Minnesota’s Gracepoint is something that I’d certainly recommend for fans of acts like Soil, Alterbridge and even early Creed. Vocalist Matt Tennessen really seems to have that rough drawl, sort of like John Bush and it hits pretty hard with such a progressive landscape as is being concocted by Stefan Radizilowski and Lon Kunze. These guitarists are trying very hard to meld hard rock and modern metal with something a little brainier in the tone of Dream Theater of Symphony X. The band still consider themselves a progressive metal band, but they’ve got the kind of accessibility factor that might see them easier distributed on the radio. Just in mere observance of “Spider” I could see such a song getting hefty radio play. Modern rock lovers around here seem to really love that Tool style, which we could consider progressive rock for the most part, but they like the kind of vocal approach and crunch that reminds them of some of the more simplistic rock acts they’ll hear on the radio. There’s no doubt that Echoes shows off some fantastic fretwork in addition to it’s potent drum compositions handled by Lance Reed. Tennessen’s vocals also remind me a little of Scott Stapp in Creed’s earlier era, where I admittedly dug them and I won’t beat around the bush about that. I still think that My Own Prison is a very good hard rock album, regardless of the mainstream fluff that followed it.
Despite all of the crunch and rock-flair that such a record has, this is still a progressive metal record. These guys are listed in Metal Archives as a metal act, and the compositions here have not changed so much that you couldn’t still say that – it’s just a bit more mainstream and I can’t blame them for it. It’s really good to see that there are some real prog epics on here though, like “Full Circle” for instance. As much as I loved those bands of my radio-rock youth, I’ve seldom heard them do anything like this before and I have to respect the time and effort put into it. There’s also a little ballad by the name of “Somber” but it’s not squeezed so thin that the prog and crunch have been removed from it. That’s what matters to me, and will matter to the prog fan as well. Mainly, Echoes is a very brainy hard rock disc with defined moments of metal here and there to add an extra punch to the atmosphere it contains. Sometimes we can’t quite hear Tennessen over the thick guitar and drum compositions, but I like that – because it shows a little bit of raw energy. The record doesn’t have the most pristine production quality, but it’ll be one of the most celebrated records from the act if they really take off from this one. You might not have known it, but Gracepoint have been together for a very long time and this record is their first in sixteen years. The debut album was released all of the way back at the beginning of the second millennium and will probably be very difficult to find now, unless the band chooses to release it digitally or something like that. Of course, I can’t compare the work here to a disc that’s half as old as I am, nor would I expect you to do the same.
Though I’ve only scratched the surface here (I expect you to do the rest, by listening to the album yourself) I feel that what you’re getting is a very well-crafted and accessible progressive hard rock and metal disc that will certainly make waves with a bevy of listeners. I’m quite pleased with it, and I’d say that it even sounds better to me on the second listen than it did on the first. Though I will mention that with many radio-friendly efforts, there are a lot of slower cuts here where clean vocals (and definite Creed influence) are explored. Gracepoint won’t appeal to everyone, but I’m quite certain that more than a few radio stations and record labels will be highly interested in these guys. Gracepoint are definitely the kind of band that could blow up in the next couple of months if marketed right. But that being said, it’s a record that is definitely worth checking out and far better than most of the crap we hear on the radio these days. (The Grim Lord)