After a ten-year hiatus, progressive rockers Enchant are FINALLY back with "The Great Divide." I've been a fan of this band since their debut album, "A Blueprint of the World," which came out way back in 1993. Since that time the band have released some really great albums, including that debut, "Wounded" and "Juggling 9 or Dropping 10." After the latter album, the band lost drummer Paul Craddick. Paul is one of my favorite drummers of all time. He also wrote many of the band's best music and lyrics. Guitarist Douglas A. Ott and vocalist extraordinaire Ted Leonard were still around so the songwriting was still in good hands with them, but things changed with Sean Flanegan on drums.
"The Great Divide" is the third album of what I think of as the "Flanegan Era." It's also the second with keyboardist Bill Jenkins, who replaced Michael "Benignus" Geimer. "The Great Divide" turns into a spotlight for Bill, which is great. The problem is that Sean just isn't the drummer that Paul is. This was the issue I had with both "Blink of an Eye" and "Tug of War" (the last two releases). Enchant's music by nature has "spaces," which Paul would often fill with his amazing playing. He also DROVE the band, while Sean seems more content to be "along for the ride." The songs tend to feel like they are going a little slower than they should or, in some cases, just flat-out DRAG.
The album opens with "Circles," which has a killer riff. The downside is that there is a backing vocal on the chorus that sounds pretty bad. Ted's lead vocal is amazing as usual, but to have a dreary, almost off-key backing vocal makes no sense to me. The next track is the first single "Within an Inch" and it suffers from the slowness I mentioned before. The song basically needs a kick in the ass and doesn't get it. The solos are top-notch in the song, and one reason most of the songs on "The Great Divide" are longer is because of the liberal use of solos. The title track is the longest song and it has plenty of solos from Douglas and Bill. It's one of the best songs on the album: it doesn't drag nearly as much and the drumming is solid.
"All Messed Up" is aptly named. The main riff is too heavy for Enchant and just not very good. The bridge and verses are far better. This song needed a lot more work, which is odd since the band had ten years to perfect these songs. That's another sticking point with me. If you have that much time, ALL these songs should be basically killer. The good news is that "Transparent Man" is KILLER! The song is easily one of the best songs the band has ever done: well written with an amazing chorus and great use of the stellar voice of Ted Leonard.
I should also point out that Ted sounds amazing through out this whole album. He
truly is one of the best vocalists that I have ever heard. "Life in a Shadow" is a very good song and, along with "Transparent Man," should have opened the album.
"Deserve to Feel" and "Here and Now" are similar in that both are more proggy than Enchant usually is. Ample use of keyboardist Bill Jenkins is always a help.
Bill and Doug do a lot of trading off with there solos which shows the
quality players they both are. The songs also seem to enliven the rhythm
section. Ed Platt is a rock solid bassist and while he isn't flashy, he gets the
job done and holds down the bottom as well as anyone.
I was very excited that Enchant was returning after being away for 10 years. Ted has had plenty of work with Spock's Beard and Thought Chamber, among others...but it's not Enchant. While "The Great Divide" is better than the last two albums, it does not achieve the heights of the albums before them. It's a good album, but not a great one. I assume Paul Craddick will not be returning to the band, so I suppose I need to accept this is how the band is going to sound: good, not great.