Mexican act Rizengard's Chapter 21 is their debut album, apparently coming as a result of 15 years of composition (!) even if the band was put together only recently in 2010. It is fairly clear that here we have an experienced bunch of musicians, technically skilled and with a great variety of influences, which is displayed within the 70 minutes of this 14-track album.
Although I tend to be reserved against long-duration albums, 'Chapter 21' kept me interested for its whole duration and that is a good start. This is definitely not your typical Neo-prog as it is filled with a heavy and intense sound and with a feel of jazz/fusion all over it. At the end of the day, this is not prog metal though, neither fusion nor traditional symphonic progressive rock. Rizengard prefer to keep it multi-layered, not really sticking to a particular style. What is common throughout is a fresh, up-tempo sound, slightly funky and commercial enough (Changes) to balance the virtuosity of these guys. The keyboards of Rizzo stand out as a trademark and determine the sound. Smooth jazz/fusion (Sacred Love, Magic) mixes with heavy fusion/progressive metal (Molokos, Mistica Noche) under an Allan Holdsworth-infused magic carpet. Strangely, the Neo-prog element, although not dominant in all tracks, appears constantly through Rizzo's keyboards, which at times are tuned to IQ/Marillion and others to more 70's-fused progressive rock. To describe this in a nutshell, maybe a heavy/fusion version of Sylvan might give you an idea for what to expect here, although strange as a combination this might sound. Lyrics both in Spanish and English appear in less than half of the tracks, nicely balanced between the instrumental sections.
Composed over many years, the album appears to be a compilation of tracks but it has been tuned in a way that it presents a cohesive package, which is not disturbed (on the contrary really) by the effort to enrich it with instruments not usually found together in a progressive rock album: bagpipes, Aztec percussion, saxophone, marimba. The production quality varies (but not buries the sound) and could have been a bit 'cleaner'. The album will appeal to a broad range of progressive rock fans - as for me, a 3.5+ rating is deserved.