Reviews in this issue:
Dysrhythmia - No Interference
Dysrhythmia are an all-instrumental trio from Philadelphia consisting of Kevin Hufnagel (guitars), Clayton Ingerson (bass) and Jeff Eber (drums). No Interference is the band's second release following their 2000 debut, Contradiction. The first I heard of this band was when I came across a review of this very album which described the music played as "the record Sonic Youth would make if they cared more about heavy metal, the record Slayer would do if they were art-school nerds". With such an intriguing comparison, I felt that such as band was definitely worth investigating!
Musically speaking the band play a calculated style of progressive metal that is very dependant on the utilisation of a strong rhythmic approach. Being a trio, the main means of creating diverse sounds falls to the guitar antics of Hufnagel which are extremely varied. At times the mass of distortion does tend to get out of hand whilst at others the nifty individual picking and open chords on tracks such as Orbiting help create an aura of bliss.
Mention has to be made of the supporting rhythm created by bass and drums. Clayton Ingerson seizes every possible moment to drive his bass off with mesmerizing runs and licks giving the sound a much needed break from the guitar barrage coming the listener's way. Take Circulatory System Overhaul and Orbiting for example where the bass simply runs off out of control and an extremely impressive pace. However one must also realise that this band is not just about speed, the precision with which they play, the tightness of the band as well as the way everything seems to be calculated shows that this trio are well versed in their playing skills giving them a cutting edge over most bands that try to create something similar.
The music is definitely metallic in nature with tracks like Craving For Transformation and Nutritional Facelift possessing an extremely powerful driving force. However as I have already mentioned it is the constant shifting on rhythm as well as the playing around with various rhythms and syncopations that gives the band that particular touch. One could make comparisons with the latter day King Crimson during segments of tracks like Body Destroyed, Brain Intact, however, I tend to liken them to one of my favourite prog-metal bands, Mekong Delta due mainly to the occasional foray into the speed/heavy metal genre. Perhaps another "new" band that I have come across that could be favourably compared to Dysrhytmia would be Maximum Indifference though the latter tend to favour a more conventional metal influence while Dysrhtymia seem to have their roots in the alternative metal scene.
One of the more curios tracks is the spacey Let You Fall running in at close to eleven minutes. The track seems to act as divider between the blasting two sides of the album and sounds almost alien-like in its placidity. What this track definitely does is prove that these guys are not just about sheer brute force. They can play music that is passive and mellow, almost relaxing, a characteristic of this track that is further accentuated by the sheer power that the tracks on either side of Let You Fall possess.
Without a shadow of doubt, No Interference is one of the more intriguing pieces of work that I have encountered this year. Anyone who likes listening to progressive metal that is replete with constant variation in time signature coupled with an aggressive edge would do well to get a copy of this album.
Conclusion: 7.5 out of 10.
The Vow - Another World
To me Musea's releases often seem to be either something completely uninteresting or a real gem. Belgian The Vow's debut album Another World falls into the latter category. The band consists of only two people, Holger Götz (vocals and keyboards) and Ralf Link (guitars and bass). The drums that are used must be programmed since no drummer is named, but this really works so I am not complaining. The music falls into the neoprog genre and is clearly inspired by bands like Marillion, Jadis and IQ, even though it contains some pop sensibilities as well as flirtations with goth rock - bands like The Sisters of Mercy, The Mission and Fields of the Nephilim come to mind.
It took me quite a while to make up my mind whether I liked Götz's vocals or not. At their worst they sound a bit like Gary Chandler's (Jadis), and I am not a big fan of Chandler's voice, but Götz can muster much more emotion and he reaches other heights. At some point his vocals even remind me of Andrew Eldritch (The Sisters of Mercy), which is nice. So in the end, Götz has definitely won me over.
The music is well played and the album is strong. The songs range from around 3 minutes to almost 17. It is hard picking out any favourites, even though I love the short 3 Minutes For You with its moving melody, and the IQ-esque title track. Then again, the two over-10-minutes-long epics Eclipse Of The Sun and The News, which opens and closes the CD respectively, will make many neoprog lovers happy with their good musical structures and melodies (the former even features some very good keyboards sounding like Mark Kelly in the early 80s).
All in all, Another World is a very good debut album which I can recommend to people who are into neoprog in the line of 80s Marillion, IQ and Jadis. The only really bad thing is the horrendously ugly cover. But in the end, it is the music that counts. And it really does count in this case. Personally, I will keep an eye out to see where the band goes from here. Definitely thumbs up.
Conclusion: 8 out of 10.
