Creativity and variety; possibly the two most important elements in my books when the time comes to enjoy a progressive rock album. Nowadays, a number of releases are presented in a nice package, with polished, grandiose production and a set of compositions that satisfy but rarely excite. The opposite happens with UNIFIED PAST's "Spots".
Consisting of more than only spots of that exciting progressive rock music, the renewed trio (founders Speelman and Tassone welcome Dave Mickelson on bass) present an album that boasts of healthy creativity and a mood for improvisation. Although tagged as a progressive metal band, the element that strikes you more on this release is the multi-aspect use of keyboards; Neo-prog and AOR fans will enjoy the pompous, yet deep key lines, that draw influences from the 70's and 80's.
Heavy Neo-Prog with a metallic feel might be a better description but these are semantics. The constant vocal effect of Speelman brings to mind the tech/sci-fi/industrial character of VOIVOD and (less) ANACRUCIS, with the sound never quite reaching the heaviness of the two aforementioned bands. Contrary, from the opening neo/heavy sections, we are led to jazz/fusion atmospheres and neo-classical/shred moods (see 'Hot') before returning to the more cyber 'Seeing'. The peak of the album starts with 'Tough', an 8-minute hard'n'heavy instrumental piece that joins the legacy of MALMSTEEN's mid-80's power-tracks with the modern expression of virtuoso progressive metal (call me 'LIQUID TENSION EXPERIMENT'). And the party is not over yet: The mid-tempo 'Age' with the lush keyboards and pompous refrain sticks to your mind.
Half of the album comprises instrumental compositions whereby different aspects of progressive rock appear in measured quantities; the symphonic/neo prog is yet dominant under the weight of Speelman's heavy riffs, even in the closing ''The Final'' where fans of GENESIS will throw a smile.
Talking about the "package": The production lacks the professional touch, but maybe this is what is giving charm, and the cover artwork is pretty poor and dated. The strength is in the composition and in this blending pot of influences that will make "Spots" appeal to a broad range of open-minded, heavy-edged prog-rock fans.