You can't argue with the kind of prog metal credentials that Jeff Plate and Jane Mangini are waving around. The New Yorker Plate, as a member of both SAVATAGE and TRANS-SIBERIAN ORCHESTRA, has already booked his place in the genre's Hall of Fame. Jane Mangini, a masterful keyboard player, has carved out her own niche as a performing member of TSO, amongst other bands and projects, and has been featured with TSO on stage and on the band's albums. But ALTA REIGN's debut album promises to add a little extra gleam to their legacy. Apparently based around an idea that first popped into Plate's head 30 years ago, and that he's been working on ever since, "Mother's Day" doesn't stray too far from the highly melodic but musically adventurous approach that one might expect. It also boasts an abundance of great songs.
Once you get past a slightly clicky kick-drum sound, opener "Shine" sets out ALTA REIGN's agenda in no uncertain terms. This is shiny, exuberant and fervently melodic heavy metal, with clear and omnipresent prog shades but an even greater debt to the direct and precise hard rock of the mid-to-late '80s. Co-guitarists Tommy Cook and Collin Holloway both have great voices, and it's their effortless harmonizing that gives even the most straightforward tunes here — both "Witness" and "Never Say Never" fit the bill — a sense of symphonic opulence. Meanwhile, the title track's seven minutes take a wayward approach, as classic metal chug and JOURNEY-esque harmonies give way to a hazy, psychedelic solo-section and a deeply satisfying, big chorus payoff.
ALTA REIGN have a subversive streak, too: the instrumental "ESC (Escape)" is all angular jazziness and MEKONG DELTA-style syncopation, while "Come Out and Play" is a simple singalong affair, before it veers off into an ornate AOR instrumental breakdown, replete with cascading synths and bursts of mutant noise. But at its core, "Mother's Day" is all about the melodic payoff, ensemble showboating and the cheerful blurring of lines between subgenres. There are moments here redolent of DOKKEN ("Let's Go [I'm In Charge Now]" is a dead spit), there are elegant but melancholy piano ballads ("Always") and, perhaps inevitably, there are sprawling prog metal epics like the closing "Rise", wherein ALTA REIGN morph into a doom metal SCORPIONS, before ex-SAVATAGE icon CHRIS CAFFREY lets rip with a hair-raising solo that will have an emotionally ruinous effect on prog metal fans of a certain age.
That kick-drum click aside, it's hard to find fault with an album that so skillfully avoids toeing any particular genre line. Jeff Plate may have taken three decades to bring this brilliant idea to fruition, but fans of big, shiny bombast and massive melodies will soon discover that the wait was worth it.