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Metaphor — Starfooted
(Rock Symphony RSLN 021, 2000, CD)
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 Jeff McFarland of Land’s End). Keyboard player Marc Spooner really shines here as well. His keyboard work lays the foundation, the Banks sounds appear 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 its 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.
by Dane Carlson, Published 2000-10-01
Genesis-derivative bands don't get a fair shake in the prog world and maybe they shouldn't. Look at the 80s 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, who 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 its 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.
by Jeff Melton, Published 2000-10-01
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 buzzwords — 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.
by Mike McLatchey, Published 2000-10-01
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