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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Deluge Grander

August in the Urals

Review by Julie Knispel

August in the Urals is the debut release from Deluge Grander, a new progressive rock band from Baltimore, Maryland. The group formed from the ashes of Cerebus Effect as an avenue for Dan Britton and Patrick Gaffney to develop and record new material that Britton had been composing. The addition of Dave Berggren and Brett d’Anon (on guitar and bass respectively) completed the line-up, and Brett d’ Anon’s presence provided an opening for his uncle, Frank d’Anon, to add some additional instrumentation throughout this release.

With no song under 7 minutes in length, the musicians have ample opportunity to develop phrases and sections without fear of rushing things. From an instrumentation standpoint, August in the Urals leans most heavily toward traditional symphonic progressive rock, with a range of keyboard tones (piano, analogue and digital lead tones, organ, mellotron) providing a foundation for Deluge Grander’s extended song suites. Brett d’Anon’s bass cuts through the mix with surgical precision; his bass tone is at once trebly yet powerful, with just the right amount of fuzz and overdrive to make its presence known. Unfortunately, the thickly orchestrated mix often overpowers Dan Britton’s vocals; add in the lack of lyrics in the packaging, and it becomes occasionally difficult to follow the songs lyrically.

The album’s packaging is nice, with good annotation on who played what on each piece, as well as production information. A series of paintings “illustrate” each of the tracks on the release, in lieu of lyrics (on pieces which feature them). While the inclusion of specially created artwork is a nice touch, it is still a shame lyrics were not included. Finally, the album was recorded in a number of home studios, and while it was “mixed and semi-mastered at a professional studio,” the limitations of home recording sound quality do occasionally rear their head. The sporadic rough bits actually do add a bit of charm to the proceedings, keeping the album from sounding too glossy, and perhaps providing a bit of vintage-ness to the release as a whole. August in the Urals is an impressive debut effort, and may be one of the top symphonic prog albums of 2006.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2007 Volume 1 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Inaugural Bash
The album’s opening track is a 7-part, 27-minute epic that never outstays its welcome. Beginning with a dark synth line that could have been lifted from a cyberpunk movie, the song mixes Lizard-era King Crimson jazziness and angularity with Foxtrot-era Genesis lushness. Despite these comparisons, the track retains a freshness that allows it, and the band, to stand apart from similar efforts that do little more than ape traditional styles without adding anything new to the mix. Dave Berggren’s guitar playing here is tasteful and appropriate for the piece; while not overly flashy, he adds several melodic lines and licks that provide additional tonal colours and shades.
August in the Urals
The album’s title track is perhaps the most traditionally symphonic one, evoking the pastoral side of Genesis as well as more modern bands like Anglagard. Again, Deluge Grander takes these elements and uses them as building blocks to create something new, rather than relying on them as essential elements of their sound. More heavily lyrical than the opening epic, the packaging’s lack of lyrics is felt most strongly here.
Abandoned Mansion Afternoon
This piece opens with a warm bass line rumbling over a lush synth bed. The song builds quickly, with a skittering beat and short bursts of guitar that seem inspired by the filigree Steve Hackett added to the early Genesis albums. Vocals are multi-tracked here and are pleasant to listen to, albeit mixed too low to make much impact.
A Squirrel
This song showcases the band in an instrumental format. One of the two shortest tracks on August in the Urals at “only” 8:45, the song takes inspiration from jazz, fusion and baroque music, adding in some eastern European textures and tasty analogue synth to top things off. It’s a potent piece that stands strongly as an individual composition worthy of repeated listens. 
The Solitude of Miranda
The album’s closing number opens with a mix of baroque and folk styles, with acoustic and electric sections dueling each other. One of the more dynamic pieces on August in the Urals, it’s refreshing in a way to see a newer band embracing the tenets of light and shadow in their song structure, rather than relying entirely on one set of musical colours. Acoustic guitar and piano feature heavily here, as do guest vocals by Adnarim Dadelos. Dadelos’ vocals add character and a unique quality that suits this interesting and enjoyable composition.
 
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