Unitopia

The Garden

The Garden


Reviewed By Justin Donnelly
Published 20/03/2009

Aussies staking their claim in the prog field

Releasing a double album is not quite the rarity it was some twenty years ago, especially within the progressive rock scene - you only need to look at Ayreon, The Flower Kings and Spock's Beard for prime examples of that. But for a relatively unknown band such as Unitopia, releasing their sophomore effort as a double album is certainly a gamble. But for all of the doubt I had for Unitopia's The Garden, I'll admit that the band is more than up to the challenge, with their latest effort one of the better progressive rock albums I've heard in a long time.

Founded back in 1996, the Adelaide (South Australia) based six-piece act (Comprising of vocalist Mark Trueack, acoustic guitarist/keyboardist Sean Timms, guitarist Matt Williams, bassist Shireen Khemlani, percussionist Tim Irrgang and drummer Monty Ruggiero) only managed to release their debut album More Than A Dream in 2005, which was met with mostly positive reviews. Three years on and the band have since signed to Inside Out Music (The label's first Australian signing), and released their ambitious sophomore effort The Garden, and it's certainly a big step up from their debut in a lot of respects.

The first disc opens up with the rather short One Day, which is a beautiful piano led track that shows just how strong and melodic a vocalist Trueack actually is. Without wasting any time, the twenty-two minute epic title track The Garden is up next. As expected, the song is broken up into five separate movements, with The Garden Of Unearthly Delights spearheading the set. The varied instrumentation is quite an interesting change of sound from most, while the overall melodic nature of the band's song writing means that there's plenty for the listener to grab onto other than their stunning musicianship. Sound wise, there's touches of Porcupine Tree heard in the heavier guitar moments, and shades of early Peter Gabriel heard within Trueack's vocals, but there's more than a passing influence from The Flower King's and Genesis heard throughout the band's compositions (Especially the Supper's Ready like closing movement The Way Back Home). And that's not a bad thing at all.

Despite the strength of the title track, Angeliqua is the definite stand out track on the first disc with its melodic choruses and heavier sounding verses, while the superb Here I Am, I Wish I Could Fly and the up-tempo and rocking Inside The Power finish up the first disc in style.

On the second disc, the sixteen minute/five-part suite Journey's Friend starts things off in a decidedly heavier fashion, with Transatlantic an obvious influence (Especially within the opening title section and the closing suite The Path), while Give And Take evokes a more relaxed atmosphere with it's lush symphonic keyboard and sax arrangements. When I'm Down is hands down one of the strongest songs on the second disc with its middle-eastern influences, Tony Bank's (Genesis) like keyboards and Trueack's varied vocal deliveries, while This Life, the glorious Don't Give Up Love and the powerful first single 321 (A tribute to the three hundred and twenty one hours Beaconsfield miners Brant Webb and Todd Russell were trapped underground) represent the best of the remaining second disc.

Australia isn't necessarily well known for it's progressive scene, but with The Garden, Unitopia have single handedly changed that, and in the process have shown there's more to the Australian music scene than simple rock 'n' roll.

(Inside Out Music/Riot! Entertainment)

More from Unitopia

The Garden

Reviewed By Justin Donnelly
Published 20/03/2009