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Izz

Don't Panic

Review by Gary Hill

This new release from Izz could well be their best yet. It's also a contender to land on my "best of 2019" list. The modern take on classic prog sounds works very well. There is not a misplaced passage or a single element that doesn't seem to fit. This has surprises, while feeling natural. I know there definite nods here to "The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy," but I'm not sure if this is a concept album. I should mention the length of the disc. At about 43 minutes, this is as long as an old vinyl LP. I've begun to think recently that those records were just about the ideal length. So many times artists seem to feel that they need to fill the extra time of a CD and that the recording can suffer. I'm glad they opted to keep it relatively concise. (I'm not sure how accurate it is to say that an album with an 18-and-a-half minute song is concise.) All in all, if you like modern prog that is firmly rooted in classic sounds and features multiple singers, this is for you.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2019  Volume 4 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Don't Panic
Science fiction sounds open this. The cut fires out with some soaring prog rock intensity from there. As the number evolves this is well grounded by classic progressive rock textures. It also makes me think of some of Billy Sherwood's song writing to some degree. They take this through a number of shifts and changes. There are more rocking moments counter-pointed with mellower ones. They make great use of the fact that they have multiple singers. There are some killer guitar sounds at points on this thing, too.
42

This is the epic of the piece, weighing it at over 18-and-a-half minutes of music. It comes in a bit tentatively and strange. A jam that seems to feel like the beginning of the song proper emerges about 45 seconds into the number. It has a real Yes-like vibe as they drive through with fast paced prog jamming. That Yes comparison still holds true when they drop it down around the minute-and-a-half mark. A large chunk of this number is made up of a twisting and turning instrumental movement. Eventually they work out into a vocal driven section. The shifts and changes continue, but the number remains firmly set in a classic prog style.  Some guitar soloing around the seven-and-a-half-minute mark is particularly tasty. After soaring outward, this drops to a dramatic guitar based section that makes me think of a cross between Yes and California Guitar Trio. Before the nine-minute-15-second mark, it shifts toward more electric territory. They take it out from there in a jam that really starts to soar. The changes continue as the vocals return. This gets into some decidedly melodic prog sections. When they take it back out into instrumental zones later, it is into a killer classic prog based jam with some great guitar sounds built into it. They take things into another vocal movement from there, and there are some cool guitar fills that soar while the vocals continue to weave their magic. I'm a sucker for guitar soloing that's not restricted to its own little compartment, so that's a big selling point for me. They drop it eventually to a nearly acapella section to end the piece.

Six String Theory
A bit over two minutes long, this is an acoustic guitar solo that calls to mind both GTR Steves to me (Hackett and Howe). It's intricate and varied. It serves as a nice intermission, too.
Moment of Inertia
Piano that is quite classical in nature brings this into being. It builds up gradually from there before exploding out into some modern prog fury around the one-minute mark. This jam is crunchy and a bit heavy as it drives forward. They take us through numerous shifts and changes. At times this leans toward fusion. At other points it's more pure prog. There is some screaming hot guitar in sections, too. Some sections make me think of 90s King Crimson to some degree. A bit of a break (with some laughter) around the five-minute mark gives way to a darker jam. Synthesizer comes in to dance over the top in an almost ELP-like way. They continue the shifting evolution of the piece as it works through in dramatic fashion. The closing movement of this makes me think of classic Genesis.      
Age of Stars
Rising up gradually, the first vocal section comes over the top of a movement that feels like it's still finding its way. More layers of vocals emerge later, and the instrumental arrangement starts to really drive forward. A movement around the three-minute mark makes me think of Yes to a large degree. A jam around the five-and-a-half-minute mark has some killer synthesizer among other exceptional instrumental work. The cut drops down from there to a mellower, transitional section. Vocals come over again as that movement works forward. Some weirdness emerges at the end of that before they fire out into a killer classic prog jam.
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