Progressive Rock by
Mike Eldon - March 2000 -
The subject matter for this cd is all about gnosticism, which I had never heard of & personally found quite heavy going on the first play. Now I've read The Gynostic Mythos on the bands web site, Mabry's lyrics are beginning to fall into place. So the story begins with Sophia venturing outside the known universe & the track Ladder From The Sky. After the narrative beginning, the song opens grandly & all the progressive hallmarks are here...creative & ever changing moods with intricate time signatures, this is 100% made for prog.
Sure the influence of Genesis has a part in their sound, but Metaphor manage to keep one step ahead without being too derivative. Certainly the band have learned their craft from the finest & we reap the rewards here. This is an extremely solid debut with high musicianship throughout, fans of classic progressive rock will enjoy this. This is timeless music & with musicians writing what they want to play, you feel that Metaphor respect our type of music.
Along the way you'll catch the influences of Citizen Cain, Flower Kings, IQ, Spock's Beard & definitely the golden sound of Genesis, not really surprising given the band's history. Harmonies are used to great effect & the album features The Starfooted Chorus along with The Starfooted Barbershop Quartet. All this makes a glowing compelling sound, devote your time & you'll be richly rewarded. So what happened to Sophia....well you're just going to have to buy the cd to find out!
Peter Beaman, Audion Magazine/Ultima Thule (England)
Metaphor from San Francisco were previously a Genesis tribute band, that has now ventured forth with there own innovative material. This debut is a majestic montage of progressive rock styles that has maturity that one would expect several releases down a band's career.
The opening track, "Ladder from the Sky," is an exquisite piece of the classic 70's progressive rock filled to the brim with overwhelming guitar work by Malcolm Smith and superb lush keyboard pitches from Marc Spooner combined with the versatile vocal chords of John Mabry. There is no let up with the second song, "Chaos with a Crown of Gold," which develops a hard edge intertwined with a slow moving haunting melody that drifts towards the neo-prog bands like Leviathan, or Asgard for example.
However, Metaphor don't at any point attempt to become slaves to any particular progressive niche, rather they produce individual crafted songs that work extremely well throughout this epic conceptual work. For myself, whether you admire the complex music created by Anglagard, or neo-progrock bands like Marillion, IQ, or American groups like Roots of Consciousness, Glass Hammer, and/or simply miss the Gabriel era of Genesis, I guarantee you won't be disappointed with this offering. I just can't wait for the next release due next year.
Jurriaan Hage's Axiom of Choice (The Netherlands)
Summary of history:
Music has no boundaries I guess, when a San Francisco area band decides to release their album with a Swiss label, Galileo, that label's second release as yet. "Ladder From The Sky" is the opener of this album. The music owes quite a lot to Genesis, especially in the sharp guitar work. The track opens sparingly, but takes a turn for the epic after a while with large roles for both keyboards and guitar. The vocals are by Mabry who also wrote the lyrics to this cosmological concept album. Some of the melodies sound quite grand, but there are also some melodies that sound a bit playful. Quite strange.
The final vocal part is really great with clavecimbel and a great vocal melody, full of emotion and also presentation. "Chaos With A Crown Of Gold" opens more in the fiddling guitar style with a strong organ presence. What follows is winding, meandering music that gives way to a longing vocal part. Comparisons can be made to Genesis-influenced progressive bands such as Clepsydra and Galleon, but also IQ and Timothy Pure. Wildly meandering keyboards now punctuated by guitar (instead of vice versa) including a nice piano theme that rings right through as it takes over in the instrumental section in the middle. "Starfooted In A Garden Of Cans" is a madrigal-like piece opening with playful and repetitive acoustic guitar.
Then the music starts all over with the offbeat rock of the Lamb. Fortunately there's also some time for reflection on piano. The middle part features an ethereal guitar solo in the best Genesis style (think Firth of Fifth here). The vocal continuation is more relaxed with piano parts alternated with moodily sung vocal parts, ending in the majestic Kodosh, Sanctus, Holy. "The Illusion Of Flesh" sees us in the company of Christ who is the protagonist of this rather peaceful track. With keyboards piping, easy drums, and acoustic guitar, it is a rather hazy track. "In The Cave" (not In The Cage!) features some poppy bouncy keyboards and heavy percussion. Again the vocalist rounds out the track with his emotional voice and presence.The band does fiddle around a bit at times in this track, but by the various moods (such as a small pompous classical interlude in the middle) they do keep it interesting all along. The sublime final part reminds me somewhat of Castanarc on their terrific Rude Politics.
"Seed" is the next track up and quite a long one. Opening with some high guitar work and a bit Greek sounding keyboards, but the vocal part is quite bouncy with heavy organs. In a way the music sounds quite optimistic. The presence of Genesis is again strongly felt, but as always on this album in a good way. Halfway we come to a cosmic intermezzo after which neo-progressive keyboards work is alternated with laid back harmony vocals and even some double bass drums. The wedding bells already indicate the wedding night of Max and Wendy, that by its ballad-like nature, the percussiveness and the vocal style refers to Castanarc. A moment of peace with the world. Moving.
"Don't Sleep" continues the style of the previous in a good way. During the up-tempo chorus the singer reminds of Stu of Galahad. All in all, this singer seems to contain a number of singers within himself. Further is a wildly meandering fiddly dissonant intermezzo. "Battle Of The Archons" is a weird track with hollow Caribbean percussion (how DO you call these things, those topsy-turvy turtle shells). A nice idea, but musically I'm not too fond of it. All in all the weakest of the tracks so far, also because of the repetitive and on the whole the unstructured nature of the track. This criticism excludes the good vocal part and the Hackettish almost conclusion on guitar. The final track is "Assumption," a piano/keyboard track similar to "The Bridal Chamber." Here also the music strikes a chord and a certain resignation, but in a good way.
It took Genesis a number of years and records to arrive at the Lamb. In the style of that album Metaphor decided to start off that way with their cosmological, and in some eyes maybe blasphemic, Starfooted in which protagonist Max finally obtains his freedom. Besides the great lyrics, the music on this album says it all. Where The Night Watch is Genesis on stage, ReGenesis covers, and Citizen Cain in my opinion goes too far in their Genesis styled prog, Metaphor borrows elements from the band in their early phase, but by adding elements of their own and by the personality of the singer they arrive at something both recognizable and unique.
The music on this album does not sound dated, because the band has a modern view on Genesis-like progressive, similar to other Genesis influenced bands of this time. Metaphor tops most of the efforts of these bands; in fact and if they can keep the fiddling around to a lower level (as in Battle Of The Archons) they can rise even higher in my estimation of them in a next release that I certainly hope will follow.
The Bathtub of Adventures (UK)
These days, I'm very glad to say; the Gabriel era Genesis is generally recognised as "The Classic" era and the Collins era as generally disposable pop (especially after the departure of Hackett). This has lead to the rise of a number of Genesis tribute bands, most notably 'Re-Genesis' here in England and 'Musical Box' from North America.
Metaphor, originating from San Francisco, also started life as one of these tribute bands. Starfooted is Metaphors debut release. However, instead of releasing an album of Genesis covers like other tribute bands (Although I love seeing Re-Genesis live what really is the point of that?) Metaphor have chosen to put aside Genesis covers and write and release their own concept album.
Now where Genesis concentrated on ancient Greek mythology for their early inspirations Metaphor have used the relatively unknown mythos of Gnosticism (http://www.metaphor.org/myth.html ). The music? Well, as you would guess, its as if we were back in the very early 70s - Genesis with a new vocalist and a lost album, mostly recorded somewhere between Trespass and Nursery Cryme and finished off between Foxtrot and Selling England. The album does have a lot of plus points - A good vocalist (John Mabry), which is unfortunately a rare modern prog commodity and good musicianship, at least equal to the complexity of very early Genesis in composition and playing.
They have taken that brave step to try and break away from being just another tribute band and have concentrated their sound on the very early Genesis era as distinct from Neo Prog which just tend to regurgitate the later Classic and early Collins work. The minus point - Where's the progression??
To end - If you love early Genesis or even the first couple of Marillion releases and want more then this album is for you. If, as I always try to, your looking for something new, something truly "progressive" in rock then wait there's a lot to recommend these individual musicians and I'm sure by the time of their next release Metaphor will have found their own voice - I look forward with interest.
