ELDEROTH
"Mystic"

(Elderoth Entertainment)

01. Within
02. Black and Blue
03. This Shadow by My Side
04. My Future
05. Falling Star
06. In a Dream
07. The Ocean
08. Far in the Sea
09. Always Remember

RATING: 7.5/10

ELDEROTH is the brainchild of Collin McGee, and while performing as a full unit, McGee is effectively a one-man-gang on the group's album "Mystic", where he fields all stations save for a guest guitar solo by Philippe Tougas on "Far in the Sea". Citing a passion for Ritchie Blackmore and RAINBOW, you won't get much of that from "Mystic". However, you will get thirty-minutes of power prog with synthetic Gagaku and Shinto temple-music lines designed to give ELDEROTH's curious music a little meditative effect.

The brief instrumental "Within" leads the album with koto chimes twanging overtop a mashing grind leading into "Black and Blue". Collin McGee drapes twinkling synth lines overtop his programmed beats, which blast and pull back as his composition jettisons and trails. Mincing clean and barely audible grunts in the background, McGee once again noodles with his koto threads while pouring on the guitars and bass. The guitar work is rather good, even as McGee perhaps progs things to a fault on the slower sections, which sound more nudged than executed.

McGee's true strength as a songwriter comes from his capacity for pop descants that give his compositions some much-needed verve. The choruses of "This Shadow by My Side" are crisp and entertaining, even as the song prances about on its verses. Decorative as the guitars and keys may be, there's an aloof sense to McGee's structuring on the song. The sharp choruses are as naked as his guitar and piano solos, which are left nearly in suspension with thin bass and drum lines to hold them.

By the time "My Future" rolls along, McGee's affinity for traditional Eastern music becomes merely a secondary thrill. This time, however, there's thicker projection and smarter assembly to give the song a proper groove. At 3:27, McGee wastes little time trying to dabble and dazzle, instead, delivering a peppy tune. The slower "In a Dream" capitalizes upon the fluctuating koto lines as he builds the track's nifty lull to a heavily layered breeze. Later, he turns on the thrusters for "Far in the Sea" and manages to create a sweaty sense of theatricality amidst the composition's thrust and neoclassical overtures.

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Unfortunately, the lyrics are hardly mystical; the album title is mere smokescreen for Collin McGee's apparent desire to purge some nasty business (assumedly a bad relationship or two) from his life. With the aquatic and celestial planes serving as his metaphoric platform, he attempts to use them as portals of evasion from the angst he feels. Yet, most of the time the lyrics are awkward and clumsy. Example, "the shades of light are blinding overnight" from "Far in the Sea", along with "in a weird phase, just so suddenly, a new substances, now just came to me, and I can't stop now…you pride yourself, to make a succeed, in the terror, it's a horrid seed" on the same track.

While McGee's lyrical writing is not up to his acute musical craftsmanship, "Mystic" has moments of splendor and impressive songwriting acumen. Collin McGee has obviously been so touched by the Orient one feels a wistful longing to be there. In that sense, "Mystic" does offer its audience a sometimes vicarious, often melodic means of escape.

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