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Articles Home » 2006 Articles » Stencil Forest - 2006 The Abyss
Stencil Forest - 2006 The Abyss

ARTIST: Stencil Forest
ALBUM: The Abyss
LABEL: Self Released
SERIAL: 783707-27620-5
YEAR: 2006


LINEUP: Doug Andressen - vocals * Frank Casella - guitars, piano, keyboards, backing vocals, lead vocal on 'Is Love Enough To Save You' * Jim Casella - percussion * Ron Perron - bass, additional guitars on 'The Captive Heart', 'The Abyss' and 'Bitter Pill' * Rick Casella - additional keyboards

TRACK LISTING: 01 Lifeline Suite * 02 You Pull Me In * 03 The Captive Heart * 04 Morning Glory * 05 Our Little Secret * 06 Here Today * 07 Broken * 08 Room With A View * 09 Is Love Enough To Save You * 10 The Abyss


Two years ago we made acquaintances with this Indiana based band. At the time, they had just released a remastered version of their long-lost vinyl only LP from 1983 called 'Opening Act'. In one foul swoop, Stencil Forest ended any hopes that LP/Vinyl Traders had of making vast amounts of cash hawking off rare vinyl copies of that LP. Well thankfully, we don't have to wait twenty plus years for a new Stencil Forest album. The band, obviously buoyed by the re-release response, and more than likely having a backlog of musical ideas waiting to be unleashed, decided to quicken up the release schedule to eighteen months, with the release of 'The Abyss', their second album in twenty three years, already surpassing the legendary release delays from Boston and (at one stage) Def Leppard! No longer are we waiting on tenterhooks! 'The Abyss' by comparison to 'Opening Act', is a softer more grandiose affair. Many elements of seventies prog rock abound here. Whether it be Styx, Happy The Man, Saga or the Alan Parsons Project. You can hear a combination of these and much more through the 72 minutes plus listening time. I'm certain that you the listener will find your own comfortable niche with this band. The songs have been carefully crafted, and don't jerk you from one musical extreme to another. It flows consistently. For me a standout are the poignant vocals of Doug Andressen, who gives the music something to bind onto. Not forgetting the other contributions, particularly from Frank Casella who provides most of the musical ideas and wrote the entire album.

The Songs
We'll go through these songs one by one, offering an opinion from our viewpoint.

Stencil Forest ease us into this musical journey with the 11 minute opener 'Lifeline Suite', like an appetizer before the main meal. The gentle keyboard sequence cascading through the intro section of 'Face In The Mirror' is gradually replaced by some fine moments of instrumental symphonic rock within the second phase 'Lifeline Overture'. The third phase 'Bitter Pill' undulates between acoustic moments, seventies prog/synth interludes (particularly the solos), and Andressen's thematic vocals. 'You Pull Me In' is less in the way of traditional prog. The track has a hypnotic bass line, but the underbelly is undeniably album oriented rock. The solo spot at the 4 minute mark is definitely one for the pomp rockers out there! 'Captive Heart' is a simply-structured tune, with seventies pop-based melodies on top of languid piano and Alan Parsons Project approved vocal harmonies. 'Morning Glory' is a neat little tune as well, pomp-like in a lighter vein of say Aviary. Some great instrumentation going on with this one too.

'Our Little Secret' is mainly a reflective piano based ballad with a bit of orchestration chiming in from behind. 'Here Today' is a continuation of the gentle threads weaving through the album. The intricate piano motif builds up momentum allowing the song to come alive with electric guitar later on. I really enjoyed the tender touch piece 'Broken', like an acoustic version of Wetton/Downes later material. 'Room With A View' takes on a Lightspeed perspective of the soundscape, undulating and gentle through the verses, energetic and lean on the choruses. 'Is Love Enough To Save You' reminds you of the acoustic moments that used to populate Alan Parsons Project albums with regularity. Like 'Our Little Secret' this is mainly a piano based track with a slight hint of orchestration behind it. Without doubt, the 'piece de resistance' of the album is the title track 'The Abyss'. At 24 minutes it would've been long enough to take up one side of a vinyl LP and then some! The styles shift between heartfelt emotion-drenched prog, Kansas like symphonic rock, to strains of country and western even!

In Summary
For a prog album, this is at the lighter end of the scale. Thoroughly digestible given time and space. I feel Stencil Forest haven't been too clouded by what is going on elsewhere in the prog scene, the material very clean and uncluttered - a good combination of seventies ideals mixed with a modern production. So far this year has produced a flurry of excellent releases, no doubt 2006 will deliver more goodies. 'The Abyss' is a very compelling listen, and well worth the minimal investment over at CD Baby. Fans of seventies era Styx and other similar bands from that timeframe should investigate immediately.

Related Articles
Stencil Forest - 2004 Opening Act
Stencil Forest - 2006 The Abyss

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#1 | Eric on April 02 2006 13:58:35
What's nice about this disc is it does not fall into the current trend of 'metallized prog' which I think has tainted the progressive movement in recent years. It's a fine record and suprised me with it's quality. Agree with the review, very nice.Smile

Eric A.
#2 | Jez on May 20 2006 11:14:31
Some good songs on here, but to be brutally honest,the 24 minute title track is really DULL. Goes absolutely nowhere for 20+ minutes. The last few minutes would have been good, except for the dodgy out of tune vocals and general lack of real emotion in the playing (a general complaint throughout this disc) . Imagine if Andy Latimer or Nick Barrett had done this! Loved 'Opening Act' but the majority of this is really disappointing and is pretty sub standard compared to the competition who are also on a smaller budget!
#3 | gdazegod on May 29 2006 09:34:59
Yes, I agree with Jez, in that the album overall, veers more toward the softer side of prog. Nice for some, but not so for others. This point was not lost on the band, and I understand that their next effort will be much harder rockin', according to band spokesperson Ron Perron.
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