Ian Oakley May 2000
Captain MDA, (WSGE Radio, USA)
I have had this CD now for two weeks and it has been played at least once each day since. This is a powerful CD and a most interesting story. I was not aware of Gnostic philosophy prior to getting this CD. I really appreciated the bands web page where the story and basic Gnostic philosophy was explained.
The music reminds me of Genesis during their Foxtrot/Selling England period. Some of the best music I've heard in 30 years! Prior to purchasing Starfooted my #1 release thus far in 2K was Kevin Gilbert's "Shaming of the True". I still very much love Shaming but it has dropped to 9.5/10 with "Starfooted" jumping to 9.7/10! Excellent CD, I'm sure it will get many rotations on my weekly progrock radio show. More, more, more!
Captain MDA WSGE 91.7 Gaston College
Colossus Magazine (Finland) (only excerpts translated by the author, darn it!)
...it is good to see that there are many new record labels putting out progressive rock...and Galileo Records seems to be one of the best new labels...Metaphor from San Francisco has influences from both Genesis and Van der Graaf Generator...in spite of the influences the band develops their music to a new direction and makes a sound of their own... very inventive...
Compact Disc Services* (Scotland)
What a magical prog album this is!
Admittedly, you can call this band a Genesis sound-a-like, but only because the instrumentation sounds very like their "Selling England" period style, with the weeping electric solos, strummed acoustic guitars, and that haunting Mellotron sound that graced all the earlier Genesis albums, all becoming most prevalent on this CD. The vocalist definitely does NOT set out to sound like Peter Gabriel, even though there are moments when he does, probably due more to the musical surroundings it is set in as much as anything else. The guy's voice is as good as most of the top singers in the current range of prog bands on the go right now, and it fits into eh songs here perfectly.
The opening track, "Ladder From the Sky" does start in similar fashion to "Selling England" with a solo vocal that is almost immediately joined by Hackett-esque weeping guitars and then flowing Mellotron melodies. The track never really breaks into any big production passages but it's a pleasant starter to the set. Another six-minute track called "Chaos With a Crown of Gold" is next, and it starts out with a more complex instrumental section with Hammond organ, guitars, bass, and drums blasting into a slice of classic 70s symphonic prog. A vocal passage arrives and the piece chops and changes between this and the faster instrumental breaks, which now include some stylish, melodic synth soloing. The closing minute really does take on an early Genesis feel with the use of a character voice from the vocalist!
Track 3, "Starfooted in a Garden of Cans" is the longest on the album at over fifteen minutes and it's very much from the same mould as the likes of "Battle of Epping Forest" but a good one at that, with the Mellotrons shining through some entertaining guitar work and cleverly put together lyrics. The piece moves from slow to mid-paced with some faster instrumental breaks and that weeping guitar sound glowing at the half-way mark and ends up sounding more like an anthemic Marillion in "Script" mode. "Illusion of Flesh" is a short, semi-acoustic, two-minute song with guitars set against a backdrop of Mellotron flutes/choirs, bass and drums. "In the Cave" opens with waves of heaven-bound Mellotrons before blowing off into a nine-minute vocal track that is similar in pace to the two opening pieces, with some really tasty instrumental breaks where synth sounds and weeping electric guitar share lead roles.
Mellotrons and string synths provide a haunting intro to the ten-minute "Seed" with the Hackett-sytle guitars singing through the misty keyboard layers before the vocals take up the story line. Hammond organ and piano join the trons and guitars here and this gives a slight Van Der Graff meets Genesis feel to the track. Part of the second half of this track features a glowing passage where the keyboard backdrop meets with emotional guitar textures that flow beautifully on top, with strummed acoustic guitars backing up the vocal arrangement near the end where the main theme closes the track with some instrumental interruptions featuring synth solos scattered here and there.
"The Bridal Chamber" is another two-minute acoustic guitar song with just Mellotron and drums for backing - very effective and melodic. "Don't Sleep" makes a chilly entrance before acoustic guitars come in to guide the song through its introductory moments and as the track develops, the band delves into previously uncharted territory with instrumental breaks that border on jazz-rock at times! The track closes in a beautifully celestial passage of crystalline guitars.
"Battle of the Archons" is next; a ten-minute piece that opens dynamically, with exotic percussive textures joining the synths and guitars for a real slice of 70s light prog with jabbing Mellotron choral chords adding colour to the soundscape. The vocals don't come in until the track reaches the half-way mark, where things move into an anthemic styled passage that builds well, with the singer's excellent vocal rising above the keyboards for just a few minutes before the band return to the dynamics of the instrumental beginnings, closing the track in high flying style.
The vocals return for the final two-minute piece; "Assumption" a gentle, restrained, multi-acoustic guitar strumming track with meaningful vocal, Mellotrons, and synth strings - another great track to end a very competent album.
Overall, this CD offers nearly 74 minutes of quality music over its 10 tracks. The music is taken at a fairly even pace throughout and although it never really catches fire at any point, it does switch well from the gentle, acoustic sides of prog to the more powerful instrumental thrills and spills we expect from an album of this nature. It's that subtlety of sound in the instrumental textures that come out the real winner, though - just think back to that dynamic acoustic/electric crossover sound of the first few Genesis albums and you will understand exactly what I mean here.
That was one of the elements that made the early Genesis albums sound so magical, so, if you liked these, the chances are you'll get into Metaphor for sure!
*Compact Disc Services is a mail-order catalog operation in the business of selling CDs, so technically this is not a review, but is an editorial description of the CD.
DURP, Tales from the Progressive Ocean (Germany)
METAPHOR started as a Genesis cover band, no wonder, how the first own record sounds like. Again a record with compositions in the early Genesis style, again a record to start a discussion about the pros and cons of retro prog.
I have no problem with this kind of music, especially if - like in this case - the band is creating good songs - lots of longtrax, lots of keys and a good singer should be enough for all the retro prog fans preferring the older Genesis. Not such a highlight as Glasshammer, but a good work anyway. 6 points
Dutch Progressive Rock Page (The Netherlands)
An advert in a San Fransico magazine reading "Hackett seeks Banks, Rutherford, Gabriel, Collins. Object: Suppers Ready." was the beginning of the band Metaphor. From the handful of people responding to the advert an 'early Genesis' cover band was formed in 1993, playing about 3 hours worth of material. While the line-up underwent some changes, the band shifted to a more original approach with own compositions.
In 1999 they recorded their first album Starfooted, which is now released by the Galileo label. Metaphor consists of Bob Koehler (Drums), John Mabry (Vocals & Acoustic Guitar), Jim Post (Bass), Malcolm Smith (Electric & Acoustic Guitars), Marc Spooner (Leyboards). The whole thing just oozes Genesis, the way the instruments are played, the Gabriel-esque vocals, the arrangements, the time signatures and tempo changes, the overload of lyrics, the medieval feel of some of the songs ....
Influences by other bands (among whom IQ and Marillion) can be detected as well, but are nowhere near as obvious as the Genesis ones. The whole album sounds like something that could easily have been 'the great lost Genesis album'. For instance, a track like Starfooted in a Garden of Cans sounds like a direct remake of Back in New York City. It's all done in a very good way and there are some fine moments and melodies to be found on the album. However, after a couple of songs this all gets quite boring. The I've heard it all before factor is omnipresent and never does the band venture into an own, original sound.
The biblical concept of the album describes the story of the creation of Earth, Adam and Eve, the coming of Christ, etc from the Gnostics point of view. Not what I would call a fresh, realistic topic. Then again, I'm easily put off by music with religious themes (or religion in general). As I expected, lots of other prog magazines and e-zines are raving about the album (besides the suposed Britney Spears quote "This is real dogcrap!", which proves the band's good sense of humour). I personally find it a real shame that such talented musicians have choosen for such a retrospective sound and bland copying of their heroes.
If you're one of those people that think that music stopped in 1975 when Gabriel left Genesis this CD is for you. If you like a more original approach and are not interested in the next Genesis wanna-be-band to come around, better think twice before you buy this CD. For some samples of the bands music, visit their Homepage.
Conclusion: 6 out of 10.
Eclectic Earwig Reviews (USA)
Many good musical recordings require patience - what sounds like Monkees outtakes upon the first listen often can wind up sticking like white on rice to your brain after the third or fourth listen. Nowhere is this more apparent than with symphonic progressive recordings and patience is no doubt a virtue with Metaphor's Starfooted, the first outing for a former Genesis tribute band and an overall excellent concept album.
