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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

3rdegree

Narrow-Caster

Review by Gary Hill

This group has produced an album with a sound that’s hard to categorize and pin down. In some ways it’s very catchy. There’s an almost Kings X or Jellyfish texture to a lot of it. In other ways it’s challenging progressive rock – Dream Theater and Pentwater come to mind. Yet there is also a lot of jazz (both smooth jazz and fusion in the mix). Whatever the particular recipe or formula, this CD is quite cool.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2008  Volume 6 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Apophenia
This starts tentatively and then launches out into a fusion-like jam that’s quite cool. They power out for the verse and this reminds me of a more fusion oriented Dream Theater. They really rock. There is a more melodic sound and they drop it down to more mellow territory. Then this gives way to a rather metallic jam with plenty of fusion in it. They drop it way down after some returns to the themes we’ve heard thus far. Vocals come in over a stripped down motif and then they work this back up. This gives way to a short instrumental segment with a bit of a keyboard solo. Then they take it through another vocal section and continue the reinventions and revisions.

It Works
They lead this out as a keyboard and vocal ballad. This motif holds it for a while until the other instruments join in a modern progressive rock jam. This doesn’t hold it for long, though. Instead they drop back down to a jazzy take on the vocal section to carry forward. We get a cool bouncing jam after this that has both modern and classic prog elements. It has a little hint of funk in it. They take us through a series of variants and alterations. This is quite a cool number.

Narrow-Caster
This is a lot less dynamic piece. It also remains fairly sedate in comparison to some of the other music. That doesn’t mean it’s boring or tame. No, this has a rather mysterious texture and a great mood to it. It’s also quite unique.

Live With This Forever
A lot of this song doesn’t differ greatly from the first couple tracks. There is a killer instrumental section, though and we get some great retro keyboard sounds. This one does a nice job of merging a catchy chorus with a more complex musical structure. I love the dramatic segment they shift to late and the outro is pretty cool, too.

Cautionary Tale
Multiple layers of vocals and music lead this off in a rather Yesish approach. They move it out into a jam that’s more in keeping with the music on the rest of the album. They work through a few sections but for me the soaring instrumental section is what really makes this track. The final vocal segment on this one is a killer, too.

The Proverbial Banana Peel
A harder edged jam, this comes close to metal on the opening. They drop it down to a bass dominated motif for the verse. The Dream Theater comparisons are quite valid on this number. It’s a strong one and represents a bit of a change from some of the rest of the music here. There are also some intriguing vocal arrangements on this piece. They also throw a cool metal grind in as the ending section.

Young Once
Based on an acoustic guitar ballad mode, this gets a bit more powered up at times. It’s got an interesting vocal arrangement and makes me think of Jellyfish quite a bit. I also hear Kings X on this. There’s a great mellow prog jam later. This morphs out towards harder edged sounds later. They also drop it way back for a keyboard solo after that. Then it powers up for a moment and seems about to launch into an ELP meets Styx deal. Instead, though, they keep it mellow and work around the keyboard sounds. Then a slow moving new section is introduced and carries the track. It’s still guided by the rather gentle keyboards. Vocals enter and take this to its conclusion.

Scenery
More mellow motifs serve as the opening section here. This is pretty and balladic. I again hear Jellyfish here. The vocal arrangement gets quite intricate as they move forward. This works through a number of changes and alterations, but stays pretty close to its compositional roots. At times I’m reminded a bit of Queen. They turn it a bit harder edged at times, but never really rise up beyond what you’d call “anthemic ballad.”

Free For All
The bass leads this off in an almost funky approach. They launch out into metallic territory after this. This is one of the more rocking numbers on the album. Just when you think that this cut isn’t progressive rock at all they take us out into an expansive melodic jam that’s quite cool. They take us through this and then back out into the more metallic motif. A segment later reminds me a bit of Rush. This is a dynamic number that pulls together seemingly disparate sounds to produce a cohesive and powerful piece of music.
The Last Gasp
This cut blends some even more interesting sounds. At points I hear Jellyfish, but I also make out It Bites, Pentwater, Queen and others. This is another dynamic composition.
 
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