“An expansive, widescreen sound… and when Ian Crichton gets the wind in his sails, the results are spectacular”: Six By Six’s Beyond Shadowland

Second full-length album from melodic prog supergroup is far wider-ranging than the members’ CVs might imply

Six By Six - Beyond Shadowland
(Image: © InsideOut)

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Six By Six are bass guitarist, vocalist and keyboardist Robert Berry – who has recorded with Keith Emerson and Carl Palmer – plus guitarist Ian Crichton from Canadian proggers Saga and drummer Nigel Glockler, a veteran of Saxon, who has also played with Asia.But their individual chemistry produces a more wide-ranging approach than their CVs might imply on this second album.

Their ‘sounds like’ list is extensive. There’s an overlap with Spock’s Beard and Flying Colors; and despite Glockler’s background in metal, Six By Six are more hard rock. Going further back, it feels a safe guess that they’ve absorbed some Blue Öyster Cult, Deep Purple and the melodic wallop of Kansas and Styx. But there’s a lot more here besides.

Recorded in San Francisco, Beyond Shadowland has an expansive, widescreen recorded sound with vivid vocal melodies and with synths and electronics infiltrating their power trio approach. And when Crichton gets the wind in his sails, the results are spectacular.

It’s heartening and certainly worth mentioning that these veterans pump out a formidable kilowattage of energy

His solo on Spectre begins with elliptical picking patterns, then a chug with dampened strings acts a launch pad out into the shredosphere, then back down again through extravagant bent notes that remind of Allan Holdsworth with a little of the audaciousness of Jeff Beck.

We shouldn’t really be surprised any more by the longevity of musicians. But Crichton is 67; Berry isn’t telling but has been active since the 1970s; and Glockler is 71 and has been rocked by health issues. So it’s heartening and certainly worth mentioning that these veterans pump out a formidable kilowattage of energy.

Beyond Shadowland comes across as remarkably fresh and punchy. On the surface it’s perhaps a tad less bombastic than their debut, but one can hear evidence of Crichton’s claim that this new material is more nuanced and adventurously structured, and there’s a lot going on around the band’s big tunes.

Wren begins underpinned by a sequential synth, with Berry’s rubbery bass and commanding vocals – which have the feel of Greg Lake and John Wetton about them – running up against crunching power chords spiced up with a little dissonance, which seems to turn the melody inside-out.

Obiliex is structured around acoustic guitar and is more reflective as it travels towards to its climax. On Titans the vocal incantations and rhythmically intricate pan-global funk patterns are not so far removed from 90s King Crimson. The lengthy, episodic finale One Step finds them interspersing classical guitar and piano with more typical powerplay and is another pointer to where they might travel in the future.

Beyond Shadowland is on sale now via InsideOut Music.

Mike Barnes

Mike Barnes is the author of Captain Beefheart - The Biography (Omnibus Press, 2011) and A New Day Yesterday: UK Progressive Rock & the 1970s (2020). He was a regular contributor to Select magazine and his work regularly appears in Prog, Mojo and Wire. He also plays the drums.