What at first sounds like cookie-cutter prog becomes much more interesting upon closer inspection; Starfooted ends up being a very rewarding experience to listeners who can devote a little temporal investment. First let's discuss the whole concept behind the CD. Starfooted's tells the story of Gnosticism, a belief system that is somewhat similar to Christianity but with a few twists: the serpent was actually sent to HELP Adam and Eve, but the god Yahweh conspires to keep them and all their ancestors captive on the prison planet of Earth. It's a very interesting set of beliefs, and fortunately the band explains it all on their website (www.metaphor.org) - I'd suggest anyone who listens to Starfooted to visit those pages to get the most out of the lyrical content of the album. It's really quite fascinating stuff.
Musically, despite being an ex-Genesis tribute band, Metaphor is surprisingly different from that band - they actually sound a little more like Gentle Giant then Peter Gabriel and Co. The one obvious exception of this is Malcolm Smith's sharp and angular electric guitar playing, which made me envision Steve Hackett in all his early 70's glory - complete with coke-bottle glasses, bell-bottoms, and devilishly long hair.
That having been said, Metaphor does a great job of creating its OWN style, and avoids being too derivate of their progressive ancestors. Starfooted isn't likely to jump right out at you, and as a matter of fact the CD itself takes a few tracks to really get going. After a couple of mediocre songs, the third track "Starfooted in a Garden of Cans" really kick-starts the proceedings with a 15-minute showcase of fantastic compositional skills that most certainly becomes more and more interesting with repeated listening.
"In the Cave" and "Seed" are two more examples of great lengthy compositions as well, the latter containing a extremely pleasant acoustic guitar and vocal break that is sure to please even the most jaded ear. The only places where Metaphor stumbles a bit is where vocalist John Mabry tries to get a little too theatrical for his own good with his singing - I'm sure the vocal "tricks" are supposed to inject an emotional context into the lyrics, but they wind up sounding kind of silly. Fortunately these occasions are few and far between, and Mabry is an excellent vocalist with a very soothing voice.
In the end, I'm certainly glad that the boys in Metaphor decided to give up their tribute band roots; the personnel are FAR too talented to be stuck in the rut of only performing other peoples' music. Metaphor proves that they are more than capable of flying on their own with Starfooted, and have produced a very professional and satisfying piece of symphonic progressive rock. This is a band that I shall be watching with great interest in the future, and I would urge that other proggies do the same!
Genesis derivative bands don't get a fair shake in the prog world and maybe they shouldn't. Look at the eighties careers of Fish-era Marillion, IQ, Discipline, or Iluvaar. There are few wiser adapters who can draw on influences without getting buried or selling out England by the pound. SF Bay area's best-kept secret, Metaphor, (lead by guitarist, Malcolm Smith) prove their allegiance by forging into familiar, but still fertile creative ground. Together with keyboardist, Marc Spooner, the guitarist had led their own Genesis tribute band whom I can testify rendered a faithful version of "Can Utility and the Coastliners".
Since then, the two scouted out co-composer and vocalist, John Mabry whom is the secret factor in the album's ten tracks. His manner is simply stated, musical and untied to any specific comparison to any other singer - this is an exceptional trait. The group is at it's best when driving toward full-scale theme development such as on "Seed" or "Battle of the Archons" which spotlight keyboard and lead guitar unisons which build into majestic and calypso passages. Possibly the best track, "Starfooted in a Garden of Cans" rhythmically recalls Genesis' "Back in NYC", but strict comparison ends there.
"Starfooted" is an auspicious debut for a quintet destined to appear on top ten lists of most prog publications this year. Don't miss an opportunity to see these guys in any West Coast live show - they are certain to deliver. Band info and updates can be found at www.metaphor.org.
Metaphor used to be an early-Genesis cover band, and they wear it on their sleeves. Occasionally the influence breeds near-plagiarism, while mostly it is a springboard for a more modern style, one that is sure to find wide appeal among stylists. I won't jump up on the soapbox and start bemoaning Genesis clones and what have you; nevertheless, this band is undoubtedly operating in the legendary group's shadow, one that may encompass the largest area for a "classic" prog group.
For instance, Metaphor parallels the mystical Christian imagery of "Foxtrot" and runs with it, although Metaphor's strange story having to do with Gnosticism is not a Christianity most people will be familiar with, and its elucidation with both biblical and modern characters makes the concept feel vague and even downright ponderous in its execution. It is definitely a lyrical excursion, and one feels they have reached a long-awaited oasis when a segment verges instrumental.
As "Starfooted" has all the buzz words - Mellotron, concept album, organ, mystical imagery, etc. - you can imagine that this is as dead center "prog rock" as you are going to find and will likely be of wide appeal. Metaphor undoubtedly do a pretty nice job in an overcrowded genre, yet one hopes that a broader group of influences will spur this band beyond its grandfather.
Starfooted is the debut album by Metaphor, and it's a winner. Not content with a simple collection of songs, Metaphor enters the field with that staple of progressive rock pretentiousness, the concept album. The theme is the Gnostic version of creation and the human condition (if you are not familiar with Gnostic teachings consult your neighborhood web browser).
Metaphor have taken this ancient belief and spun a decent tale. The band isn't a follower of this religion; they are more of the Genesis school. In a prior life Metaphor was a Genesis cover band and I guess having played music by the best prog band ever really rubbed off on these guys. The musicianship and composition here is first rate. They have blended classic era Genesis (Foxtrot, Nursery Cryme) with their own vision, and it works.
The Genesis factor is most apparent in the guitar work of Malcolm Smith, who uses lots of that wonderful Steve Hackett sound. The vocalist John Mabry might have a bit of ol' Pete in him but basically he is All-American. I like his voice a lot, he's got more range than many current singers have (though I would draw a strong comparison to Land's End Jeff McFarland). Keyboard player Marc Spooner really shines here as well. His keyboard work lays the foundation, the Banks sounds sound appears here and there but he's a strong player, and his style emerges. Bob Koehler definitely rises above any label of neo-prog drumming; his playing is crisp and tight. The same goes for bassist Jim Post; the two are an excellent rhythm section.
The album stands on it's own, but by visiting the band's web page you get more of the concept behind the songs, so you can look for the deeper meanings if you wish. In all Metaphor have released a strong first effort; good playing, good lyrics, familiar enough to immediately like, but with enough originality to keep you listening.
FAO CASA GAZETTE/Luna Kafe (The Netherlands)
The American group Metaphor has released a concept album that is full of ingenious [progressive] rock in a unique style drawing upon a great diversity of influences (i.e., early Genesis, some Pink Floyd, etc), molded in their own musical sensibilities and with the respect of the glorious past and a view on the inexorably judgmental future. The result is intricate and gripping, and it's rock sound. Starfooted is a musical feast of evocative melodies and consummate rock. An auspicious debut that speaks highly of the group as the complete sum of the individual creative forces, their mastery of the music and line and their ability and flexibility to create a compelling, original sound.
From Galileo Records - the first Swiss Progressive Rock Label - and home of yet another excellent progressive instrumental marvel: XANG and their Destiny of a Dream.
Getmusic.com/All Music Guide (USA)
If you like early, Peter Gabriel-led Genesis, chances are the debut album from San Francisco progressive-rock band Metaphor will have something on it worth slobbering over. Other than John Mabry's vocals, which are solid but don't recall Gabriel's much at all, Starfooted -- the San Francisco band's debut album, and only the second release on Swiss progressive label Galileo -- has all the qualities, quirks, and flourishes of Genesis circa The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway. That's not at all surprising considering they began their career in 1993 as a classic-era Genesis cover band before gravitating to their own, like-minded original material a few years later.
Characteristically, then, complexity is a requirement, and complexity is exactly what Metaphor provides -- in their playing, in their song structures, and in their lyrics. You have to give the band credit for their chutzpah. Their pretensions, like most teenagers' hormones, are working overdrive on Starfooted.
To call the album a concept album is to hugely understate the fact. Other than the lack of multiple voices, it wouldn't be a stretch to call it a rock opera of sorts. Each song is actually a part or section of the whole (and is divided up as such in the CD booklet), and each is part of a dialogue, generally between two or more individuals, with some of the characters involved being a Narrator, the Snake, Eve, the Prophet, and Christ. So Metaphor has ambition in spades (which is one reason why it is a bit disappointing that their music isn't a bit more stylistically ambitious, falling back on the normal prog-rock templates).There is a plot, but it is so hopelessly dense and buried under literary pretension that it is next to impossible to ferret out.
