It’s fair to say that Chimp Spanner aren’t a run-of-the-mill proposition. From the opening quasi-orchestral strains of ‘galaxy rise’ (which recalls Voyage 34-era Porcupine Tree) into the first proper track ‘Superogation’ which bears a passing resemblance to vintage Dream Theater, this is progressive music writ large, all virtuoso guitar work and syncopated drums underscoring the crazed time signatures which propel the music. ‘At the dreams edge’ (the title track), is a more low-key affair, which has a more 70s vibe than the first two tracks, harking back to Pink Floyd (albeit a slightly rocked-up Pink Floyd) and there’s no denying the guitar skill of Paul Oritz (for he is Chimp Spanner) and the track builds nicely as the guitar work becomes increasingly agitated. Nonetheless, it is something of a surprise when ‘The mirror’ appears with a riff that is straight out of Mesuggah, complete with complex, distorted bass riff an it is from here that the album, interesting in its own right, really takes off into new realms.
After the lengthy, swirling, paranoid dreamscape of the previous track, ‘Bad code’ is a bizarre piece of programmed synth, giving way to a hefty guitar riff and some awesome guitar work. ‘Harvey Wallbanger’ is easily the heaviest track yet, a raging torrent of pure metal, with pounding drums and increasingly unbelievable fret work. ‘Ghosts of the golden city’ opens with simulated vinyl noise and a glorious melody that is as subtle as it is lush. It’s a short track that serves as a bridge between the two halves of the album and which provides a welcome moment of calf amidst the chaos. ‘Far from home’ returns to the progressive metal blueprint, with more dazzling guitar interplay which, despite the bad reputation of instrumental albums, is never dull thanks to the memorable tunes and astonishing musicianship on display. The next three tracks form a trilogy in the form of terminus parts 1,2 and 3. It’s the dark-hearted centre-piece of the album and alone justifies the price of admission. It’s a moody and atmospheric piece featuring heavy guitars and complex rhythms and wouldn’t sound out of place on a soundtrack. These three tracks are essential listening for fans of heavy progressive rock and recall King Crimson with their brutal guitar sound and epic feel.
‘Under one sky’ is rather less welcome, as following the Terminus series it can’t help but sound rather lightweight and, strangely compared to what else is on offer, rather dated. It has elements of early Dream Theater, and despite a heavier edge as it develops it just can’t capture the magic of the earlier tracks. ‘All good things’, happily, rounds the album out in style – an emotionally charged epic that works well in the context of the rest of the disc.
Overall this is a difficult album to judge. The musicianship is universally fantastic and it’s an inspiring listen with memorable tunes and stunning solos. However, instrumental progressive albums are something of a niche market and it is not recommended to everyone. However, those with a taste for unconventional, heavy, progressive music will find a lot to love in this album and it is well worth a shot for the terminus trilogy alone.