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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Spastic Ink

Ink Compatible

Review by Josh Turner

Many influences can be heard and many comparisons can be drawn, however, the outcome is quite unique. While one prescription dulls the pain, another treats the downing affects with a stimulating boost. The combination of elements leaves the listener in a pleasant state of euphoria. At first the music appears to be Nu Metal, but the songs trek repeatedly into the realm of Progressive Metal. Dream Theater is constantly referenced throughout the music. Albums such as Images & Words, Awake, Scenes from a Memory, and Train of Thought come to mind. Spastic Ink doesn't mimic any particular one for too long. Instead they hover in and out of different airspace from track to track. They even tread into the territory of Liquid Tension Experiment. The music also makes random house calls with some of the heavier Progressive Metal bands such as Time Requiem, Opus Atlantica, and Richard Andersson's Space Odyssey. Dali's Dilemma and Shadow Gallery return to the crime scene too many times to consider it coincidence.

Ink Compatible follows a loose concept, which deals with computer technology. Many of the sound bytes deal with user complaints or computer-related sound effects. These clips are very humorous. The comic relief makes the album extremely entertaining. The packaging also supports the computer theme. The cover art is the graphic of a motherboard blotted in ink. The disc itself looks like a platter from a hard disk. It even has the divots and magnetic reader painted on its clear shiny coat. The core of the band consists of Jason McMaster (lead vocalist), Pete Perez (bass), and two brothers, Ron (guitars and programming) and Bobby (drums) Jarzombek. The album features a number of guests who replace these roles or offer their voice for one of many sound bytes.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2004 Year Book Volume 1 at

Track by Track Review
The band demonstrates their individuality right away in the album. I cannot recall anything that sounds quite like this song. It starts with the familiar sound of a modem making a connection. The music that follows is a cross between Evergrey and Dream Theater. Halfway through there is a keyboard passage by Jens Johansson that sounds like something from Matt Guillory of Dali's Dilemma. The vocals are belted out in a Hardcore Metal manner. The ending is clever. They have replaced the standard operator response with their own provided by Crystal Francis. The tone she uses is sure to cause a chuckle.
Just A Little Bit
In some ways, this song is similar to the first one. It is slightly heavier with a beat that is partially staccato. The chorus sounds like Ozzy Osbourne when he was out on his own. There is also a demonic passage helped out by the gravelly voice of Bill Dawson. This is a strange brew, but the elements seem to work well together.
Words For Nerds
The song begins with a funny sound clip from an individual who is terribly computer-illiterate. The music to follow is more melodic in nature than the preceding tracks. It is quick out of the gate, but stops on a dime for words from a person in need of computer assistance. Afterwards, there is a lull in the music and several other voices are encountered. Each is incredibly confused when it comes to technology and the statements they make are just plain preposterous. There are several guest musicians as well. David Penna sits in on the drums. Ray Riendeau plays most of the bass with the exception of Michael Manring's solo on a fretless. In the closing passages, the keyboard solo by David Bagsby is very similar to Jordan Rudess. The song is amusing due to the various transitions. The strength of the album is its ability to keep the music fresh with changes in time signature and a surplus of sound bytes. While these techniques are found throughout the album, they are demonstrated best in this track.
Melissa's Friend
This starts with a great clip from Bill Stalcup, who uses a southern accent and sounds like Hank Hill from the cartoon sitcom King of the Hill. His character returns later on in the song with a peculiar solution to the problem he's been experiencing. As for the music here, it is in the combination of Megadeath and Pain of Salvation. The lead vocalist sounded so much like Daniel Gildenlow that I had to check the liner notes. The irony is that Daniel really appears on this track. Jason McMaster, the lead vocalist on every other track takes a time out for this very special guest.
Read Me (The Mad Dash, Double Spaced, Taking Notes, and Scribble)
This is an instrumental similar to "Bite of the Mosquito" by Dream Theater. When Doug Keyser (bass) and David Penna (drums) join it, the swarm gets bigger and busier. This song makes four slight shifts that occur around each minute mark. No vocals appear on this track.
After a weird passage with techno sounds and evil-sounding voices, the remainder is mostly along the lines of Dream Theater's Awake. The vocals are similar to the first track. Jimmy Pitts and Jens Johansson provide solos on the synths.

In Memory Of...
This one is much more toned down than the earlier tracks. The bassist is actually replaced by Sean Malone, which gives the music the feel of Gordian Knot and OSI. Some of Sean's riffs are a lot like Jonas Reingold when he is playing his heaviest licks.
A Chaotic Realization Of Nothing Yet Misunderstand
A spooky sequence ends the last track and brings us into this one. Lots of guitar work is found here. It's a cross between Kopecky, John Petrucci, and Van Halen. Marty Friedman gives Ron a short breather during his guitar solo at the midway point. Doug Keyser (bass) and Jeff Ebep (drums) are pulled from the reserves to provide basic support. There is an interesting monologue in the center that gives paranoid advice about how to interpret the news. This track is long and lingering like waiting to wake up from a grisly nightmare. Another Jarzombek by the name of Jennifer is credited as the voice on this track.
The Cereal Mouse
This is completely different from the rest of the album. This short sequence combines Hasse Bruniusson's Flying Food Circus, the traditional Chopsticks, and Tom & Jerry chase scenes. Chunks of Eddie Van Halen and pieces of John Petrucci are thrown in for good measure. It is a caffeinated beverage that helps chase away the cobwebs created by the previous song. The quirky finish is a yet another reminder that Spastic Ink has a healthy sense of humor.

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