On the music end of things, inspirations other than Genesis -- Rush, Yes, Gentle Giant, Jethro Tull, and so on -- are also discernible throughout. Having said all that, the playing is uniformly excellent, and quite often the band find an intriguing groove or lock into a gorgeous ensemble section that is proof of their abilities. In the end, it is their sensibilities and influences that win out though.
If you close your eyes and allow the music to take you away, and forget that you are listening to San Francisco band at the beginning of the 21st century rather than a British band at the beginning of the 1970s, there is plenty to enjoy about Starfooted. Or to put it another way, if you are able to dismiss the sheer retroism of the band and its album, set aside the irony of the music industry's continued insistence on categorizing music this tried-and-true by the label "progressive," and dive guilt-free into the grandiosity of it all, Starfooted is a fine album.
The Gibraltar Encyclopedia of Progressive Rock (USA)
I get a lot of CD's for review in the GEPR. Most of them will go on the shelf after I'm done reviewing them and won't be dusted off for playing for my own enjoyment once I'm done with the review. Nothing against them ... I've just got too many new and old favorites to choose from. Starfooted will be an exception ... it's going to be on my personal playlist for some time to come. Starfooted is an old-fashioned concept album.
Lots of linked songs, recurring themes and a philosophy, in this case a great story based on Gnostic scriptures, though the band members are quick to say they are not Gnostics themselves. To quote from their web page: "... a lot of what gnosticism teaches is really, really icky. Like the body being evil, women being evil, and stuff like that." However, they do a great job of exploring some of the interesting aspects of Gnosticism. They paraphrase Gnostic scriptures like The Thunder, Perfect Mind, The Gospel of Thomas, and The Reality of the Rulers (also known as The Hypostasis of the Archons).
Metaphor started life as a Genesis tribute band, and this is still evident listening to Malcolm Smith's Steve Hackett-like attack-suppressed and long-sustained guitar parts, and Mark Spooner's Banksian keyboard work. There's a bass part in "Ladder from the Sky" that's (practically) one of the motifs used in The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway. In fact, much of this album is extremely reminiscent of Selling England By The Pound-era Genesis. OK, so what? That's a great sound!
Besides, there's also parts that sound more like Yes, particularly Steve Howe-ish guitar work, and other more neo bands, especially early Spock's Beard (The Light) and Clutching at Straws-era Marillion. Plus a lot of stuff that sounds very progressive, but not that much like anyone else. Unlike many Prog bands, these guys are also good at producing catchy, singable (hummable) melodies. And the fast (sequenced?) synth intro to "Starfooted in a Garden of Cans" is just too cool (actually, it's sort of a 2nd intro after an opening medieval/fugue section).
Just don't ask me what "starfooted" is supposed to mean. Metaphor has changed bass players since the release of this CD (Jim Anderson replaces Jim Post), and are currently working (slowly) on another CD. Don't hold your breath ... they are thinking maybe they'll start recording sometime late in 2001. By then, I will definitely be ready for some new tunes, and to see what direction they take from here!
This is a good first album for this new progressive band. The voice, musicians and melodies are good. You can ear an old Genesis influence, and also, from old memories (don't hold this against me), The Strawbs from the voice and orchestra like arrangements.
They will need to find their "own" sound in the next album, and I'm sure it will be one to look for.
Gothenburg Artrock Society (Sweden)
The American band Metaphor makes its record-debut with "Starfooted" and that´s DEBUT with big letters! The music they are playing is a very magnificent and variation-rich kind of symphonic-rock with roots in bands like early Genesis, Yes, Gentle Giant, Jethro Tull and the Beatles.
Even with those roots, the music feels very creative and innovative with clear abstract elements which ignore existing rules and which make this album feel unfettered and modern. The same goes as well for the lyrics which are all artful, fairly crafty, and often with equivocal messages through John Mabry's big and very special voice.
All together, "Starfooted" by Metaphor represents new thinking in the otherwise fairly conservative symphonic rock style and may very well give this genre some new fans. That it is, then, "just" a debut is to characterize it as a pure sensation though I have never ever heard such a mature or, let me say, ready debut. The album contains ten songs with a total length of almost 74 minutes, where you enjoy every second.
The entire CD gives the feel of totality, so I do not want to pick out any special song, though this is an album you'd better play from start to finish. "Starfooted" gives me an enormous curiosity about Metaphor's next album, which probably will take some time before it comes.
A-J Charron, July, 2001
"Baby's so serene, like a goddamn beauty queen" How someone could not fall in love with this album is beyond me. It's been a long time since I've been this excited about an album. Starfooted is one of the best albums I've ever heard. It rates up there with King Crimson's "In the Court of the Crimson King" and Pendragon's "Masquerade Overture".
In fact, I loved it so much, that after the first listen I contacted Guitarist Malcolm Smith to set up an interview with him. There is not a weak moment on this album. Every song has its place, every second of every song is pure pleasure on the ears and the mind. As it is part of being human to compare things, the first parallel one will draw while listening to this CD is the Genesis influence. Not that it sounds like what Genesis did, but rather like what Genesis would be doing now if Steve Hackett and Peter Gabriel had stayed... And if Phil Collins had continued playing drums. Yet that's the only parallel one can draw: The rest is totally original. I couldn't begin to say which song is my favourite, every song has its high points. Also, it being a concept album, everything fits in together.
The story itself is courtesy of Singer John Mabry. Rather than attempt to explain it myself, I asked John about it. Please read the interview for his explanation. The music is superb and executed with style. Everyone has a place. There are a lot of exchanges between the various instruments. And, believe me, these guys can play! The lyrics are intelligent. Such word smithing as "I am the first, I am the last/I am the barren, but I'll breed many nations/I am the revered, and yet I got no class/I am the whore, I am the holy/I am the only comfort in my own travail" (Ladder From the Sky), or "And I came down from heaven on the same ladder that she took, only to find her and to bring her back home if I could/And to all the myriad sparks of God held captive in mortal flesh I will the secrets of the ages, so that they might find their rest/So yes I came here to find you and to give you a way to be free/And just to thank me you nailed all of my limbs to a tree" (The Illusion of Flesh (Why Krishna Can't Tie His Shoes)). Love the title, by the way.
The combination of the music and the lyrics is something you'll be listening to for years to come. If you buy only one CD this year, buy this one.
Not bad, what METAPHOR from the San Francisco area put on this record called STARFOOTED. Well, METAPHOR are Prog, but the whole thing sounds very straight and melodic so the band never loses themselves into experimental regions, what Prog unfortunately often sounds like. METAPHOR sometimes also show an easily touch of irish folk music on this album and with the Song STARFOOTED IN A GARDEN OF CANS the band reminds me a bit of the old Marillion (with Fish behind the micro).
STARFOOTED contains a few excessive tracks, which often are 8 minutes or longer, however the whole thing loosened up by shorter (2 Min), calmer, partly acoustic tracks, so the album isn’t boring at any time. All in all there’s nothing to moan about, the songs are good and the album offers alternation.What do you want more?
Only criticism: Due to the lyrics (imagine a musical or something like that with different actors) METAPHOR would have gotten a whole point more, if the vocals had been in-sung by different singers. Then this CD would have been perfect. So I’ll give METAPHOR good 8 points for this record.
More Than Music (Sweden)
Metaphor with their debut release at Galileo Records, is an impressing one for sure. As the band has previosuly functioned as a Genesis cover band, I had high expectations though, but as I heard the first sounds of the album I was convinced that this was at least a resonable good album.
The music of Metaphor is a very much reminder of the Peter Gabriel era of Genesis of course, as the songs sound just like written with the purpose of being on old "Selling England by the Pound". This attribute alone makes this album worth having for many of you progressive rockers out there, of course.
The voice of John Mabry is not very much alike Gabriel though, even if the charisma and vocal style is deeply influenced of it of course. John has a very comfortable voice, that puts in the emotion needed in the words. A great and positive surprise to me! Three songs of this album are over 10 minute of play time, which is a common attribute for symphonic rockers. These three tracks are greatly built up with a band feel, song feel and space athompsheres. Very good!
Take a look at this release for sure, and of course Genesis fans without doubt!
This concept CD deals lyrically with the Gnostic myth of creation. Gnosticism is a religious philosophic movement that was very much alive in the early times of the church. The church reacted with taking over as well as with refusal. The kind of Gnosticism presented by Metaphor is strongly influenced by Christianity.
