I remember when I really got into a progmetal frenzy in the early/mid 90s, looking for any other band than Dream Theater that was making progressive music and learning what labels catered to that sound. That quest brought me to Detroit's Tiles and their amazing CD Presents Of Mind. Their classic progressive rock sound was potent and impressive if not as heavy as DT. But in the ensuing years I sort of lost track of them I'm sorry to say. So for me, their latest album, Pretending 2 Run, is the first I've heard from them in about 20 years. And man is it good to have them back.
Pretending 2 Run is a damn fine concept album that tells the tale of a man blindsided and disillusioned by betrayal and includes every progressive hard rock bell and whistle you could ask for from a quartet of master musicians. This is the stuff, man. Kicking off with the Peter Gabriel-esque title track the lads set the stage for a truly theatrical affair, full of imagery and rich texture without being so atmospheric it forgets to rock you. The usual dynamics are masterfully orchestrated, letting the story build organically. The most straight ahead grooving track early on is Stonewall, which includes guest drum work from Mike Portnoy (you'll likely recognize the Winery Dogs-style riffing in the verses), who is not the only guest artist on this release. In fact, you'll find *deep breath* Ian Anderson (Jethro Tull), Mike Stern (Miles Davis), Colin Edwin (Porcupine Tree), Kevin Chown (Tarja Turunen, Chad Smith), and Max Portnoy (Next To None) just to name a few. Instrumental junkies will swoon over Voir Dire's manic energy, while others may be captivated by the choir in the baroque arrangements of Refugium and Meditatio. Ian's throaty flute compliments the exotic beauty of Midwinter which leads into the more introspective second CD. But while there's less out and out prog rocking for about half this second disc, this is where the true talent of the band as storytellers comes to the fore. The development of the story is allowed the necessary space to get you immersed in the protagonist's plight, his mindset. It's the kind of commercial risk most bands don't indulge, leaving it to the more seasoned, adventurous, and (ultimately) proficient musicians such as Tiles. This is just brilliant artistic expression, pure and simple. Bravo, lads!
The Bottom Line: Prog fans rejoice. Tiles is back with over 96 minutes of classic progressive hard rock that takes you on an emotional journey thanks to a little help from their friends. The wait has definitely been worth it for Pretending 2 Run, a statement made all the more clear when you consider this band has only put out six studio albums in their 23 year career. You can't rush genius. Now go get it!
- Genghis would *love* to see these cats play live...