It has been a long time waiting for Enchant to either admit they had broken up or get back to making music. The last studio effort, Tug Of War, came out in 2003. The band members went their separate ways, with some staying in music and others going on with other pursuits. It happens. Making music and making money do not necessarily go hand-in-hand anymore. Ted Leonard became the lead singer for Thought Chamber and later Spock’s Beard. Cut to 2014. The band is back with a brand new album called The Great Divide, back on their longtime label InsideOut. And what are the first lines of the first song from this eagerly awaited recording?
I fully understand that the song is called “Circles” and the reference alludes to being caught in one, but as an opening statement when people are more receptive to hear, it’s extremely disappointing. It is also one of many times on the recording where the lyrics try to be clever or profound and deeply serious, but sound like the words were cribbed from other songs also attempting to be profound and deeply serious.
Such has been the case for a while in modern progressive rock, where the musical narrator or viewpoint strikes the pose of being the only sane person in a crazy world, the last man who really gets re-ali-ty. When done well, the results can be convincing and entertaining. When not, it can feel artificial and ghostwritten. An example is the closing “Here and Now” which exhorts the listener to not take the present for granted. “Where did the time go, only seems like yesterday” or “You have to live with no regrets, you have to savor every moment” come, I’m certain, from a sincere place. But these lyric choices for articulating these feelings are so weather-beaten, especially in the past decade where the inspirational-affirmation pop song has become so prevalent, they feel like plug-ins. These are the words you use to express these emotions, not the emotions themselves.
The album gets better as it goes along, with both the title cut and the following “All Mixed Up” standing out. However, better only moves the needle so far.
As a group, Enchant has a lot going for it. The band was championed early on by Marillion guitarist Steve Rothery. Their sound, while being superficially prog-rock, is more a sturdy, melodic album-oriented rock, more John Elefante-era Kansas than early Steve Walsh-era Kansas. It is a compliment to them that, on many occasions, their sound is more full, powerful, and aggressive than their band name let on. When you hear the name Enchant, you immediately think this will be a new age recording. Luckily, that isn’t the case, and when the words of the record fail, the music pulls the listener through.
Even so, eleven years is a long time between records. Fans are going to be grateful that the band is back in play, but that overriding goodwill cannot change the fact that The Great Divide is not all that it could or should be, and that is disappointing.