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Non-Prog CD Reviews

Matthew Heller

Invitation

Review by Gary Hill

This is a very hard set to categorize. That’s because it covers a lot of musical territory. The thing is, I like everything here a lot. There are musical sounds that range from folky music to Zeppelin like jamming to glam rock, stoner metal and lots more. That mix of sounds in one album would be impressive enough, if each song represented a single musical thought. The thing is, this is even more interesting than that because different genres get mashed up in each song. That provides some intriguing musical blends. It also makes for quite great album. This is impressive and strong and I really am taken by it.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2013  Volume 2 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Father's Son

The acoustic guitar sounds that open things here are classic and quite folk oriented. The tune works out from there into some folk rock that feels a bit like something Crosby Stills and Nash might do, minus the vocal harmonies. It gets shifted into some seriously hard rocking sounds from there. The musical arrangement on this is awesome, drifting between that folk rock sound and blues based hard rock a bit like Led Zeppelin. The vocals are perhaps closer to Kurt Cobain, though. There’s a cool false ending that leads out into a smoking hot jam that’s part Led Zeppelin and part progressive rock. This extended jam is both retro sounding and just plain great.

Space Girl
Suitably spacey sounds open this one. The song proper seems to be almost a cross between the glam rock of acts like David Bowie and T-Rex and the grunge of Nirvana. That said, there are some parts that seem closer to the modern progressive rock of acts like Porcupine Tree.
Shake It
This is more of a bluesy rocker. It has more hints of the folk rock heard on the opening number. The vocals on the verses are distorted. The choruses are closer to the glam meets grunge sound of the previous tune. It’s energetic and accessible.
Another Dose
Starting with a fast paced acoustic guitar sound, this one seems to combine punk rock, grunge, glam and Led Zeppelin styled bluesy rock into an energetic roots rocker. It’s another strong piece on an album with no shortage of strong material. The guitar solo section in particular has some Zeppelin-esque moments. And that really says a lot.
Interlude
Given the music that’s come to this point, this instrumental is the last thing one would expect. Yet, it really works. There is some laughter at the start of it, then it moves out to a progressive rock styled instrumental that’s driven by piano and accentuated by symphonic instrumentation. It might be a surprise, but it’s a welcome one.
Howdy from Hades
Here is another surprise. It starts off in much the same kind of acoustic folk treatments heard at other parts of the set. That’s not the surprise. The thing is, this stays in that mellower motif. The vocals are even restrained. The effect is not unlike some of the early progressive rock that was heavily influenced by psychedelic rock. For a simpler answer, consider merging early Pink Floyd with Black Sabbath’s “Planet Caravan” and you’ll have a close cousin to this. It’s possibly my favorite tune on the disc.
Mercy
This starts with an acoustic based style that’s more along the lines of bluesy rock. It retains that mellower element for quite a while. Eventually some crunch is introduced to the mix as this powers out as more rocking sound. Still, that blues rock, mixed with that 1960s psychedelic element continues to drive this thing. There’s a changeup later in the track that takes into territory that’s more like punk meets psychedelic.
Man's Prayer
There is some great acoustic slide guitar on this number. It’s definitely got a roots blues sound to it. The whole cut remains in that stripped down, but intricate and involved back porch blues style. Comparisons to Robert Johnson are appropriate. One might also hear Led Zeppelin, but considering the amount of influence Johnson had on Led Zeppelin, that makes sense.
Drone Strike
Here we are back to the hard rocking territory. This rocker combines glam, punk and grunge into a real screamer. It gets a parental advisory warning for some of the lyrical content. It works out to a crunch laden jam later in the track, too.
Jaclyn of Spades
Bluesy sounds are merged with folk and psychedelic here. There are moments that seem just a little touched by progressive rock. Overall, though, this is a killer roots tune with some nice slide guitar.
Sink or Swim
This disc has provided quite a few surprises to this point. This is another. It’s mellow start to finish. It’s kind of like folk based progressive rock. Yet there are some definite pop music angles to the piece. It’s another strong number and features some great picked guitar.
Dismay King
The closer is another surprise of sorts. Perhaps the quickest comparison would be to modern progressive rock like Radiohead. That’s only so accurate, though. There’s plenty of that glam rock sound here, along with some psychedelic. Yet the hooks are so catchy that it’s scary. All in all, this is one of the most accessible cuts here. It’s also a highlight and both of those things make it a great choice to close the album.
 
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