For example, Jesus isn´t any kind of character IN Christianity. He is the essence of Chritianity. On the band's homepage (www.metaphor.org) Metaphor are stressing they are not Gnostics; in fact, they point out that some Gnostic beliefs, like the depreciation of women and the body, are absolutely wrong. On the other hand, they point out that there is much about today's post-modern society that in many ways echoes the Gnostic teachings. For example, people are disappointed by "traditional institutions" and often the personal experience of god is thought of as useless or unsuitable. So the band has created an artistic illustration of the Gnostic myth as relevant to today's society.
Gnosticism believes that there is a divine spark inside of every human being. With the assistance of this spark, humans are said to be able to overcome their separation from God and heaven. In the Gnostic theory Jahwe, the God of Christians and Jews, is a kind of subordinated god commissioned in early times with the creation of the world. Since then, he holds back the knowledge of their godliness from humankind, in order to be able to continue ruling over them. Christ wasn't sent to save humankind, as it is believed in the Christian theology. His only task was to remind humans of their godliness so that they would get back their power of self-salvation. This is perhaps a doctrine that fits better with modern times, than that of the need to become redeemed because of ones' own sins. Such a complex theological concept of course cannot be translated into chart-compatible three-minute songs in a chorus-verse-chorus character!
The tracks on "Starfooted" live by elegiac yet playful keyboard- and guitar-melodies. Nearly every song breaks the 10-minute border. The music is "progressive rock" - a category characterized by journalists as following in the footsteps of bands like the early Genesis, Yes, or Pink Floyd. So it's no surprise that Metaphor began in 1993 as a Genesis cover band. In 1996 they began producing their own material, and in 1998 the work on their debut CD began.
Beyond the classic bands mentioned above, the other bands whose influence is heard in Metaphor are mostly Neo-Prog bands, such as Spock's Beard, IQ, and Marillion, which are named most frequently. This CD was released on the young Galileo Records label in Switzerland (www.galileo-records.com). If you can't find it in regular shops, contact the web sites of the band or the label.
Norbert von Fransecky
Music Box (Sweden)
Carl Lagerholm (Sweden) - April 2000 -
I'm in a huge Genesis state-of-mind right now, so Metaphor is very suitable listening for me. They sound like early Genesis and are very close to the original. The song construction, and above all the keys, are so very Genesis.
And they do it good! That's important to mention. Damn good. A big commendation to this excellent band which I think can be something big in this genre of music. A big hand from me to Bob, John, Jim, Malcom and Marc. Good work fellows!
Musique Progressive (Switzerland)
After having released its first album by the band "XANG" with obvious success, Galileo Record (a Swiss progressive rock label) presents to us its second newcomer, Metaphor, an American band.
Metaphor's debut album "Starfooted" is inspired by the seventies and by Genesis in particular. It is nearly impossible to describe this masterpiece, with it providing such an intense auditory emotion. What more can I say!
You should hurry to get this new prog CD - it will convince you that such a musical paradise can be produced very well on Swiss ground.
Plaudertasche-online webzine (Germany)
(German-to-English translation courtesy of Annette Herz) Starfooted, the debut CD by Metaphor, is presented by five gentlemen from the region around San Francisco. These men do not hide their age and in fact some of them raise their gray-haired heads proudly!
This CD is on the Galileo label, which is based in Switzerland. Up until this point, Metaphor was known only as a Genesis cover band. But now, they have challenged themselves with their first original recording that delves directly into the traditional progressive rock storytelling area, and honor us with a concept album. The Americans lead us with this CD into the theological depth of Gnosticism, but with no intent to convert us.
In fact, sometimes they are critical of this ancient philosophy around which the concept of the CD revolves. The album offers musically everything that constitutes progressive rock, without simply replaying the glorious seventies. Rather, Metaphor improves upon and transforms this musical direction with it's own stylistic devices of the present and make it suitable for the year 2000.
The five Americans prove on "Starfooted" that long musical pieces do not have to be by any means long-winded. Rather these songs consist of numerous collages of sound, which open themselves to the listener only after having heard them repeatedly. However with the first listening of the CD, you can already detect memorable melodies, which you find yourself humming along all of a sudden. For this, the songwriters deserve respect. Nevertheless those who like shorter songs are served as well. Particularly the sugar-sweet "The Bridal Chamber" proves the qualities of the band in producing two-minute songs. It goes without saying that these short songs have to be good, since they have to exist side-by-side with melodic giants on the CD such as "Starfooted in a Garden of Cans."
Someone who wants not only to read but also to listen to a great story of mystical quality is here served to the fullest extent. Someone who likes the "old" Genesis and wants to know how they might sound in our time today will not be able to do better than Metaphor's debut. And those who want simply to indulge in the sounds of a prog band and listen to music, which is off the mainstream and typical alternative/indie hitparade, would do well to seek out "Starfooted" by Metaphor.
We often talk about the progressive music which is typical of the American style - well here is another screaming example of this American identity, a band call METAPHOR. If this album is found outside of our normal pages, it is simply because their label is different than the ones that we usually publish about.
he label is GALILEO, known for signing up bands such as XANG. We can say that the Swiss Label has the nose for it since the success met by the French band XANG is beyond expectations of the optimists. Galileo did the right thing on their first signing and will do even better with this new production. Metaphor is the best surprise of the third quarter of the year and we are pleased that their are practicing the traditional progressive style. Their strength is not in their search for originality and a fusion of styles, but more in their musical concept.
Metaphor is going full speed and couldn't care less about futurist sounds, they are comfortable in their vibrant seventies style. They are not in it for a revolution but simply to master the discipline they like so much, and satisfy whoever is listening to their music. The difference with them is that their album is perfect on different levels; on the style it's full-on class on the composition there will always be better to do but we are not complaining. But for now we are well satisfied with this album made from a "chef d'oeuvre" with just enough symphonic , melody, attitude, ancestral sounds, and more. The concept is perfect !
The title "Battle of the Archons" has a little of "Anglagard", "Spock's Beard", King Crimson" and some "Genesis". A super album which is a typical American style that teach what is the real progressive music.
by Nuno, 2002
There are bands that do not strike you at first listen and you tend to forget about them, but when later you decide to give them another listen you can't believe your ears and can't escape a loud "wow". This is the case with Metaphor and their debut Starfooted.
First the lyrics...they are nothing less than absolutely prime rate poetry. The lyrical content is deep, thoughtful, sometimes cynical (can be considered blaspheme), and critical but surely is an intelligent vision on creation and the mechanisms of the Universe. To accommodate it, the vocals are sentimental and balanced by the meaning of the words. They can sound Godly and Revealing or Evil and Dark.
The music is a collection of changing time-signatures and unorthodox interplay, borrowing many influences from early Genesis, but doing it with enough thinking and sharpness not to consider them an absolute clone but just a very enjoyable derivative band. Not given space to virtuoso playing, the music is nevertheless faultless, with all instruments having its fair share in contributing to the final tightness of the music. Sometimes the music gets even more bold and ambitious, sounding close to Happy The Man or even Gentle Giant, though they mainly focus themselves between the Genesis reminiscences and their own view on Symphonic Rock.
For those who continually seek for bands that make you trip back to the early Genesis feeling. To those who like The Watch, Citizen Kain or Neuschwanstein, this is absolutely not to be missed!
In the other hand, very religious persons may find their Gnostic lyrics to be abusive and blaspheme...I just find them brilliant!
Stylistically, "Starfooted" is a rather monolithic album. Only three short songs, namely The Illusion of Flesh, The Bridal Chamber, and Assumption (tracks 4, 7, & 10), are slightly different from all of the other compositions on the album. However, their presence here is quite justified and, on the whole, they're not out of a unified musical concept on this album. They're like the small islets of calmness and relaxation in the stormy musical sea where there are lots of intensive and often unpredictable undercurrents.
On each of these songs, John Mabry sings to the accompaniment of the rhythms of acoustic guitar, chords of piano, and unobtrusive parts of the rhythm section. Kind of a keyboard pillow serves as a background to these accessible, yet, nice arrangements.
The main and large-scaled Classic Progressive battles are developed on all seven of the remaining songs on the album: Ladder From the Sky, Chaos With a Crown of Cold, Starfooted In a Garden of Cans, In the Cave, Seed, Don't Step, and Battle of the Archons (tracks 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 8, & 9). The Symphonic Art-Rock arrangements, that on the whole are typical for each of these songs, consist of the following essential progressive ingredients. Seemingly endless interplay between various soloing instruments, such as the piano, synthesizers, electric, acoustic, and bass guitars, frequent and often unexpected changes of tempo and mood, and complex time signatures, etc.
