"The idea of the Explorers Club project is to have a different concept each time" Trent Gardner
After the "Age of impact" album of 1998 this "Raising the mammoth" is the second effort of the Explorers Club, one of the many projects (e.g. "Leonardo …") of Trent Gardner (Magellan). Trent Gardner uses the Explorers Club as a vehicle to experiment with musical styles that are out of the boundaries of Magellan's music. This gives him also the opportunity to compose for other musicians. The list of musicians who participate on this album is again long and impressive.
Those musicians are:
Terry Bozzio, Marty Friedman (ex Megadeth), Trent Gardner, James Labrie (Dream Theater), Kerry Livgren (Kansas), John Myung (Dream Theater), Mark Robertson (Cairo), Steve Walsh (Kansas) and Gary Wehrkamp (Shadow Gallery).
Although your CD player will count 44 tracks the album is build around two or three long suites. But in fact it is one long piece of music divided in "Raising the mammoth 1" and "Raising the mammoth 2 (AKA Prog-O-Matic) 1) Gigantipithicus".
"Raising the mammoth 1" exists out of three parts. The first part is called "Passage to paralysis" (15:03, track 1-13). The atmosphere of the opening on keys is very dark and a little bit spooky. This is followed by a complex progressive instrumental part. The first vocals (track 4) are of Kansas man Steve Walsh. The music immediately gets a special atmosphere, only because of the presence of one unique musician. Several solos on guitar and keyboards interrupt the vocal parts. The organ sound of Cairo keyboardist Mark Robertson is coming thru in the music for the first time and his playing always brings ELP to your mind. Part two is called "Broad decay" (11:43, track 14-19) and it is less complex and has beautiful vocal melodies. The music is more atmospheric and symphonic. A little bit more in the vain of Pink Floyd or Porcupine Tree (this is however no comparison!). Part three "Vertebrates" (11:17, track 20-27) starts more like a ballad with acoustic guitars and some beautiful vocal parts of James LaBrie. There are beautiful orchestral keyboard sounds in this part. At the point of track 26 the music becomes more threatening and there are some great synth, organ and guitar solos. The music itself has still a dark atmosphere.
"Raising the mammoth 2 (AKA Prog-O-Matic) 1) Gigantipithicus" (28:44, track 28-44) is completely instrumental. It is a long and complex piece of music with all kinds of symphonic and progressive highlights. The music is heavy, dark, orchestral and sometimes bombastic. The all very talented musicians have time to show us their skills on their instruments. Mark Robertson is playing some fantastic parts on his keyboards. Especially the Hammond and synth solos in the end give the music again some ELP atmospheres.
The overall atmosphere of this complex piece of music is dark. It is not an album for neo prog lovers. You must take your time to listen to this record several times. The music is very intricating to me and each time I listen to it, I like it more. This is one of those albums that "grow" after each listening session. Sometimes it sounds like ELP but the complexity is more in the vain of King Crimson.