Salem Hill - Be

Year of Release: 2003
Label: Progrock Records
Catalog Number: n/a
Format: CD
Total Time: 71:00:00

Last Saturday, my neighbor Andy spun my copy of Be and came back with the opinion that Salem Hill "are all over the map." Before that, in the 29 December 2003 edition of the National Review Online, S. T. Karnick, in his Top Ten album picks for 2003, called Be the album of the year and stated that "(Salem Hill's) music really defies classification." While disagreeing about the "best of 2003" bit, I do agree with both gents about Salem Hill because Be is an eclectic ? if not bewildering ? montage of rock styles so varied in scope that, if it weren't for Salem Hill's strong musical personality, a listener might forget just who it is he's listening to!

A concept album about searching for purpose, love, and recognition (as a person), Be shows Salem Hill pulling out all the stops, both lyrically and musically, to tell their story. The lyrics are smart, entertaining, and occasionally demand real thought from the listener: Is the troubling final verse of "Regard Me" really about the speaker's suicide? Or is it a metaphor for his final rejection of love and hope? It isn't clear here, and there are plenty of other moments where the listener is forced to wonder?. Wisely, Salem Hill only hints at their Christianity throughout Be, with the odd exceptions: In "The Great Stereopticon," the listener is confronted with "The spark He gave you?when will you be?", while "The Red Pool" seems to refer to the blood of Christ.

Lyrics aside, the only clear indicator that Be is a concept work is the opening-closing couplet of "Reflect" and "Regard Me". Built on the same acoustic framework and the sound of waves rolling onto a shore somewhere, "Reflect" is a somber opener, while "Regard Me," a nice bit piece of Kansas-style AOR-pomp, closes Be depressingly with its images of hopeless surrender. In the thirteen tracks between, the music gets considerably harder edged, as Salem Hill proudly shows off their many influences. A lot of tracks means a lot of potential blab, so here's just some samples: "Symposium" sounds amazingly like Neal Morse at his best, not just because of the Transatlantean vocals of Carl Groves and Michael Dearing, but in the music itself. A guitar-powered prog-fest, "Symposium" pounds the door down with Patrick Henry's grinding bass, then dares to balance a wah-wah guitar riff against the melodic mallets of Kevin Thomas. "Nowhere Is Home" abruptly plunges headlong into classic Pink Floyd territory with its apocalyptic lyrics and Waters-y vocals layered over piano, a big B3, and loads of mellotron. "The Great Stereopticon" and "Children of The Dust" hint at Queensryche, while "So Human" packs a lot into its two minute run with its Beatlesque piano melody, Queen-style choruses, and a surprising synthesizer break in the middle. Odd track out is "The Red Pool", which recalls early Eighties Kansas, abandoning everything progressive for a straight-ahead rock groove.

The point is, then, that Salem Hill has done a great job here, and that Be offers a lot for a listener to digest and enjoy; it certainly proves that there isn't much that Salem Hill can't do. One thing I should warn you about, though: owing to its fine production, Be is one of the LOUDEST albums to hit the market in a long time! Dialing down the volume on your home theater to half its normal setting is probably a good idea ? unless you don't have a problem with sudden-onset deafness (what?), lights falling off the ceiling, or pissed off neighbors calling the police. Of course, it is always fun to rock out and just Be?.

Also released by Lazarus Records

Reflect (2:24) / Symposium (5:38) / Nowhere Is Home (5:12) / The Great Stereopticon (5:18) / Children Of The Dust (5:24) / So Human (2:21) / The Red Pool (3:25) / Underneath (3:30) / Seattle (In Memory Of?) (2:19) / Apollyon (5:34) / A Perfect Light (2:48) / Love Won't Save The World (6:06) / I Didn't Come For You (7:14) / Beings (7:29) / Regard Me (6:12)

Michael Dearing - vocals, guitars, keyboards
Carl Groves - vocals, guitars, piano, keyboards, e-bow
Patrick Henry ? basses
Kevin Thomas -vocals, drums, percussion

Salem Hill (1992)
Different Worlds (1993)
Catatonia (1997)
The Robbery Of Murder (1998)
Not Everybody's Gold (2000)
Puppet Show (2003)
Be (2003)

Genre: Progressive Rock

Origin US

Added: April 18th 2004
Reviewer: David Cisco
Artist website:
Hits: 1460
Language: english


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