A few pieces contain passages of whistles and solos of Mellotron and Hammond organ. Ladder From the Sky is rich in the Church Organ- and Clavier-like passages of synthesizer, while on Starfooted In a Garden of Cans are heard the solo of violin. Although the numbers of vocal and purely instrumental parts are approximately equal on each of these songs, the instrumental arrangements flow nonstop regardless whether John Mabry sings or not. What is interesting is that while most of the synthesizer solos are here not unlike those of Tony Banks, almost all of the piano passages are very original.
The same can be said about the guitar the guitar parts and the vocals. Most of the electric guitar solos are not unlike those of Steve Hackett, whereas the acoustic guitar passages are mostly creative. Although, unlike Peter Gabriel's voice, the timbre of John Mabry's voice is mellow, he sings for the most part in the vein of the original Genesis vocalist.
However, despite the fact that Genesis's influences are obvious in both the vocal and instrumental departments of Metaphor, their music sounds by no means derivative. It is because there are enough of the band's own ideas in it as well. While it was always clear that, totally ignoring the wretched wannabees and poor imitators of the music of their idols, I like the true clones of the legendary bands as much as their followers.
Summary. Unlike Arena, who are very influenced by Marillion, who in their own turn, were very influenced by Genesis, the latter band never did mark the covers of their albums with the notes like "A Classic For the Future". A true Classic doesn't require any concomitant comments and especial hints about it, while Genesis is really the most influential band in the history of Progressive Music. Along with such bands as Marillion, Xitizen Cain, IQ, Ezra Winston, & Cast, I regard Metaphor as one of the true followers of the legacy of Genesis the Great. Overall, "Starfooted" is nearly a masterpiece album
Progression Magazine (USA)
David Taylor, Spring/Summer 2000
Metaphor - Starfooted
1999 (CD, 73:58); Galileo Records GALILEO 0002
Style: Symphonic progressive rock
Sound 3 stars
Composition 3.5 stars
Musicianship 3 stars
Performance 4 stars
Total Rating 13.5 stars
If nothing else, this Swiss (sic) group gets credit for coming up with a mind-blowing concept that puts most other concept albums to shame. You see, our world was created by a blind god, so the real god takes pity on us, and tries to...
Er, uh, how's the music? The wheels come off this odd contraption for the last 20-something minutes. But the first 50 hold together fairly well, and are pleasingly adventurous like early Genesis and Echolyn. And certain passages, especially in the 15-minute "Starfooted in a Garden of Cans" and "Seed" achieve a grandeur, a majesty, almost to match the weightiness of the theme.
It's so exhilarating to hear a group push itself to the limit. Hopefully, any criticisms Metaphor receives, including from this review, will only energize them to mount a new project. Starfooted is a recommendable effort, but with more maturity and experience doing what they're trying to do, Metaphor should eventually record something as mindblowing as their conceptual inspiration.
Progressive Newsletter (Germany)
(German-to-English translation courtesy of Ken Steen) The American band Metaphor, which until now has only appeared as a Genesis (classic era) tribute band, is now presenting its debut album. And their concept album Starfooted released on the ambitious Swiss label Galileo is a real cracker!
Soon after the first beats it is clear where they come from, musically, but unlike the many boring plagiarists of the classic prog-olympians, Metaphor have their own character, their own handwriting. The impressive voice of singer John Mabry immediately takes you into the sound world of this album. It takes the listener into mystic spheres of gnosticism and reveals Starfooted as a musical as well as spiritual journey through forgotten theologies.
To avoid misunderstandings: these Americans do not want to convert us - none of them are gnostics or sympathize with it. Actually they are quite critical about this theology. They simply choose the sources of this theology as a leading theme for a journey, a story. Those who wish to deal a little more with this complex philosophical-theological topic will find a few links on their homepage regarding gnosticism. But even without their ambitious lyrics Starfooted leaves an impression on the listener.
A strong sound that indeed reminds you of the glorious times of Genesis, but composition-wise these Americans do write their own music. As mentioned before, they have a sufficient level of their own substance and do not need to take any musical concepts from others.The epic long tracks are connected in a musical and conceptional way and reveal many of the ingredients that once defined prog: mellotron and keyboard soundscapes, complex and wide-spread rhythms, a guitar that tells of an obvious Steve Hackett influence, and generally a lot of space to unfold the musical qualities of these instrumentalists.
Starfooted is an exquisit, never boring album, that captures the listener (again and again)... This is a piece that invites you to analyze (somehow a miracle considering this topic) and is surely a disc that will bring you the highest musical pleasure. This is progressive rock music which one can hardly imagine to be done better.
Sal Pichireddu - March 2000 -
The Progressive Rock Files (Canada)
This San Francisco band spent a number of years as a classic-era Genesis tribute band and the time on the road shows in the top-notch musicianship.
The music is first-class symphonic progressive rock with, as you might expect, a strong Genesis flavour. Longer songs with lots of twists and turns, and strong on melody. Loads of thematic build-up, changing time signatures produces a very satisfying sound.
From the book, "The Progressive Rock Files" by Jerry Lucky
Updated edition, 2000
Progressive World (first review) (USA)
John "Bo Bo" Bollenberg
San Francisco based band Metaphor has been a Genesis tribute group for about two years. They mainly focussed on the "classic era'"Genesis, the influence of which can be heard strongly on the band's debut album Starfooted. Especially Malcolm Smith's guitar sound leans heavily towards the heavenly sound of Hackett, whilst both the keyboard parts from Marc Spooner and the voice of John Mabry let us hear the better elements out of Trespass, Nursery Crime and Foxtrot, even if this album contains ten original compositions.
Whilst the Italian band The Nightwatch gets very close to the vocals of Peter Gabriel, Metaphor leans more towards Genesis in the instrumental passages. "Starfooted In A Garden Of Cans" begins in a folky and classical vein both at the same time before it evolves towards being like an unreleased Genesis gem from the seventies by means of some obstinate synth sounds. "In The Cave" opens with that typical mellotron and swelling drums, the kind of pattern we have been able to witness many times with the real Genesis.
In fact, if you change one small letter in the title you get . "In The Cage!" "Battle Of The Archons" sounds ominous, almost like a cross between Happy the Man (yet another Genesis title) and Gentle Giant. The longer tracks are interspersed by some shorter songs such as "The Illusion Of Flesh", "The Bridal Chamber" and "Assumption," songs which are mainly written around an acoustic framework. The final track "Assumption" even sounds a bit like a gospel and maybe this has something to do with singer John Mabry who in daily life is also . a priest. Maybe we have to see him as the successor of Geoff Mann?
When Re-Genesis released their albums filled with Genesis cover versions it didn't mean a thing. With Metaphor at least they have delivered some original work although obviously the Genesis reference is deeply rooted in their own compositions. Starfooted' certainly is a must for the addictive Genesis fan and much more interesting than Mascaras Urbanas from that other Genesis clone Rael. Well done!
Progressive World (second review) (USA)
The ad copy on the Galileo Records Web site states "You have not heard a band like Metaphor before." Well...er...actually, you have -- a little band known as Genesis. That Metaphor should sound so much like Genesis is no surprise considering that they honed their chops in San Francisco as a Genesis tribute band for two years.
That said, if you're looking for wildly original music, Metaphor won't do it for you -- but if you like Gabriel-era Genesis, you need this CD. Much like Genesis's own The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway, Starfooted is a concept album. In this case, the story is the Gnostic view of creation and the universe. This view is, to put it diplomatically, on the controversial side, and the band is careful to point out on their own Web site that "We are not Gnostics. In fact, a lot of what Gnosticism teaches is really, really icky."
Still, it all makes for a fascinating mythology, which the band has explored on this very listenable work. Starfooted exudes Genesis from virtually every note. You can hear it in the "Supper's Ready"-like mythos to the Hackett-style guitar parts to the complex instrumental sections. Thankfully, the vocalist, John Mabry, resists (for the most part) the temptation to mimic Peter Gabriel, although the influence is more than obvious.
While I'm a big fan of originality and understand that pushing boundaries is what drives music into new frontiers, I also find no problem with well done derivative works. And for fans of Genesis, this is one of the best I've heard.
