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The Far Cry – If Only Award winner

The Far Cry
If Only
by Mark Machlay at 12 October 2021, 3:48 PM

The classically styled progressive rock quartet THE FAR CRY from Connecticut released their impressive debut “If Only” this past July 9, 2021 and I am honestly a bit upset I missed this. The band began as a collaboration between vocalist, bassist and guitarist Jeff Brewer and drummer Robert Hutchinson. The two first met back in 1976 playing for a short-lived cover band before both became part of Connecticut prog-rock band HOLDING PATTERN which Hutchinson was co-founder of from 1980-1983 and Brewer would join after he left from 1984-1993 when the band dissolved. It would be a while before the two would meet again. Brewer would take a brief break from performing and joined Connecticut prog-rock band AFTER THE FALL as bassist, vocalist and sometimes percussionist for two of their albums – 2000’s “The Living Drum” and 2005’s “Knowledge”. Hutchinson similarly was disillusioned with music and took a ten-year break after leaving HOLDING PATTERN. He came back after training at the Faunt School of Music for years and began jotting down rhythmic, melodic and lyrical ideas, keeping them for future use. He joined his bandmates for a HOLDING PATTERN reunion in 2003 but it didn’t last, and he continued working as a full-time drum teacher and continues to teach even today.

Fast forward to 2013 and Hutchinson would purchase a speaker cabinet from Brewer and re-kindle talk of reclaiming a dream one last time. This was the formation of THE FAR CRY. Their music was incredibly ambitious and thus, the duo had difficulty finding more members initially for a few years. Undeterred, the duo decided to start putting material together in the studio. Answering a Craigslist advertisement from the band in 2018, Bryan Collin agreed to play on the recording but found himself strongly connecting with the music and came on board on a permanent basis. Needing a keyboardist, the band asked their master engineer for the album John Bolduc if he could suggest someone and without another thought, contacted Chris Dabbo. Again, initially thought to be a session musician, Dabbo also really enjoyed the project and with that, the lineup was complete.

Debut albums are always a tricky think to judge, its hard to tell if a group can quite replicate the genius when a debut is so well done, but I’m hoping THE FAR CRY has several more ideas up their sleeves because I thoroughly enjoyed everything “If Only” had to offer. There were moments that brought me back to when I first discovered prog with the silky synths of Neal Morse back when he was with SPOCK’S BEARD and with TRANSLANTIC. But the amazing interplay of that keyboard work from Chris Dabbo and the lead guitar unison runs by Bryan Collin are excellently executed from the beginning track – the first “epic” of the album - “The Mask of Deception”. But the keyboard work and tightness of the band is felt even more in the enigmatic “Programophone” reminding me at times of early DREAM THEATER with the spoken word or a seemingly stream of conscious style vocal delivery from Jeff Brewer but with a twisty and turning rhythm underneath, similar in style to a FRANK ZAPPA tune. But even a track that is meant to only be for color and a breather from all the action “Winterlude” has all the poignancy and heart-wrenching beauty of any powerful ballad of AOR legends JOURNEY. They kind of run in that AOR world in other tracks too with the next epic “Simple Pleasures” in which there is tender piano, echoey acoustic guitar and ending with flashy synth leads with excellent guitar solos for an outro. But they really pulled out all the stops on the last and longest epic title track that serves a prog-metal tour-de-force with blazing leads, catchy guitar riffs, and over-the-top bombastic crescendos and climaxes. It seems FAR CRY was a long time coming but for what they presented on “If Only” my only thought after was “if only there were more”. I look forward to what this Connecticut new prog group can put together for a follow-up.

Songwriting: 10
Musicianship: 10
Memorability: 10
Production: 10

5 Star Rating

Tracklist:
1. The Mask of Deception
2. Programophone
3. Winterlude
4. Simple Pleasures
5. The Missing Floor
6. Winterlude Waning
7. If Only
8. Dream Dancer
Lineup:
Robert Hutchinson – Drums, Percussion, Bells & Spoken Word
Jeff Brewer – Lead & Backing Vocals, Bass, Bass Synth, Bass Pedals & Guitar
Bryan Collin – Lead Guitar, Electric & Acoustic Guitars
Chris Dabbo – Piano, Keyboards, & Vocals
Record Label: Independent
     


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