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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

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Beyond Jargon

Review by Gary Hill

This disc isn’t for everyone. Certainly those who prefer their progressive rock in the traditional old-school format will not get this. Neither will folks who want everything completely polished. There are still some rough edges that could have stood to be honed here. On the other hand, it’s just those types of imperfections that lend character and uniqueness to the project. I have to say that I really have problems with the vocals on the first two songs, but after that point they work a lot better. Don’t get me wrong, you aren’t about to rave about how great the vocals are, but once you get past the hurdle of the first couple pieces, they do the job reasonably well. These guys are a very unique and intriguing outfit combining elements of early Rush with fusion and King Crimson. Even some Pink Floyd and the blues is thrown into the mix. The end result is an album that, while it probably won’t become your favorite, will certainly continue to entertain and serve as a listening adventure for a long time. I’d like to see these guys work a little harder at perfecting their craft, but this CD is certainly nothing to be ashamed of.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2006 Volume 5 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Chapter 1: March To War
Percussion kicks this off, but the band quickly launch into a swirling guitar dominated fusion-like jam takes this. They move through this in a fury of noisy neo-prog, but then drop to a more straightforward sort of jam for a time. A staccato Rush like element takes it from there. Then they resolve this out into a more melodic, but still noisy Rush-oriented jam. The vocals come over the top of this in a sort of odd approach. I’m not completely sure I like that aspect of the track. After the verse they crank it out into a fast paced metallic jam that’s again reminiscent of early Rush. This resolves out into another hard-edged movement that takes it to the next verse. Metallic fury takes it once more after this verse. They drop it back for a time after this segment and move through a fairly unique riff based jam. This eventually marches back out into fast paced metallic fury with more Rush-like leanings. One final verse gives way to another showing of metal jamming that ends the piece.
Chapter 2: Today I Tried
More traditional prog type stylings start this one off and begin to gradually mature upwards into a more complete arrangement. Still, this transition is very slow. Rather than finish, though, it abruptly gives way to a new (far less metallic jam). As with the first cut the vocals are a bit problematic. The musical progressions on this one, though, are very strong. They alternate between intense progressive rock alterations and a fairly straightforward approach on the verses. This one also has a cool bridge that is both playful and has a fusionish King Crimson sort of approach.
Chapter 3: None So Blind
Spacey keyboard like textures start this. A Pink Floyd sort of restrained jam begins to gradually rise up from there. About a minute in this gives way to a new movement that has elements of 60’s psychedelia and progressive rock. The vocals come in over the top of this, and are the most effective of the disc to this point. That might be because I’m getting used to them or because they are getting better. It’s hard to say. What I can tell you is this track works the best of anything to this point. It is a great merging of the two musical formats I cited before. They move this out later into a musical excursion that merges the two predominant elements with Middle Eastern tones and some metallic sounds. This turns into a dramatic, slightly Rush like heavier journey from that point. They move it back afterwards to the song proper and then work through some variants on those musical themes. A super-heavy feedback takes the song out.
Chapter 4: Deeds
Mysterious, dramatic tones begin this, at first in the background. Then it moves upward with a rocking, fusion sort of texture before they cut into the song proper. This comes in with a slightly clunky prog rock ballad type approach. The vocals here are higher pitched and rather effective. While a bit awkward in its execution, this segment will probably be one of the easier for traditional progressive rock fans to latch onto. The group turn out into a fast paced fusion jam later that is one of the best pieces of music on the whole disc. It really shows what they are capable of putting together. This then winds out into a more frantic axe-driven power jam. A wah pedal sound that calls to mind a song I did in one of my early bands takes this later, but eventually crescendos to give control back to the main song segment.
Chapter 5: Carryin' Carrion
A playful, experimental classical music texture begins this one and runs through for a time. This then turns to crunch dark King Crimson-like dissonance. They move it out into more of the early Rush type sounds to carry forward into the vocal segment. This sound is turned and twisted into some intriguing directions later in the piece. They drop it back later to a distant sort of jam that turns into a guitar extravaganza. This really rocks. It still has a bit of that early Rush sound through this movement, but with a more modern take on it. This is definitely my favorite cut on the disc.
Chapter 6: Going
A funky bass line leads this off and then waves of sound skirt across the top in a killer fusion texture. After a time this shifts to a mysterious mellower atmospheric texture. Then it drops back to a quirky stripped down approach. They move this up into a new progressive rock movement that is quite intriguing. A series of changes ensue from there, making this one of the more dynamic cuts on the disc. Some of the rubbery sounds on this one are really hard to put into words, but also very cool. Think Chris Isaaks goes prog and you might have a bit of a clue. This is another of the strongest cuts on show here, although it’s also one of the odder ones. The funky segment that takes it late is quite cool.
Chapter 7: Regardless
A rather funky sounding approach starts this one off also, but with a more tentative and distant approach. There are hints of Yes in this intro. They twist this around with the first vocals coming over the top in a mode that feels rather like some mystical spell being chanted. This begins to alter ever so gradually and hints of Middle Eastern sounds come and go in the mix. As it kicks into a rather higher gear there are hints of very early Yes sounds that come into play. They move it through a number of differing musical structures as they carry it forward. This one is another of the stronger pieces of music on show here. There are Rushish elements at points, but also a heck of a lot of other sounds in this dynamic powerhouse.
Chapter 8: Reflections
At less than two minutes this cut is by far the shortest number on the disc. Guitar harmonic sounds make up the main crux of this short instrumental. It’s pretty and an intriguing respite with hints of both fusion sounds and Pink Floyd.
Chapter 9: When The Light's On
A jazz fusion like sound starts this one off, but with a bluesy take. This mode becomes the crux for the majority of the track. This one reminds me a bit of a more stripped down OnOffOn. While it’s not the strongest cut on the disc, it works reasonably well to close off the album.
 
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