Alfonso Algora (Spain) - Mai 2000 -
It is somewhat surprising that a band like Metaphor comes from the United States -cradle of other progressive styles-, a group that began as a cover band of Genesis classic songs in San Francisco's area. They have surprised me positively with this first Cd Starfooted.
The members of Metaphor are John Mabry (voice), Jim Post (keyboards), Malcolm Smith (guitars), Marc Spooner (keyboards) and Bob Koehler (drums) and their music, as could not be otherwise, drinks directly from the fountain of Genesis. Fortunately, Metaphor moves away from the structures adopted by the British bands determined to continue milking the empty udders of easy neo-prog.
Their music is closer to bands such as The Night Watch or Citizen Caín, music made with much dramatic and theatrical sense than that of other bands as Enchant or Iluvatar. I would even dare to recommend this work to all of you that like Marillion in Script for a Jester's Tear or Arena in Songs from the Lion 's cage, as we will see, the similarities are evident. Starfooted is a conceptual album with a extended length (73:49), divided in 10 songs that maintain a constant level of quality. Instrumentally, the band plays in a very professional and blended way; they are not amazing instrumentalists but inside their limits, they play in a very spontaneous way, with a tremendous easiness when recreating -without falling in plagiarism - the arrangement structures of Genesis of Peter Gabriel's time.
We must make an special mention to the vocals, with very elegant melodies that fit perfectly inside the music and the concept of the album. The topic that opens the Cd "Ladder from the Sky" (6:53) is a perfect sample of how to make a melodically perfect piece without falling into plagiarism, as we find influences from the already mentioned Genesis and also from Jethro Tull. "Chaos with a crown of Gold" (5:58) reminds me a lot from the first Marillion mixed with the sound score for Brian de Palma's movie The Paradise´s Phantom mainly in the vocals of John. Other strong pieces of the Cd are "Starfooted in a garden of cans" (15:04), in which they recreate the magic of Genesis in Selling England by the Pound or Foxtrot, and in which we notice the experience of these musicians in versioning their favourite band. Also, the short and beautiful "The Bridal Chamber" (2:42), etc.
The general tone of the Cd is very interesting and very respectful to its Genesis influences, so it is difficult to highlight any compositions above the others. Which is the problem then? Why does the Cd not have a higher grade? Very easy: it is very, very complicated to maintain the listener's interest during more than one hour. Not more, not less. I don't understand the current attitude of 90% of the bands that always want to give us an excessive length in their albums. If Starfooted lasted only 45-60 minutes, the Cd would be perfect. I don't say that it is not, but to enjoy 100% of its quality, it should be listened in two parts so it doesn't become excessively long.
I believe that this mistake of Metaphor is easily solvable for future releases. Basic albums such as Thick as a brick, Selling England by the pound, Red or Close to the edge do not last more than 50 minutes. Anyway, if this Cd had been split into two parts, it would have obtained the highest grade. Specially recommended for fans of Genesis, the first Marillion and lovers of the most descriptive and theatrical progressive rock. To follow them closely.
Realmusic/Moshpit webzines (Germany)
(German-to-English translation courtesy of Annette Herz) Do you know what Gnosticism is? If not, you should pick up the "concept album" Starfooted by the band Metaphor from San Francisco. Even if you do know about this philosophy, you should still get the CD, particularly if you like old Genesis or Yes. These bands rank among the musical idols of the five musicians in Metaphor. This music is quite in the style of old Genesis with Peter Gabriel, but nevertheless not too dusty or derivative.
This CD has beautiful arrangements and interesting compositional structures that promise many changes, both expected and surprising. Above all the marvelous voice of singer John Mabry, as well as a tasteful CD cover artwork and quite an interesting story constitute "Starfooted." It is obvious from seeing and hearing the CD that the band took lots of effort to produce this album, to which no attribute fits better than simply "tastefully great!" The only criticism is that sometimes that famous musical last "kick" is missing, which would make the CD a real classic. But then, how many bands really have that kick?
By the way, a definition of Gnosticism can be found in the band interview in Moshpit. If you are not able to find the CD at your record-dealer, contact Galileo Records, P.O. Box 30. 9126 Necker, Switzerland, firstname.lastname@example.org
Roland's World of Prog-Music (Germany)
Special thanks to Georg Oelschläger for the translation
"Starfooted" is the first release of the US-Band Metaphor. Stylistically, the music can be described as classic prog rock as we know it from the early Genesis. STOP! Before somebody shouts "clones!", it has to be stated that this Band is not copying the prog giants of the Seventies (nor the commercial-bombast-Genesis of later days). "Starfooted" can rather be described as a project that revives the good old days of brilliant prog. "Starfooted" is full of longtracks - and with a running time of 74 minutes it makes full use of the available space on the disc.The range reaches from easily digestable beautiful harmonic passages to more playful tracks with quite hot and angular interludes. It often sounds like "Flower Kings meet Spock's Beard" - always hitting the nail on the head! I confess that it took me some time to acquire a taste for the music of Genesis - here, it's quite similar, it needs repeated listening to get used to the complex structures of "Starfooted".
Though I miss some of the genius and musical perfection of Genesis (but Metaphor's day will come!). I advise all the fans of the "old" Genesis to do a test listening, it's worth the effort - if need be, a suitable "ear brusher" to wash it down (Symphony X, Kamelot and the like) should be put on standby.
Review by Greger Rönnqvist (Sweden)
(for posting to Midwestern Skies, Zeitgeist, Through Different Eyes, and Sonitus.
Metaphor originally started out as a Genesis tribute band. Their debut CD "Starfooted" though is a concept album with their own compositions. The music however is very reminiscent to early 70's Peter Gabriel-era Genesis but with a more modern sound. There's also reminiscences to Arena, The Flower Kings, Galleon, Gentle Giant, IQ, Marillion, Spock's Beard and the Swedish band Twin Age, but after all, Twin Age were once a Genesis tribute band too. This album has it all: Mellotron, odd-time signatures, many complex rhythm changes, good compositions and arrangements. The songs are very much built up the same way as typical Genesis songs, but it would be unfair to say that Metaphor hasn't got moments when they are blooming out in their own personal style. The vocalist John Mabry is very good and so are the musicians. John Mabry is one factor that makes Metaphor differ from being a Genesis-clone.
This album is highly recommended to lovers of Peter Gabriel-era Genesis. They are a perfect substitute for the symphonic progressive rock that Genesis abandoned with the release of "-And then there were Three" in 1978. I'm a big Genesis fan so I can't help but to love this album after all. Hopefully they will develop their own style on forthcoming albums, then they would surely get a breakthrough. I think that Metaphor has a good chance to become one of the major progressive rock bands in the near future. Remember my words!
Review by John Hardy, San Francisco Herald (USA)
Starfooted by Metaphor is a beautiful CD; a rhaposdy of music that lets your spirit soar and glide in-between and over again. Like all good progressive rock this is a concept album, and it is centered lyrically around Gnosticism and musically around the memories of Genesis, Yes, and Dream Theatre. I suppose that if you are not interested in all that these gorgeous lyrics have to offer, then pay attention to the music. All of the players weave the most amazing passages. I get lost in the flow of guitar and flute against vocal pure.
If you are really brave put both lyrics and music together, forget about comparisons, and become becalmed in the gentle sway of Metaphor. My friend Mike thought that the Genesis quotes were a bit much. I on the other hand was intrigued with new workings and found that overall this music becomes special on its own. I was not aware that there were so many really great new progressive rock bands. I have Metaphor to thank for this discovery and for this terriffic CD. Thanks guys!
It is pleasant to put a new CD in the player without knowing too much about what to expect, yet feeling excited about the possible discovery of a hidden treasure. From the first notes of this disc with the Steve Hackett-style guitar and the very clear ambiance of Genesis the tone of Metaphor's debut CD 'Starfooted' is set. This is not to say that this is yet another clone of that legendary band. Following a listen one quickly realizes that Metaphor is, of course, inspired by the great groups of the progressive scene but has created an original sound as well.
This American group began as a tribute band paying homage to Genesis. Metaphor signed with the Swiss progressive rock label Galileo Records, who were probably impressed by the very European sound of the group, and subsequently recorded this first disc. Starfooted is a 'concept album' in the purest tradition, with almost 74 minutes of music which alternates between long songs of 9, 10 or 15 minutes and short acoustic songs to effect the transitions and to make the whole CD fluid and dynamic.
