Disclaimer: I might be remembering the album all wrong, so don't rip me apart when you all hear it! These are just my memories and opinions.
I've just got back in, and they didn't tell us anything about keeping quiet. I can't promise a huge amount of detail, it 's hard to remember anything, so I'll just provide some general thoughts, then you can ask me questions that might jog my memory.
Before that, I'll just describe the night as a whole - first the guys came in (JR, JLB and JP) and we had professional photographs with them. I mentioned I was a moderator on DTF, they seemed pretty interested! Then we did a short Q&A - I asked whether they'd do anything to mark the 15th anniversary of SFAM. They hadn't thought about it, but they seemed encouraged to do something - JP said he'd love to see MM play the album.
More was said about what a joy MM has been to record and write with. JLB seemed especially enthused.
Onto the album:
For those concerned that this was going to be a lot like SC and BC&SL, it's not. There are certainly heavy parts, but I think the word I'd use in general is cinematic.
False Awakening Suite is Symphony X-esque, and will be a stunning intro tape. It also includes the bit previously converted to a MIDI file.
The Looking Glass - reminds me of Rush and Images and Words.
The Enigma Machine - a heavier version of Ytse Jam in parts.
Surrender to Reason was a highlight for me.
Along for the Ride is very catchy, certainly good for a singalong. Includes JR's Beneath the Surface sound.
Illumination Theory felt a lot less than 22 minutes. More cohesive than ITPOE and TCOT in my opinion. A beautiful orchestral section. Some incredible bass and drum combinations. And one of JLB's vocal sections in a while.
Overall, I think the instrumental sections have a strong SDOIT vibe. The songs (apart from the first and last tracks and the instrumental) are more straightforward in structure.
The mix is raw, and the snare sound is growing on me.
In terms of ranking, I'll have a think, but on first listen it's promising, and will certainly be better than WDADU, 8V, SC, BC&SL and ADTOE.
Fire away with questions, hopefully I'll remember more.