"Turtles All the Way Down"

By Dark Starr

I have to say that I love the title of this. For those who don’t know, there’s an old story (I’m not sure if it’s true and I’ve heard it attributed to many different people) about a scientist giving a lecture. The story says that someone in the audience stepped up and explained that they differed from the scientist’s understanding of the universe. This person believed that the Earth was flat. So, the scientist asked what it’s sitting on. The person said, “an elephant’s back.” When asked what the elephant was standing on the person responded, “a turtle.” Then, when the scientist wanted to know what the turtle was standing on, the person got flustered and said, “it’s turtles all the way down.” It’s that kind of cosmic and intelligent sense of humor that makes this set work so well.

I’m sure those who would consider this heavy metal. I’ve seen this band classified as such. The truth is, though, I don’t think they are any more metal than Dream Theater. For that reason, I’d land these guys under prog. Prog purists beware, though, it contains a lot of crunch. However you label the style, I like this album a lot. Sure, it gets bonus points for the title, but it earns every point it gets with the music.

It’s divided into three sections, “Universe,” “Life” and “Everything.” The first section starts with “Turtles All the Way Down, Pt. 1.”  An instrumental, atmospherics with sound effects start it. It builds out from there into something that’s rather fusion-like. Guitar solos over the top of a more textural arrangement. It drops to atmosphere to end. The two tracks that follow, “And the Answer Is…” and “…But What’s the Question,” are definitely related. The first is more groove based and prog-metal like, while the second lands more on the progressive rock end of the spectrum. “Insomnia” has more crunchy, technical metal at the start, while “The Depths of Reason” is close to Dream Theater early, but moves through stoner metal and fusion later.
In some ways, the “Life” section is even more diverse. It opens with a short instrumental (“Turtles All the Way Down, Pt. 2”) that has fusion and even some Pink Floyd built into it. “The Warmth of Mediocrity,” though, is more metallic, but again has things that call to mind Dream Theater. “(A Song for) Dragons” is more of a balladic cut. It has a bit of crunch on the guitar, but is really pure progressive rock. While “The Death of a Sun” lands more in the Dream Theater range and has a soaring guitar solo, “Back Where the Daffodils Grow” is an instrumental that seems to combine nearly equal parts of metal and prog along with some hints of Celtic music and some psychedelia. “Life's Glory”starts on acoustic guitar and runs fairly mellow for a time, but does work out to more hard rocking sounds as it builds later. It’s pretty much pure progressive rock, even though it has some crunchy soaring guitar soloing later.

The final section, “Everything” is composed of just two piece. The first of those is the instrumental “Turtles All the Way Down, Pt. 3,” that is metallic and cool. The final track is “Box of Dice (Does God Play?).” It is an epic that spans more than 17 and a half minutes.