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Progressive Rock CD Reviews


Howling Mad Black Music Under Hot Stars

Review by Gary Hill

Crocodile is a progressive rock band from Austin, Texas, and this is their second album. While progressive rock and Texas might not seem to really go together in some minds, these guys make it work. In fact, they do so at times by incorporating blues rock and Southern influences to bring in sounds not far removed from things like ZZ Top. Yet, this is decidedly progressive rock, albeit with a guitar dominated modern twist and plenty of psychedlia. It’s a safe bet you won’t find another band with exactly this kind of sound. It’s effective and quite cool, though. It’s also definitely prog.

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Track by Track Review
(Arrival) Small Eden
A mellow, textural keyboard segment gets nature sounds added to it. A rhythmic element that rises up makes me think of something John Carpenter might do. The cut works out from there to a fast paced and quirky, if stripped back, jam. Other instruments join, turning this into something with some hints of modern King Crimson along with some Rush in the mix. That Rush element is particularly valid as this drives outward from there. Some non-lyrical vocals enter, and the cut shifts toward more of a mainstream AOR prog melody. As it drops for the first real vocals some funky guitar is heard in the stripped back mix. This thing works through all kinds of cool twists and turns. There are some intriguing flavors and textures built into the number. The guitar work in particular shines on this thing.
I Was Dreaming
This cut has a good contrast between mellower sections and more rocking ones. There is a lot of psychedelia in the mix here. The cut has plenty of melodic prog built into it, too, though. I love some of the guitar lead things that come into being on this. There is a modern prog edge to this, but it also blasts out into some fusion at times.
Dark Inverted Jubilee
This comes in with a bit of a guitar rock movement. It works out from there to more purely progressive rock territory. As it drops down for the vocals this has a lot more psychedelia in the mix. After a bit of guitar fury this explodes out into one of the coolest prog rock jams of the whole disc. This just works so well, combining classic and modern prog sounds in a fast paced and particularly effective movement. This thing just keeps driving forward and reinventing itself in such cool ways. The guitar solo as it approaches the six-minute mark is so cool.
Lovesick Wanderer
There is a lot of psychedelia here. Yet, it’s also a very dynamic song, moving through all kinds of shifts and variants along the road. There is a cool groove throughout, though. This is perhaps more mainstream than most of the rest of the music here. I like it quite a bit, but it’s not my favorite. It does have some cool explorations, though, taking us through classic prog sounds, blues rock and more.
Shed My Skin
This comes in with some killer guitar rock meets fusion textures. After a time the emphasis shifts from distorted to clean guitar textures. It still has a real blues rock sound, though. That motif serves as the backdrop for the vocals. There is a healthy helping of ZZ Top styled Southern rock built into this thing. It has other elements at play that bring more pure progressive rock to it, though. All in all, this is the least proggy thing here, but somehow it still has an overall progressive rock vibe to it.
The Genie (in Full Flower)
Hard-edged guitar rock merged with psychedelia and modern prog makes up the basis for this cut. It has some interesting changes. Overall, this number is not as interesting as some of the rest, though. It seems a bit samey at times, too. That said, there are some pretty cool guitar lines that bring hints of California Guitar Trio and King Crimson on the instrumental section later in the piece.
Avis Ender
I really love some of the echoey textures on the musical arrangement. This has a cool groove. It is another with a healthy helping of psychedelia in the mix. We’re taken on quite a cool ride, yet it’s somehow accessible and mainstream in cool ways. This is one of the stronger numbers here and a a great choice for album closer. The guitar solo in the last third of this is on fire with a real classic rock sensibility and style. That jam gets gradually faded down the end the song and the whole set.
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