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Enchant – The Great Divide | Album Review

Enchant return from an 11 year absence with their eighth studio album ‘The Great Divide’. Check out what we thought of it here.

Credit: Album cover

It’s been 11 years since Enchant released their last studio album with 2003’s ‘Tug of War‘. 11 years of growing, learning and reflecting, with children, marriages and other projects between the five members of the prog rock outfit. 11 years of musical developments and upgraded yardsticks and11 years of mounting expectation from the fans they have accrued in their 20 year existence. So does ‘The Great Divide‘ live up to the expectation?

Short version: not really.

Long version: ‘The Great Divide’ as a name for the album came around quite easily and seemed an obvious choice according to guitarist/vocalist/chief songwriter Douglas A. Ott. “… given what we’ve been through this seemed to be the right title for the album…” he says in an accompanying press release. Aye, building a family will get in the way of working with the band and one would imagine that working on outside projects will stick a spanner in the works too, but Ott believes that they have come through it stronger and have “matured as a band” and this is the album to show it.

Circles‘ gets proceedings under way with a sweeping electronic soundscape swells and ushers in the rest of the band, but there’s just no punch to it. Even the chorus falls flat here, with a synth-organ in place of any instrument with a bit of strength behind it. What should come off as a huge, celebratory moment ends up sounding more like the soundtrack of a 1990’s video game. Something is missing here and that something is a bit of soul.

Within An Inch‘ starts off in much better fashion, an infectious guitar-led track that actually gets some toes tapping and the pre-chorus bridges exhibiting some impressive vocals that are much more characteristic of the prog rock genre. Speaking of characteristic traits, the keyboard solo in the middle of the track is hugely ambitious and works on a number of levels, before breaking down into something lifted straight out of a jazz lounge. It’s final twist is a classic metal guitar solo that again is both ambitious and accomplished (and is fortunately strong enough to wash out the frankly cringe worthy whispers going on underneath). But this is much more like what we were looking for here and the title track keeps the good vibes rolling. Sure, ‘The Great Divide‘ sounds somewhat dated, especially where the keyboards are concerned, but in moderation it works here. Prog rock is a tough thing to fully bring into the 21st Century, but Enchant have done a good job of bridging the gap here, especially with the typically epic running time of 9:03. By this point however, there is one thing that niggles away above all else, and that is the lryics. The songwriting on the album is, at times, very cheesy – it’s as if the band pulled out the encyclopedia of classic rock stereotypes and pulled a bunch of sentences from there and stuck them together. Lyrically, this is a slab of rock cheesiness, but it almost doesn’t matter all too much.

All Mixed Up‘ allows the band to exercise their rougher edge with a gutsy and dynamic opening that doesn’t sound too dissimilar from early Incubus material. Another impressive display of fretwork sees the track out in a relatively bitesize 4:12, making it the shortest track on the record. ‘Transparent Man‘ follows but gets off to a disjointed and confusing start as an electronic drone swells but vanishes and after a half-second pause, the drums kick in as if nothing had happened. That said, the track itself is of decent quality and produces one of the more singalong friendly sections of the album, however by the fifth minute, the track does get a bit repetitive with the vocals-guitar solo-vocals-guitar solo formula being put into overdrive.

Life In A Shadow‘ brings nothing particularly new to the table as the Californian quintet sticks to their guns . But let it be said that the harmonies shine here and are definitely shows Enchant at their vocal best. ‘Deserve To Feel‘ starts off feeling tougher again, with a real 80s metal feel to the opening segment before the verses go back to business as usual. The midpoint exhibits yet another guitar solo but this is where we also encounter another section that feels horribly rushed, with the timings all over the shop but not in a typical prog rock way. More in a ‘bad production’-way. ‘Here and Now‘ rounds the album out and is for the most part a collection of what you’ve heard. This almost serves up as a summery or a ‘The Great Dive’ supercut. Granted, the guitar solo around the 4 minute mark is one of the most technically overwhelming and the melodies are on point, but the inclusion of alarm clock sound effects just feels gimmicky and becomes a scuff on an otherwise well-polished song.

In spite of all of this, there is one thing that is apparent: Enchant is a band with so much ambition and so much belief in what they do. With the right production and a few more tricks up their sleeves, they could create a truly great album. The technical proficiency and the instrumental talent present in their ranks is of the highest order, but Enchant just cannot seem to find the winning formula here and truthfully, that’s a real shame.

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