FOB - Love's A Woman's Game
FOB (Family Of Barry) is actually a group of musicians from Kentucky and Indiana with Love's A Woman's Game being their first album. First of all I feel that a number of items have to be taken into consideration when referring to this album. Unfortunately I have been unable to find any form of musical reference on the album that is remotely progressive. There are a diverse array of styles from soul to funk to rhythm and blues, however nothing whatsoever that can be termed as progressive rock. The music itself is very American with the occasional jazz tinge and would find a comfortable place on an AOR radio station or website.
Having said that, I must conclude that the music is still well executed, but is unfortunately within the wrong context and completely out of place on this website. Definitely not progressive, yet if you like your music in an AOR style, then you might enjoy this album.
Conclusion: 3 out of 10.
The Ground Zero Project - Battle Cry
The Ground Zero Project is actually the fruit of a five year collaboration between two musicians, Scott Radosevich and Tim McGill, who together with various guest musicians have given us this debut album, The Battle Cry. Labelled as a Christian Progressive rock band, some people might actually formulate the wrong opinion of this band and their music. Unfortunately most people tend to think that music with religious connotations tends to be a bit soft and too direct in its message. Well, GZP dismiss all these notions giving us an album full excellent rocking numbers.
The album can theoretically be split into two definite musical sections. The first includes those tracks that are plain good old hard melodic rock with much of the influences coming from classical bands such as Deep Purple and early versions of Whitesnake. Here one would include tracks such as Battle Cry, Watchful Eye/Step Right Up, Roll Away The Old Stone and Road To Home, all of whom are pretty much direct, in your face rockers with plenty of organ/keyboard accompaniment alongside some great riffing and of course melody. In McGill, the band possess a vocalist who manages to combine the bluesy power of Coverdale together with the soulful mourning vocals of artists such as Don Dokken.
However, GZP also manage to incorporate a number of interesting progressive rock numbers alongside the more classical tracks. On these tracks one can see the influence of bands such as Emerson, Lake and Palmer and possibly Uriah Heap. The first track on the album that could be tagged as a prog-rock track is New Age Is Old Age which features a fusion of acoustic and electrical modes with an interesting keyboard solo that evokes a mystical feeling. The track also features an interesting interplay with a church bell, much as Pink Floyd manages to do on The Division Bell.
One of the main items on this album is the Nightmare Opus which spans over a total of three tracks. The slow and dramatic The Stage Is Set gives way to a more upbeat Don't Get Left Behind which has the band engaging, for the first time, in a series of shifts in time signature, though they never stray far from the classical rock sound. The opus comes to a close with Mark Of The Beast, a track that reminded me very much of Ronnie James Dio, especially in his days with Black Sabbath.
Possibly the two tracks that should be given a mention on this album are Razor's Edge and Frozen Winds. The former features some great interplay between guitars and keyboards whilst the latter shows a mellower side to the band with some atmospheric effects accompanying an intriguing rhythm.
The Ground Zero Project have managed to conjure up a magnificent debut album featuring much of what classical rock lovers as well as progressive rock would want on an album. Battle Cry proves that the two styles are confluent and they both feature prominently without stealing the limelight from each other. Furthermore, GZP prove without any shadow of doubt, whatever one's religious fervour, this does not interfere whether music is good or not. While looking forward to the next Ground Zero Project, I only hope that the next album would not have to be another five year wait!
Conclusion: 7 out of 10.
Gallowmere - ...Changes In My Mind
Gallowmere is a new Dutch band, founded in the beginning of 1999 by Gert-Jan Arlar (bass) and Conrad Hultermans (guitars). They were later joined by Stefan Maas (drums) and at the end of 1999 the line-up was completed by Dennis Verschoor (keys) and Mirjam Schurings (vocals).
The demo ...Changes In My Mind is their first recording and they describe their music as "Dream Theater meets Pantera with a hint of The Gathering". I can see where that comes from, however, I'd rather rephrase that as "Pantera-clone tries Dream Theater but fails...". Their music is standard heavy metal with the occasional time signature change and some keyboards, which could classify it as prog metal. I can't say I like the result very much. Although I need my occasional fix of prog metal (Dream Theater, Pain of Salvation, etc.) I'm afraid this album won't end up in my CD player very often.
There are some occasional good bits though, and overall the music isn't too bad. For instance Tomorrow has some interesting bits, with a John Petrucci-style guitar solo and a cool bass solo and also the intro to title-track Gallowmere is quite cool. However, all throughout the CD I can't stop thinking "I've heard it all before" - many sections seem to have been lifted directly from Dream Theater songs.
As often with prog (metal) bands, the vocals are the weakest part. While the individual musicians seem quite competent at what they do, it's Mirjam's long drawn vocals that become rather annoying at repeated listening.
I guess the band could appeal to some metal fans, certainly live. A big wall of noise and lots of headbanging. However, I'm not entirely sure whether DPRP is the right place for it though.
This demo can be bought through their very professional looking website, where you can also find more information about this band.
Conclusion: 5.5 out of 10.