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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Lifesizemonsters

Brain In A Box

Review by Gary Hill

Until now I had never heard any music quite like this. It's nearly impossible to classify. On the one hand you get sounds that might make one think of Adrian Belew or maybe even King Crimson at times. On the other hand you might hear punk rock and metal on these compositions. All of it is delivered with a sense of defying all logical parameters and musical conventions – but it's still almost catchy. This is an amazing disc, but probably not for everyone. I'm not saying that I love it. I'm saying that it's enjoyable in a weird way, challenging and truly unique. I do love the way these guys bend and twist musical genres and concepts into something that fits their artistic vision. Besides, who wouldn't love the cover?

For more information (including how to get the CD) check out the band's website. This may not be a tight fit in the prog rock genre, but it's sense of adventure and breaking out of the box puts it there in my book.

And, speaking of books, this review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2007 Volume 2 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Brain In A Box
Bass leads this off, then the group move out into an odd sort of fusion sound. This gives way to a grind that is part punk and part classic rock. The chorus feels a bit like Hawkwind. This is rather weird, but very cool.
Validity
The sound of a radio dial being spun is the first sound heard here. This holds the cut for a time. Then the dial settles on a religious channel. This is a fire and brimstone sermon. It's around the two mark that the first real music enters with a vocal stating, “the system doesn't make sense to me.” This is a dark sounding crunchy arrangement that's probably equal parts goth and bombastic neo-prog. Eventually a short segue leads to a hard edged jam that is quite garage band like. The prog influence is still all over this arrangement, but in very weird ways. This segues straight into the next number.
Jealousy
Ethnic sounding neo-classical sounds begin this and the vocal line “only the eyes of the dead can see” from the last cut carries on in this one. After a time a short prog build up takes it. Then the band launch into something that feels like Barenaked Ladies might do if they were to turn prog rock. The motif here is part jam band, part prog and all tastefully strange. The bridge has a fusion texture with an unusual, but cool vocal presence. They scream out into a fusion like jam later and then twisted curves and a weird psychedelic vocal arrangement takes it to the next section of the disc. This thing is full of more off kilter sounds and strange music rolled into an “almost normal” motif than you can imagine.
Johnny
Bass leads this off and they move out into a dramatic and mysterious jam that is quite bluesy. Fusion guitar screams over the top and distorted, warbly vocals enter over the bass heavy backdrop. The guitar that enters later is definitely very avante garde prog fusion in tone. A twisted and dark, nearly Crimson-like movement takes it later. A female vocal soars over this with non-lyrical sounds. This moves out into a ballad-like approach and those vocals (this time with lyrics and a spoken mode as counterpoint) return.
Love
Techno drums start this and then it becomes almost a modern, hard edged, techno sort of beat poem. This becomes a noisy crunch fest later in a style that calls to mind techno mixed with punk. It wanders into chaotic space to end.
Synchronized Drowning
This comes in like some modern surf music. Then twists into more of that Barenaked Ladies meets prog style. This has a campy texture that combines prog with dark lyrics and surf pop sensibilities. We get a saxophone solo on this track.
Dry Heave Blues
Coming straight out of the last number, this feels a bit like a more raw, garage band type take on King Crimson's “Prozakc Blues.”
Hate
A buzzing starts this. Then backwards tracked sounds make up the cut. I'm not positive, but I think this is actually the song “Love” played backwards. While definitely “different,” this isn't very listenable.
Ego
This one comes in like a prog metal ballad, but as saxophone and other instruments enter it feels more progressive rock oriented. This introduction, though, gives way to a cut that feels very much like The Red Hot Chili Peppers. It's one of the most accessible cuts as it alternates between these two styles. A sedate segment later is a nice touch.
Attack
Saxophone starts this off with sounds that feel like you are sitting in some small club as Buster Poindexter is introduced. After some more crowd noise a bluesy jam ensues. This is another strange one, feeling like it's recorded from a seat in the club.
Paint Box
This comes in with more pure prog sounds (albeit neo-prog). It drops back to a more melodic and ballad-like structure and the group move out in explorations based on this motif. With some changes that feel a bit like Zappa at times, this is the most obvious first choice for prog heads. It's pretty interesting and one of the most “normal” pieces on show here. It includes a screaming instrumental section later.
Bzzt (Prelude to The Elixur of Life)
This is just a seven second introductory piece that is a lot silence followed by a very brief “bzzt” sound.
The Beginning (The Elixur of Life Pt. I)
Ambient textures begin this in a rhythmic pattern. With gurgling, bubbling sound effects and other elements, this is a piece of weird ambiance that feels like the sounds one might hear in a mad scientist's lab – including something like a monster's groaning and some backwards tracked sounds. .This feels almost like it could have been pulled from the soundtrack of an old horror film.
Reflection (The Elixur of Life Pt. II)
What sounds like chanting, albeit backwards, continued from the conclusion of the last piece leads this off. As it carries on in this manner acoustic guitar creates an uneasy pattern of sound to accompany it. Eventually, though, this becomes a melodic and quite pretty acoustic ballad mode that feels a little like Pink Floyd. The backwards spoken vocals return at the end.
Murder (The Elixur of Life Pt. III)
Noisy guitar serves as the introduction here. Then the cut turns into some kind of a weird cacophonic screaming session. At about a minute in this ends and is replaced by the sounds of children singing along with some crickets in the background. Eventually just the crickets remain (with some ambient noises) for a while. Then a distorted noisy revisit to the kids' voices takes over. This is really weird and ends in more ambient textures and barely heard spoken voices.
 
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