Presto Ballet - Peace Among The Ruins

Year of Release: 2005
Label: InsideOut
Catalog Number: IOMCD 210
Format: CD
Total Time: 47:19:00

Presto Ballet aren't exactly progressive, but have progressive elements; aren't exactly progressive metal, but have some progressive metal moments, and aren't exactly AOR, but have many AOR moments. (By the way, AOR means album oriented rock and refers to the classic 70s style from bands like Journey, Styx, et al). The AOR is the most evident. Easy going and catchy vocals, songs that follow the "standard" verse-chorus-verse pattern, arena-rock sized arrangements. In a somewhat cheeky manner, and I'm not trying to be anti-Presto here, I'd have say that this group took Survivor, Journey, Styx, Dream Theater, ELP, Yes, Kansas, 80s light metal (Honeymoon Suite, White Lion, etc.) and various others, had them do a ballet in a blender and "presto!" The sound! And in fact, even if some of the artists I named aren't correct, that's what they did, as they wanted to evoke a classic 70s feel. (Speaking of "presto," no Rush elements here? well, maybe a bit, but not necessarily circa Presto!).

Presto Ballet are Scott Albright on lead vocals and acoustic guitar; Metal Church's Kurdt Vanderhoof on guitars, Mellotron, Chamberlin, Hammond organ, synths, bass pedals, and electric pianos; Brian Cokeley on piano, Hammond organ, synths, electric pianos, lead and backing vocals; Jeff Wade on drums and percussion; and Brian Lake on bass. However, Wade quit just weeks before their scheduled CalProg 2006 performance, which they had to cancel.

With two keyboardists, it won't surprise anyone that keyboards dominate the sound. Sure there's guitar, but more often than not the lead is a keyboard or organ or piano? or anyone of those keyboarded instruments listed earlier. Because of this, more often than not, Emerson comes to mind, even if ELP doesn't. The title track, "Peace Among The Ruins" says it all, leaping out of the speakers in a crescendo of Hammond? and drums and guitars. It maintains a high energy AOR/metal drive until the middle section, which instead contains some nice piano parts that give the listener a moment's airspace before heavy guitars and drums return. It's a furious and catchy opener with a chorus that will linger.

One of my favorites is "Seasons," which reminds me of something else? It might be Tears For Fears, circa Sowing The Seeds Of Love*. Well, TFF, except for those sudden James LaBrie-like vocals, which give us a decidedly lightweight Dream Theater feel (as opposed to their heavier material). It takes a page from the iconic Images And Words-period book and mixes it up. Listen to it a few times, and I swear you'll be singing along. I just caught myself doing it now! It's a short song at 3:39, but seems longer because there's just so much in it (and not that it goes on too long). A Dream Theater vibe returns later in "Slave." Since Albright and Cokeley share lead vocals, and I'm otherwise unfamiliar with either, I can't tell you who is singing lead when.

"The Fringes" is the album's epic, length-wise and in the big, open, bombastic arrangement - with shades of Under The Sun, Tiles, Styx, Honeymoon Suite, and others coloring the whole piece. It's a song of contrasts, where the heavy verses give way to floaty and airy choruses. And such epic Hammond organ sounds screaming away (Glass Hammer-sized). Even a touch of Yes can be heard at one point.

The dark and gurgling keys that open "Find The Time," (the second "epic length" track) bring about a mellower, ballad-like piece that also includes some lighter, flutey, parpy keyboard tones that remind me a bit of, um, Duran Duran's "Save A Prayer," though the phrasing is different. I don't think they intended that comparison. Halfway through ? things get darker, murkier for a moment, the keyboard passage here a moment that I found quite "cool." Throaty, kind of menacing, especially haunting keyboard effects that are subtly heard behind, before a lighter, parpier, synth-popish keyboard picks up the phrase.

Another piece I'll mention is "Sunshine," a tune that, in comparison to what leads into it ("Speed Of Time"), is like dark clouds parting, becoming a sunny, happy, Beach Boys/Spock's Beard like tune. Yes, that does like a strange crossbreed, but that's how I hear it. It sounds so happy. Sounds like a summer song, but then again, look at the title. It'd call it a progressive pop tune that is maybe too progressive in style to make it as pop song, but maybe a bit too much on the light pop side to make it as a Progressive track. Incidentally, "Speed Of Time" begins with an acoustic intro and swelling keys, before kicking into a percolating Hammond driven piece, evoking Kansas (though a few hints of Yes and Spock's Beard can be heard at one point). Actually? Kansas and Proto-Kaw, come to think of it. While there are big, epic choruses, there's a hint of darkness lurking around the edges.

While Peace Among The Ruins is an enjoyable album, it's not a great album, in that lofty hallowed halls of masterpiecedom kind of way. But, to be honest, great or not, I just simply love this album. It's just so easy going, even when it's not taking things easy.

*Louis Koot at makes a similar reference to TFF, so it ain't just me.

Peace Among The Ruins (5:47) / The Fringes (7:34) / Seasons (3:39) / Find The Time (7:18) / Speed Of Time (6:50) / Sunshine (4:51) / Slave (5:33) / Bringin' It On (6:43)

Scott Albright - lead vocals, acoustic guitar
Kurdt Vanderhoof - guitars, Mellotron, Chamberlin, Hammond organ, synths, bass pedals, electric pianos
Brian Cokeley - piano, Hammond organ, synths, electric pianos, lead and backing vocals
Jeff Wade - drums and percussion
Brian Lake - bass

Peace Among The Ruins (2005)

Genre: Melodic Rock-AOR

Origin US

Added: August 6th 2006
Reviewer: Stephanie Sollow
Artist website:
Hits: 1291
Language: english


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