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At War With Self

Acts of God

Review by Gary Hill

If you are a fan of dark, moody neo-prog, you should really check these guys out. This album will probably not appeal to the prog purist as it is frequently in an almost gothic zone and wanders into metal and techno sounds, but for those who like the newer, more adventurous prog, it doesn’t get a lot better than this. The musical arrangements and performances are top notch and everything works really well. While I wouldn’t say it’s a personal favorite, I do like this one quite a bit.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2007 Volume 4 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Acts of God
Pretty and intricate acoustic guitar tones make up the introduction to this instrumental. This modulates into a sort of balladic bouncy folk, a bit like something Steve Howe would do, but then shifts into an almost Fripp-like style for a measure or two. It builds into an evocative ballad style. It’s amazing how much emotion just the guitar can convey. The Crimson-like textures take it again after a time. After the two minute mark percussion joins and then other sounds skirt across the top acting as dark icing on this musical cake. This turns very dark and ominous before it closes out. It segues into the next cut.
9 1 1
A dark and rather ominous Crimson-like sound takes over and the group add more layers and textures to create the next cut on the disc. This is metallic, but also very prog in a mode not too unlike something from Dream Theater, but with more of a KC sort of element in play. This turns a corner into a killer metallic riff later. As a guitar solo enters it is simply awe-inspiring. Eastern tones begin to appear and dance around the outskirts of this instrumental. What an incredible ride this one is! It keeps reinventing itself with different instruments and textures taking the forefront. They return to gentle acoustic modes to end this.
Threads
A bouncing sort of jam leads this off and as the vocals come in we’re presented with neo-prog that again calls to mind Dream Theater a bit. This shifts out into a jazzy jam for a time and then turns metallic as it moves onward. The vocals, the first we’ve heard so far, fit the music quite well, neither stealing from the music or coming up lacking. This turns noisy and rather chaotic later, but seems to combine metallic and fusion elements in the course of this jam. It turns more in the direction of free form, crunchy fusion for a time, then shifts out into a great funk groove. Not content with the wanderings yet, they continue to move this track into new and unusual directions and show off varying lines of instrumental prowess. While this gets a bit too dissonant for my tastes at times, it’s quite a dynamic cut that is a powerhouse.
Ursa Minor
A total change of pace, pretty (if a bit odd) keyboards lead this off and hold it for quite a while. Vocals come in and they build this as a pretty prog ballad. This doesn’t grow very quickly or move very far from its origins for the first couple minutes. About two and a half minutes in, though, it powers out into an electrically charged fusion-like jam that’s quite powerful. After a time they drop it back to the more ballad-like structures to move it forward. It shifts out to a dramatic, but still rather sedate jam to finally end the piece.
End In Blue
An odd, percussive, electro / techno sound makes this up, feeling a bit like a mellow, more melodic Nine Inch Nails. They grow this up as another ballad. Dark and moody, this sound carries it for a long while. Eventually they power this up with a more standard Nine Inch Nails type of sound. They drop it back to the mellower sounds later. This moves out to ambience for a couple minutes, then a new jam takes over. This feels like a fusion sound with King Crimson goes funky tones. .
Martyr
This feels like music from some horror movie sound track. Dark and uneasy this is still rather ambient and mellow. It shifts out into an evil sounding ballad structure and then metallic guitar enters and stirs up the mixture after a while. It shifts through a number of alterations and repetitions of the song’s general structures and textures. This turns pretty and intricate and quite gentle later with hints of Celtic music flitting in and out here and there. Overlayers enter to bring hints of dark evil, then they move the whole thing out into a fast paced, rather fusion-like jam.
No Place
Noisy cacophonic sounds lead this off and hold it for a time with varying musical elements competing with the sounds to gain control. It shifts out to a fairly mellow, but still strange sound and vocals come over the top in a distorted, distant way. This almost feels like a dark psychedelia, if that makes any sense. This is definitely weird, but oddly cool, too. They move out to a pretty, albeit still a bit dark, ballad-like mode later that is easier to grasp. It shifts out to a less sedate approach on the song's themes later on.
Choke Loud
This comes in funky, but tentative. Once it finally kicks in, it’s with more Crimson-like fusion sounds. They continue to drop it back down and then fire back up. This shifts into a more accessible, but still a bit left of center and hard rocking, jam. After a while it moves back towards the more free form and they alternate between these modes. This is a cool instrumental that really does feel quite a bit like modern King Crimson.
Refugee
An acoustic blues approach starts things off here and they turn this into a mellow balladic jam after a time. The vocals here remind me a bit of Ozzy Osbourne’s more restrained ones. This cut builds ever so gradually. It has a building pattern that kind of reminds me of some of Led Zeppelin’s music, but the sound here doesn’t actually conjure that band, only the way the track climbs. This becomes increasingly more powerful through added layers of sound and additional volume. It’s one of the most effective tracks on the disc and a great closer.
 
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