Payne's Gray


Kadeth Decoded

Payne's Gray - Kadeth Decoded ©1995 Self-Released
1. Dream Sequence
2. Sunset City
3. The Cavern Of Flame
4. Moonlight Waters
5. Procession
6. A Hymn To The Cats
7. The Way To Ngranek
8. Within The Vault
9. Reaching Kadeth
10. Nyarlhotep's Reception
11. Riding The Shantak
12. Finale: Sunset City Part 2

Based on H. P. Lovecraft's "Dream Quest of Unknown Kadeth", this CD aims well beyond the target of progressive metal norms. The liner notes are on a large poster, and the story of the album is explained in German on it. Sadly, my German is really weak . . . high school was a long time ago. However, I have found an English translation of it and will offer a brief insight. The story that this CD tried to conceptualize is of a man named Randolph Carter, who every night dreams of the mystical city of Kadeth. His dreams grow more and more real as time passes. The CD tells of the ordeals of this dream quest and is filled with wonderment at what he will find when he arrives at the city. While I have read a lot of Lovecraft, I am not familiar with the above story so I can't report on how well the CD follows the events of the story. However, I am familiar enough with Lovecraft's style to know that the band captures very well the emotions he used in his writings.

This CD is widely varied in style and content. Using two vocalists, flutes, walls of keys, driving guitars and a very solid bass / percussion backing, the band creates atmosphere aplenty. As the story progresses, the atmosphere builds in intensity and the music escalates to carry it. Since most of the "action" takes place in dreams, there is a lot of dreamy, haunting flute and acoustic guitar used in the songs. The two vocalists sing with the operatic voices associated with progressive metal. They don't get in the way of each other and harmonize very nicely. There is a lot of drama in the singing, but it matches the music nicely and doesn't seem overblown like on Blind Guardian's Nightfall In Middle Earth. If Blind Guardian's CD emphasizes the power, this CD emphasizes the progressive element. Quite possibly it will be too progressive for some listeners since it is so tightly focused on the story. Of the two approaches, I prefer the tight story over the pomp. This CD provides an escape into something sweeping and mysterious, holding you right up to the end with the building intensity. Like a well written suspense novel, it doesn't give away too much at the beginning, only hinting at what it is about and building from there.

Some might not find the disc accessible, but fans of Dream Theater or progressive rock bands like Jethro Tull, Pink Floyd or Yes will enjoy escaping with the CD into the mystical story it weaves. Fans of Lovecraft will enjoy the adaptation.

Review by Matthew Braymiller

Review date: 06/2000

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Infinity

Payne's Gray - Infinity ©2000 Self-Released
1. ... To End Infinity
2. Crystal Palace
3. The Duellists
4. Unison
5. The Peak

Intended as the band's third demo tape, Infinity has been re-released by the band as a means of putting older material into the hands of their fans. The first four songs were originally recorded in 1991. The last song was recorded in 1998 but was never released. The liner notes remark that the band has always thought of this as their first album. The album is very hard to find but, as you'll read below, worth the effort of tracking it down.

What I found amazing on this disc is that the complexity of the song structures on Kadeth Decoded is also present in the early material. The songs are busy and multi-layered and full of atmosphere. These guys are stellar musicians and play as a unit so very well. The instrumental track, "Unison", is a beautiful duet between the piano and flute that shows the outstanding talent of the players. The play is not just technical and precise, it is full of emotion and mood. All too frequently the technically proficient musicians crank out music that is lifeless despite its technical merits. Payne's Gray avoid that particular pitfall and produce music that is impassioned and razor sharp. The music doesn't sit still for a moment. The direction changes several times. The guitars crunch and grind, the keys dance all around and the vocals are all over the scale from soaring to subtle. The music is almost surreal or ethereal at points. Taken as a whole, it makes for a wonderful means of escapism.

"...To End Infinity" is a great moody rocker. "Crystal Palace" hints at the bigger and grander theme of Kadeth Decoded with its lyrical content. "The Duellists" is a haunting, atmospheric track. "Unison", as already mentioned, is a beautiful little instrumental arrangement. "The Peak" is one of those songs that pounds at you relentlessly with its power.

If you're tired of the numerous lifeless, cookie cutter Dream Theater clones that churn out album after stale album, Payne's Gray might be the relief you seek.

Review by Matthew Braymiller

Review date: 07/2000

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