The ripples of prog took some interesting turns in the late eighties. As stalwarts like Marillion and IQ were in the midst of a neo-prog revolution, said ripple effect had an interesting, and most wonderful twist here in my home of the San Francisco Bay Area. A young group, started as Mae Dae but then changed names to Enchant, had caught the attention of Marillion’s Steve Rothery, enough to where he produced their debut Blueprint for the World and even played on a few tracks. As a hardcore Marillion fan at the time, I was fortunate enough to see Enchant open for them at the time, but then life got in the way and I lost track of the band. They continued to produce stunning music, and when after being “awakened” back into Enchant by a good friend, I had an ample discography of their work to catch up on. I also discovered that they were in the midst of a hiatus, one that would continue until the release of The Great Divide, their eight studio album and first since 2003.
The line up is the same that put out 2003’s Tug of War, with the founding members of guitarist Doug Ott, bassist Ed Platt and vocalist Ted Leonard being joined by drummer Sean Flanegan and keyboardist Bill Jenkins. Musically, The Great Divide sticks solidly to the classic Enchant sound of lush guitar driven prog highlighted by sweet synths, the overall product being tight and clean.
In the opening moments of the first track, Circles, we are given notice that though ten years had passed, the band surely hadn’t skipped a beat. The musical talent and the knack for solid, up-tempo prog rock is as present as ever. Circles is a slight bit darker in tone, and sets as a good opener for the rest of the album, though it was a bit misleading for me, since I felt that from there they would only go on a spiritual downslide. Guess that’s just the morbid side of me striving for nourishment. There is a frenetic edge to the track, and almost was my favorite track on the album…..almost. Musically, they get to the more classic Enchant sound on the second track, Within an Inch. Built around a solid rhythm with the sharp guitar punctuating through constantly, it’s what we expect from them. Leonard has only grown in the band’s hiatus, mostly due to his work with Spock’s Beard and Thought Chamber, his vocal range is only outmatched by the emotion he laces his work with.
Next follows the title track, The Great Divide, a nine minute clinic on how to construct a brilliant prog song. All the token elements are here, with the soaring guitars, exquisite keyboards, diverse rhythm work, and stunning vocals. The thing that stands out most though is the smoothness which they deftly move through the song, making the nine minutes seamless and almost too short. All Mixed Up pairs a heavy handed chorus nestled in an almost funky structure, with some stand out guitar and vocal pairing at the heart of it. Transparent Man is a smooth and silky number with a addictive beat and memorable chorus. Life in a Shadow has an indelible spirit to it, a seriously moving number with tremendous heart. Deserve to Feel takes a more hard hitting and direct approach with guttural bass punctuating a track that goes deep and stays there, with some brilliant guitar work nestled in a kick ass instrumental section. Here and Now closes out the album in a deep and emotional fashion, packing so much soul into the track, a wonderful finish to a great album.
The Great Divide is a standout return to form for Enchant, Maturity and skill are all over this album, the signature sound of the band only becoming more developed and textured with age. Good work gentlemen, now how about a live show, twenty years is too long a wait for me.