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Rocky Kramer

Firestorm

Review by Gary Hill

First, I'd like to talk about the classification of this album. It really could have gone under heavy metal. There is plenty of metal here. The thing is, it's also very progressive rock oriented, and has a lot of classical music built into it. So, ultimately, I landed it under prog. With that out of the way, though, let's address the music. Taking away everything but the instrumental work, this is nearly a perfect album. It's wide-ranging and has some very complex and developed music. The only issue here, really, comes to the lyrics and some of the little skit bits built into it. Some of the lyrics feel a bit childish, and some of the skits cartoonish. Don't get me wrong, there are some lyrics that work better, but some are very immature. To me that doesn't fit with the caliber of the music here. I honestly wish that some of the songs were just left as instrumentals and some of those skits had been left off entirely. It would have been a stronger disc that way. As it is, this is very strong. With those changes, it could have been nearly a masterpiece.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2019  Volume 5 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Invocation
A chiming bell leads things off. Then an organ comes in as a preacher delivers an invocation. After he says "we are gathered here today to..." a metal singer screams, "rock." Then the guitar screams out with some seriously passionate soloing. It moves in neo-classical directions. There's a "brother, can I get an amen," along with a crack of thunder at the end.
Rock Star
A teacher opens this seeming quite upset with "Mister Kramer." The music powers out from there into a cool metal rocking arrangement. While there is a real AOR hard rock approach to much of this cut, the track also has some blasts of prog rock jamming. It's a classy and rocking tune. The teacher returns at the end.
Alcohol
There is a short little introductory skit of a drunk woman. The cut drives outward from there with a real prog rock meets metal and jazz approach. As the vocals eventually join, it turns more toward the arena rock metal end of the spectrum. The instrumental section features some killer neo-classical guitar soloing.
The Firestorm Symphony
This powerhouse instrumental is part metal and part classical music. It's a really screaming hot stomper, but yet prog is brought into being by the decidedly classical approach. Around the half-way point of the track, the number goes to full classical treatment for a section. The rock sounds are definitely not metal at that point. This thing works through so many variants and shifts and changes. It's definitely among the most blatantly progressive rock based music here.
Go To Hell
Drums start this thing. The cut rises up with a rocking metal approach from there. It moves to more decidedly proggy territory for a time. Then we get a short almost Black Sabbath-like bit before a new symphonic metal or prog excursion takes it in new directions. The piece gets into quite classical territory as is drives onward. The song comes out of that section into a proggier take on a mainstream rock number. It's AOR, but also cool.
Entr'acte Confusion
There are some weird voices in the mix here. I wouldn't call them vocals, really, as it's more insane laughter. The music is set in a progressive rock kind of arrangement that almost hints at Pink Floyd in some ways. It drops back to some chirping guitar, and a mellower, melodic movement takes over from there.
I Wanna Know
A powered up AOR prog jam seems to come out of the previous number. It drops back to a mellower backdrop for the vocals. This thing is pure progressive rock. It's also quite powerful and one of the highlights of the set. It has a cool classically inspired movement mid-track that gives way to a more metallic jam as the guitar really screams out with melodic passion over the top. The cut turns toward something a bit like a proggier Deep Purple from there. Still, the metal edge is more fierce than that implies.
Entr'acte Frustration
Metallic structures are heard as some angry people argue with one another. This is a short connecting piece.
Sick & Tired
Metal and prog merge in a cool jam. I love the expressive guitar work built into this piece. The vocals are more soaring on this number. This is one of the stronger pieces of the disc. It does lean more toward the metal end, but still has plenty of progressive rock elements and shifts. There is a killer guitar riff section that takes over after the first vocal movement. From there it works to an almost jazzy jam for a short time before making its way to a more powerful iteration of the main song concept. A killer neo-prog jam emerges from there as this really gets into full prog zones.
Entr'acte Deception
A heavier Pink Floyd styled movement serves as the backdrop for this short piece. There are soundbites of world leaders. I know two of them are Nixon and George W. Bush, but I'm pretty sure the third is Hitler.
Attitude

This comes in with a screaming hot metal approach. It's fiery and fierce. This thing is pretty much pure metal in some ways. The complete left-turn shifts, though, are sort of a prog concept. Whatever you call it, though, this number is really a powerhouse. There are some really thrashy sections to this. Yet it does have some fairly melodic vocal sections, particularly at the end.

Can You Feel It
The sounds of a storm open this. A whispered voice asks the question that is the title several times. Then acoustic guitar rises up to bring the number into being. The piece works out into a dramatic, and melodic prog approach. It's rather balladic and quite pretty. The cut eventually works out into harder rocking zones. At times it works into seriously metallic zones. Yet, there are ever-present proggy elements at play, too. The piano gets to show off a bit before the guitar puts in a particularly expressive but hot showing.
The Outsider
There is an old world vibe to a lot of this. Yet it has a killer metal edge and really rocks. As the vocals join they deliver on more of that rock edge. Classical strings bring something different to the number. A metallic shift mid-track is smoking hot. There are full on orchestral moments later i the track. Then it drops to just atmospherics over which the guitar solos. That gives way to a short piano based section that takes the track to its end.
Black & Brown
There are some weird jazz-turned-surf-guitar textures here. This cut almost feels like The Ventures on acid in some ways, at least at the start. It eventually works out to some really rocking, rather metallic zones. The cut continues to shift and change, getting particularly powerful and dramatic as it grows outward later. The neo-classical guitar soloing is so strong. The closing is a real powerhouse.
 
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