Yoke Shire - "Masque Of Shadows"
(Zygo Records 1999, 30002-2)
From Aural Innovations #14 (January 2001)
My introduction to Boston-based Yoke Shire was experiencing the band's performance at the ProgDay 2000 festival this past October. (CLICK HERE to read the review.) In concert the band rocks hard conveying an old-time heavy bluesy rockin' feel which really impressed me. But there is so much more to this band which attentive listening to their CD reveals. Masque Of Shadows is their debut release and the band consists of Brad Dillon on drums and percussion, Brian Herlihy on electric and acoustic guitars, and Craig Herlihy on lead vocals, flute, electric and acoustic guitars, keyboards, bass, dulcimer, mandolin, theremin, marimba, and melodihorn. The liner notes also point out that all sounds heard on the album are from real instruments including vintage organs, analog synthesizers, acoustic piano and other stringed keyboards.
The opening numbers "Black Tower" and "Shape Of A Dancer" are characteristic of what I heard live. "Black Tower" is a cool dirty bluesy rocker. The guitars and Craig's raspy soulful vocals are the highlights but there are some gorgeous organ bits too, and the deep thudding bass is aggressively up-front. I really like the variety that the guitar brings to the mix that rocks the listener with taste over flash. "Shape Of A Dancer" is a similar bluesy rocker with a jam segment that combines gorgeous wailing guitar with chunky bass and percussion rhythms, but also includes more flowing proggy piano segments as well.
"Ghost Notes" is a short tune that combines atmospheric guitar and bells with some of the most metallic guitar on the album. But the track really functions as a lead-in to the title track which is another heavy rocker, but with less of the bluesy edge of the earlier tracks. The band again makes good use of varied guitar parts, including acoustic guitar. This is one of the heavier tunes that prog rock fans would enjoy. I don't want to call it prog metal but it definitely has elements that fans of that genre would tune into.
The album's magnum opus, and my hands-down favorite, is the trio of "Maiden Voyage", "The Brook, The Mirror And The Maiden", and "Return Voyage" which all combine to make what is really one 16-minute track. "Maiden Voyage" is a heavy rocker with a psychedelic feel during some of the many brief but varied guitar excursions on the tune. But overall it's a thudding rocker with multiple guitar parts, more of that heart thumping bass that I'm diggin' so much, nice vocal harmonies, and keyboards (including a great old time organ sound) that give the song an edge that will appeal to prog rockers into heavy rock. "The Brook, The Mirror And The Maiden" has a Jethro Tull feel but is more symphonic than Tull. The track runs through multiple instrumental themes, all flowing and majestic, with beautiful piano and acoustic guitar, and hypnotic flute calls. On "Return Voyage" a thunderous keyboard buildup quickly launches into the original heavy rock theme which brings the song to its close. A great series of tracks that combine the best of heavy jamming rock and progressive rock.
Giving this disc a proper headphones listen reveals lots of shifts from left/right/left channel that might be missed without the headgear or really good stereo equipment. Very nicely mixed, with subtle but effective shifts of guitar, vocal, and percussion bits that really embellish the listening experience. Recommended to fans of heavy rock that like complexity and inventive musicianship alongside a good old boppin' rock experience.
For more information you can visit Yoke Shire at their web site.
Contact via snail mail c/o Zygo Records; PO Box 397; N. Chelmsford, MA 01863.
Reviewed by Jerry Kranitz