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Aziola Cry

Live in Madison, WI, June, 2007

Review by Josh Turner

Aziola Cry was the in-between band this night. From what I heard and saw, they should have been the headliner. Aside from a couple pretty strokes, the first band and precursor to Aziola Cry was not exactly progressive rock. While it’s a stretch to call Aziola Cry progressive rock in the first place, they are melodic and experimental enough to merit this moniker. As for the other bands, they leaned closer to hardcore metal and that doesn’t always do it for me. On the other hand, I can really enjoy the intellectual abstractions of Aziola Cry without the need for a budge or push

It was the second time I had seen them in a two week time span (the first was at MARSfest on June 8th). After a bit of correspondence where we traded statistics on our home cities, it became apparent they would be in my backyard within a couple days. I just had to see them again and was quick to place them in my calendar.

With ear-splitting holler-monkey music greeting me at the door, it wasn’t a moment too soon that Aziola Cry set up and took over the stage. I’m exaggerating a little as I got to talk with the trio beforehand, but it was abruptly interrupted by a noisy dissertation dissipating from the opening act, which went by the label Tempest Eternal. As a side note, Tempest Eternal was all right and they ended on a song that cleverly-embodied Opeth, but they couldn’t hold a candle to Aziola Cry.

Since I covered the band recently, I’ll try to cover some new bases. The most important fact to point out is that this was significantly louder than their last show. During our conversation, they made it a point to say they were going to be heavy. It seemed like they were playing up to the crowd and venue by having on their metallic personas. In my opinion, they can certainly play their songs in a delicate manner. A sensitive soundman would also be a supplementary plus. Aside from the malicious acoustics that caused ringing in my ears, they delivered on their promise of a good show.

In the beginning, we got a drawn out solo by Jason Blake on his Chapman Sticks. While he did, the drummer, Tom Murray, shook the hands of other band members and recorded a few frames on his digital camera. By the way, Murray is new to the band and in terms of the number of gigs he has performed with his group, he is still in the single digits (MARSfest, for the record, was his second gig ever).

Blake’s melancholic fingers scrambling over the strings put me in an inebriated state. I almost closed my eyes, but kept them open as if I were in an insomniac’s stupor. When Blake began tapping, it was like a hypnotist snapping. Between the busy notes and the volume, I was now fully awake.

The one positive remark I can make in relation to the volume was that the crowd was rude and raucous, and I only choose these words, because they were true. It would be an understatement to say there was some disorderly conduct and commotion among the cowpokes. I guess you can’t expect more from a place named the High Noon Saloon. It’s a surprise there wasn’t a shootout over a beer that some guy mistakenly took. It’s too bad that people these days cannot appreciate good music when it’s there for the taking.

While the debacle ensued, Mike Milaniak provided riffs that toggled between Dave Gilmour and John Petrucci. Aziola Cry started with the same song they opened with at MARSfest. It was called “Ghost Conversations,” and it was just as long, because it was comprised of three separate parts. The only difference was, and I’ll stress this again, it was extraordinarily loud and blaring this time. I began to think; maybe I shouldn’t have sat at the table closest to the stage.

I also thought they sounded a lot like OSI and then I wondered if Blake only played the Chapman Sticks and nothing else. I have heard of bassists taking this on as a hobby, but it seemed as if Blake had both a specialty and a mastery of the instrument.

As for other comparisons, I was recently listening to the super-group Asia in my car, and I recalled a rendition of “In the Court of the Crimson King.” While it was subtle, passages of their song hinted to early King Crimson.

When concentrating keenly on the instruments, it seemed as if the knobs on the equalizer gave too much attention to the drums. Then, it got louder. As their set ensued, it seemed to work its way out, but we were halfway through the set before it was fixed. On last count, which would be MARSfest, the bass was much too low. In general, this band seems to be cursed when it comes to the heuristics and levels behind the sound.

What’s remarkable is that they sound good either way, and it only gives me another reason to see them again. Eventually, I will be there at a time when the regulators will be set just right.

We also got “When Soft Voices Cry” from their Ellipsis album. This features the guitar and Chapman Sticks in a duet. It’s a friendlier piece and by this time, the sound improved (or I was already deaf). To be fair, it was not bad when you considered they set up in approximately eight minutes.

Blake was so affluent on the Chapman Sticks, he could make it sound like a bass or a keyboards. It was hard to believe “these” sounds only came from “one” person.

My favorite song was the third and last, but I didn’t catch the title. Nevertheless, it had great bridges and it was elegantly simple. I have to attest that it was more melodic than the other two pieces. Here, it was as if the Chapman Sticks was being played like a lead guitar. In addition, the piece finished later than expected as it included a false ending. Like magicians who are skilled with sleight of hand, these musicians trick me every time.

Not to mention, these songs are so intricate, they are laborious. They concluded the way they began by incorporating an increasingly ambient rhythm, and by the end of the set, they were sweating from head to toe.

Aziola Cry consists of a group of chameleons. They took the same cuts I heard at a progressive festival and geared it towards a heavy metal crowd. Yet, you would have thought these were different compositions.

As hard as the drummer was hitting the skins with his mallets, it didn’t drone out the guitarist altogether. Speaking of the guitarist, his hand scurried up and down the neck of his instrument in an incessant manner. We later found out that he was playing with a broken finger. That’s also impressive if you ask me.

We didn’t stay for the headliner. Instead, we cut our losses, got out of Dodgeville, and saved what remained of our hearing. On June 21, 2007, I came specifically for Aziola Cry and in some ways, got AC/DC. Sometimes it’s all right to be jolted and shocked into party-mode when you’re tired. On this night, you could say I was happy to be utterly thunderstruck.
This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2007 Volume 4 at
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