The quality of the compositions is impressive and the musicians, especially the singer John Mabry, offer a very solid performance. In addition, the CD features a somewhat unusual concept that mixes aspects of the religious and the mystic, and a quality production especially for a first disc. The first album by Metaphor is a beautiful surprise and a very pretty discovery. Note: 8/10
From San Francisco comes Metaphor a promising new progressive rock band that is under contract with the very active Galileo records. Metaphor are musically placed in the middle between the more romantic "Misplaced Childhood-era" Marillion and the symphonic Peter Gabriel's Genesis.
The production of the CD is very good and the guys are all skillful players. The songs are excellent, from the melodic and dreaming "Chaos with a crown of gold" to the complex "In the Cave", each one characterized by changing time signatures and atmospheres. Although Metaphor shows well defined influences, they try to find original vocal lines and captivating instrumental parts, never showing any pop influence (unlike other prog bands of these years). Sometimes they are overly indulgent, especially in the final part of the CD; however this "instrumental self-indulgence" is a certainly a trade mark of progressive rock.
The conclusion is that all the songs (often around or over 10 minutes long) are solid and well written, and the CD is definitely very enjoyable.
The Space of Carlos Tavares (Portugal)
Metaphor are an brand new American band composed by John Mabry on vocals, Malcolm Smith on guitar, Marc Spooner on keyboards, Jim Post on bass and Bob Koehler on the drum kit. Their sound is remarkably reminiscent of Genesis' Gabriel-era.
The concept on which this album was inspired on dwells on the rather uncommon Gnosticism topic. Albeit being somehow heavy and discussable for their first offering, it gathers points by its originality and furnishes the essence of raw material for the labouring of the tracks.
The album's opener is LADDER FROM THE SKY, an intricate song with self-indulged-free arrangements, showcasing some fontal and solid melodies that swarm emotion. The background keyboard textures create a mystical ambient that adjusts perfectly in the conceptual lattice. CHAOS WITH A CROWN OF GOLD takes us to different territories, where the melodies are better with the track flow and where the guitar is the highlight. A piano sinks in a mellow moment and the voice embarks on a Phil Collins impersonation as in AFTERGLOW. STARFOOTED IN A GARDEN OF CANS initiates on a medieval melody and relives again on Genesis' THE LAMB LIES DOWN ON BROADWAY. The multiple rhythmic, instrumental and mood label this track with the righteous definition of progressive rock.
IN THE CAVE and SEED are a couple of tracks that by bearing more disperse arrangements build up the nucleus of the album and solidifies a base that was elsewhere engraved. DON'T SLEEP couldn't have a more appropriate title due to its repetitiveness and lack of content, therefore the inevitable drowsiness.
At the end we have BATTLE OF THE ARCHONS, and despite reflecting some experimentalism with the keyboard and guitar interplay it also contains varied melodic structure and defying arrangements. Summing all up, it's a well-put together album despite the exaggerated hook on the Genesis influence and the longish duration for a concept of the genre.
22nd April, 2000
Strutter (The Netherlands)
I don't have a clue where the band METAPHOR is coming from, because I have no info on them and the CD booklet doesn't say anything about a country or anything. Their CD 'Starfooted' has been released on the Swiss label Galileo Records, but when checking the names of the bandmembers, I reckon they are an American band. METAPHOR is playing very good neo-progressive rock a la JADIS and when you read their lyrics, you may notice that this CD is more like a concept-album.
The story continues song after song, so actually you can also see the whole CD as one long song (of nearly 80 minutes). The songs don't have choruses and just continues in telling us a story (something which MARILLION did in the 80s), but still it all sounds pretty good to me. Songs like "Ladder from the sky", "Chaos with a crown of gold", "Starfooted in a garden of cans" (15 minutes!) and "Don't sleep" are great semi progressive rockers with a lot of melodic instrumental parts.
The best song though is the 70s typed progressive pomprocker "Seed" that sounds like KANSAS meets 70s YES, and especially towards the end the song is starting to become very impressive.
This band is recommended to fans of neo-prog. and I need to add that this is another non-commercial band, because their music is totally unsuitable for radio that makes them even more interesting for all the progressive rockfans who always have and will ignore music that is played on the radio (pffewww, that was a long sentence, hope you'll get the picture!). Anyway, check out their site at: http://www.metaphor.org
Suppers Ready (Germany)
Special thanks to Georg Oelschläger for the translation
Once, Metaphor was a Genesis cover band. Now, "Starfooted" is their album debut - and quite an ambitious one. Right at the start they venture to do a concept album with a rather complex and delicate theme: religion. To be precise, they deal with the gnostics - and they approach the theme very critically.
Metaphor are - no wonder regarding their past - inspired by Genesis, that is, by the Gabriel phase from 1970 to 1974. But, to dispel any doubts, they do not copy, they just let themselves be inspired by the song structures and the overall Genesis sound of those days.
Bruno Versmisse (France)
(French-to-English translation courtesy of Phyllis Brooks Schafer)
After having released it's first album by French group Xang, and enjoying its success that we've all seen, Galileo gives us its second hatchling, METAPHOR.
Well-launched, at least from a critical point of view, with the Yankee group that no one wanted (but I'm joking!), Galileo can crow about it from the rooftops now. For a first effort, it was a masterstroke. Proud of this success, the little Swiss label should see the future only as a rosy one and it has become a new force to be reckoned with in the progressive landscape.
In a completely different style, but still progressive, to be sure, METAPHOR comes along to continue the story. Although American, this group works in a European register, inspired by the seventies. Closer to Genesis in the idea that they have of the genre than they are to Yes, METAPHOR has taken the thorny path of the joyful and sad numbers called up by early Genesis, mainly that of Phillips and Hackett.
No beautiful escapes to the cosmos or noisy jazz experiments, just a kind of chamber music symphonic quality, deliciously old-fashioned in the best sense of the term. A series of little stories, falling helter-skelter from the dusty attic of the seventies. Keyboards setting out on a precise description, laid out note-by-note, a quavering and descriptive voice, visualizing what it expresses, a guitar at the same time accompanying and cutting. The rhythm serving the work without exaggerating it.
Not greatly innovative, but certainly very evocative, METAPHOR makes use of two old pots to warm up its soup. Genesis, of course, but also the Moody Blues when the keyboards "cry" like souls in torment with that archaic sonority that goes so well in the progressive climate. METAPHOR tells, describes, deals out its little stories with aggression and tenacity, forgetting all the grand vistas of operetta for a kind of café-theater style closer to its means and its listeners, who embark on a play in eleven acts, each in exactly its right place.
Three long sections that one never wants to see ending make up the scaffolding of the building. In 15:04 (Starfooted in a Garden of Cans), 10:09 (Seed), and 10:24 (Battle of the Archons), METAPHOR says more than others do in three albums!
As the new heir to the most renowned progressive tradition, METAPHOR should delight those who pay no attention to disputes between tradition and innovation, and who pay no attention to age-old criticisms of the "progressive style that regresses - blah, blah, blah." It's completely good. Period.
Zoltan's Progressive Rock Web Page (USA)
Metaphor are a 5-piece band (from San Jose, California) who began their career as a Genesis cover-band. As time went on, though, the band slowly added original compositions into their cover-list, and the idea of releasing a CD of original material was born. Starfooted is colorful, haunting, grandiose, and playful in a manner that most listeners will be reminded of early Genesis. Tracks like "Ladder From The Sky", and "Chaos With A Crown Of Gold" are prog gems. Themes are introduced, developed, and resolved the way 70s bands use to do it.
And along the way listeners are treated to melodic, and rhythmic surprises. Malcolm Smith's guitar playing really struck me as impressive. His style might recall "Voyage Of The Acolyte"-era Steve Hackett. His prog-guitar palette includes everything from the famous Hackett weeping-sound, to slightly aggressive Steve Howe-like riffing. Once in a while, I'm also reminded a bit of Gentle Giant's Gary Green.
Vocalist John Mabry offers nice vocals in a style similar to Peter Gabriel, and Peter Hammill. Yet at times he sounds similar to some of the neo-prog singers. I have to mention that many tracks, towards the end of the CD, feature long vocal sections which might bother those of you who prefer instrumental prog, or who don't really like the neo-prog vocal style. However, the music supporting the vocals remains reasonably complex and interesting.
Overall, fans of early-Genesis, Steve Hackett's early solo albums, and neo-prog will enjoy Metaphor. Starfooted remains one of the top prog CDs released in 2000.