great piece of entertainment is that you’re not paying for a one-time ticket but entry into a different world.
Album opener, “Water”, nudges the listener in the right direction with dreamy piano lines that give way to a modern rock sound. Similar to contemporaries like Dream Theater, Advent Horizon is looking for a balanced, a kind complex metal sound that could be played on the radio without risking formal complaints from unhappy commuters.
“How Did It Get So Good” opens with a tender acoustic guitar arpeggio and warm lead vocals. But similar to the ambition of bands like Yes or Genesis, the song plays out like a tone poem. Like the best of progressive rock, this shares a lot of its ideas with those used across the classical music made over the past 2-300 years.
“Rain On Open Water” features a hopeful sound that almost recalls 80s pop-metal. It is by far the hookiest tune on the record and an open invitation to pop fans who might be on the fence about the band’s rock direction.
“Your Flaws,” another track that builds from an acoustic guitar sequence, as well as “Truth,” helps add much-needed delicacy with the help of Kristen McDonald’s passionate vocals.
The last part of the record, especially, deals with topics related to anxiety, addiction, and the vulnerability of regular humans in the face of such devices. “A Cell to Call Home” comes closest to unpacking all of these heady topics all at once. It is also the album’s standout track, an ambitious 10-minute composition mixing textured playing with virtuoso displays.
As a casual listener, it would be easy to get intimated by Advent Horizon’s “A Cell To Call Home.” Oh, yes, it is a modern prog-rock album containing long, elaborate compositions. And, yes, it is best enjoyed as a single piece of music. However, it is one that may easily catch you under its spell. Just like focusing on an exciting narrative told by a stranger, it’s easy to get lost in the plot.
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