‘Atoning sacrifice’, ‘mercy seat’ and ‘propitiation’ are all hermeneutically acceptable translations of the ancient greek term: Hilasterion. Which one of these, if any, applies to these eleven pristine recordings by Nashville’s Lines in the Sky is a question I found myself pondering as this album sunk it’s vivid atmospherics into me.
Mixed by the eminent Tim Palmer whom audiophiles may recall from other high fidelity albums such as Pearl Jam’s “Ten” and U2’s “All That You Can’t Leave Behind”, the sonic width of this album is a joy to behold. With toms spaced out around the listener’s stereo field and the lovely rumble of the low end of this band ringing through, Palmer has really brought the best out of these takes. It was an exceptionally good move by the band to get him to mix and it’s a partnership that could serve them well in the future if they can keep him on board.
Progressive rock to me is firstly about R O C K, but a close second is the importance of a great singer with an excellent melodic ear. It was very pleasing to listen to Jesse Brock’s melodic choices as the album unfolded, and the boy’s certainly got the voice to be able to do justice to said choices. The clarity of the mixing and space left by the guitars really allows Jesse Brock’s voice to shine through and the lyrics to be comprehendible. For such emotional and righteous sounding music this is important. The listening experience for me was comparable to some of The Butterfly Effect’s album’s, a journey from start to finish with a story being told all the while.
I became mentally exhausted trying to keep track of the perpetual fills by drummer/percussionist Bowman Brock. It’s amazing that with so much going on in his rhythm work that the songs never seemed crowded at all. I would love to see him play this album live and dare say that it would be akin to a drumming clinic. The guitars were a tad disappointing to me, though. I tend to prefer earthier, sludgier tones and don’t resonate well with crystal clear sounds. However, this is a personal preference. As far as progressive/ambient guitar tones go, these are certainly up to the task.
Opening with the feel-shifting “Nine Flights High” there is no doubt what the audience can expect from this album. The classic prog-rock interlude in this song would stand strong next to most of Rush’s catalogue (and I don’t make that reference lightly!). Having fallen in love with this truly epic interlude I was mortified to realize that the band had released an edit of the song without half of it. Understandably, though, this is a strategic (if creatively stifling) move that bands seeking mainstream radio approval must take nowadays. The first three songs on this album are classily woven together into a single movement, the second part of which is a short instrumental segue. This made me think that with the complexity and proficiency of the musicianship on display here that this whole album could be quite legitimately released as an instrumental version too.
The album continues to move in very well orchestrated manner, ebbs and flows notably depicting reflective moments on acoustic guitars, some beautiful falsetto, classic rock solos and always pristine, panned drums. Favourite tracks for mine are “Dig Deeper”, ‘Living by the Coast’ and the aforementioned “Nine Flights High”. I would implore all serious purveyor’s of progressive rock music to attend to the Lines in the Sky website to get a copy of the album but more importantly, to see them do this live.
Whilst I don’t always listen to progressive rock, when I do, I really enjoy the good stuff! I readily and with great confidence place Hilasterion in this category. Lines in the Sky definitely found a place in my playlist, and I foresee this album becoming a really good album for the road. As for the meaning of the word and the story being told, well I think that’s best left between the songs and the listener.
Written by Scott Andrews