Cast — Angels and Demons
((Not on label) no#, 1997, CD)
by Jon Davis, Published 1998-02-01
I've been reading about Cast for a while in Exposé, but the arrival of this disc marks the first time I've actually heard them. So going into it, I knew they were a "symphonic neo-prog" band from Mexico, and I was not expecting much. Symphonic neo-prog would not generally be to my liking. I grew up on the first generation of classically-oriented progressive rock (Genesis, Yes, ELP, and the rest) and my general impression of neo-prog is "Been there, heard that." Then Angels and Demons kicks in with a quick drum roll and twenty seconds of pure percussive energy, followed by a short silence and a nice bit of everybody playing eighth notes in 7/8. The keyboards predominate, but a lyric electric guitar soars over it all, providing a gutsy top to masses of synth and piano. This is "Initiation" in more ways than one; I'm hooked. The musicians wear their influences proudly (I hear lots of Genesis in particular), but manage to avoid sounding overly derivative to my ears. It's over eight minutes into the lengthy disc (weighing in around 74 minutes) before there's any singing. The vocals remind me a bit of PFM, though without the vibrato, and all the lyrics are in English. In spite of a somewhat ambitious concept to the album involving the fall of an angel and the coming of a redeemer to the world (sounds vaguely familiar somehow), the lyrics are mostly decent and manage to avoid weighing down the music with semi-religious philosophizing. What really sets Cast apart is the quality of the writing and playing. Keyboardist Alfonso Vidales, who is responsible for all the composing, has a real penchant for odd meters (always a plus in my book), and the arranging duties (shared by all the players) spotlight tight ensemble playing over individual ego-gratification. And I have no complaints about the production, either: this recording from "Cast Studio" sounds crisp and professional in all respects.
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