I first stumbled upon Shadow Gallery when I saw them mentioned on a Dream Theater message board. Their songs Destination Unknown from their Legacy album and I Believe from their concept album Tyranny came highly recommended.
Upon first listen-- WOW! Honestly these guys blew me away. I could hear elements of Alice Cooper, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Dream Theater, and even some hints of Queen with their elaborate church choir-esque harmony vocals not to mention the Yngwie Malmsteen meets Brian May guitar stylings of Brendt Allman and Gary Wehrkamp.
Tyranny is a concept album that starts to tell the story about the military industrial complex. The story continues on 2005's Room V. But this is really the album that made fans sit up and take notice.
Where Dream Theater is easily more technically proficient, there's something arguably more organic about Shadow Gallery's style. The way the vocals dance around the elaborate instrumentals. The way their heavy metal guitar work dances around the tight vocal harmonies really sets Shadow Gallery apart.
Unlike some of their contemporaries, Shadow Gallery is strictly a studio band. Since their inception in the early 90s they have been strictly a studio band which is likely the predominant reason why they aren't as well known as some of their contemporaries like Queensryche, Fates Warning, or Dream Theater. It's a shame as those who haven't yet experienced their unique sound are truly missing out.
There are some truly transcendent moments on Tyranny. The vocal harmonies that come in at about 5 minutes into the song on I Believe NEVER, and I do mean NEVER fail to give me chills. Mike Baker's vocals were in top form from start to finish. I Believe is easily the most upbeat song on the album as it expresses that no matter what there's always a hope for positive change. There's even a mention of Jesus's prophecy of a better world that lifts the spirits of the main character sung by Michael Baker. Dream Theater's James LaBrie steps in for guest vocals as he sings the part of the main character's father. It's a brief snippet early in the song but LaBrie's vocals are unmistakable.
What makes the album work is that it's not a full-on heavy metal onslaught. There's a serious amount of musical diversity including neo-classical influences as well as the trademark metal stylings that one would expect. Some songs waltz back and forth between melodic soft rock to driving crunchy metal.
If you're not familiar with Shadow Gallery and want to give them a try this is an excellent album to start with as it shows the true breadth of their musicianship much moreso than their first 2 albums (their self-titled debut and Carved in Stone).
On a sad post-script, lead vocalist Mike Baker, died of a heart attack on October 29, 2008.
Shadow Gallery (official website)
Shadow Gallery (wikipedia)
Tyranny (official website, includes samples of all songs)
Brendt Allman (wikipedia)
Gary Wehrkamp (wikipedia)
Mike Baker (wikipedia)