Issue 2021-045: The Arrivals Lounge
Throughout its 25-year history, DPRP has built an enviable reputation for uncovering new, up-and-coming progressive artists from across the world.
The Arrivals Lounge is where we recommend some of the best debut albums from new artists that you need to hear.
Tony Cassista — Created On Various Infectious Diseases
Tony Cassista's debut solo album showcases a broad range of styles and influences from across the history of progressive and popular rock. The Quebec City native is both a drummer and a gifted vocalist. He was the lead singer of Adamind, a progressive metal band active in Quebec from 2004-09. Following that, he played drums for Manahil, another Canadian band, before branching out and playing for hundreds of other projects and cover bands in the Quebec area over the past decade.
Since that line of work came to a crashing halt in early 2020, Cassista decided to write a solo album: Created on Various Infectious Diseases. The aptly-titled album, featuring artwork by Hugh Syme, has lyrics influenced by the frustrations caused by the past year, but the lyrics also touch on some of what really matters in life. Cassista sings lead and backing vocals, drums, and guitar and bass on one song. Thirteen other musicians, including his former bandmates, join him on the album, giving the record a full sound and a band feel.
Cassista cites Dream Theater, Steven Wilson, Guns N' Roses, Pink Floyd, Ayreon, Paul McCartney and Chicago as influences. His voice reminds me most of Axl Rose. It has a very vintage, classic rock grit to it, but the music behind the voice is so much better than the majority of classic rock bands that played with this kind of singer. I found this album very unique, since not many progressive rock bands have this kind of singing. I also hear Kansas as a musical influence, particularly in the guitars on Stuck Inside Again.
Musically each song is a little bit different, displaying the various influences but making them sound wholly unique. The opening track, Behind Impulsiveness sets the stage with a heavy progressive sound. Cassista's vocals reach impressive heights in the chorus. It reminds me of classic heavy rock. The Storm is a heavier song, fitting with the title and the lyrics. The bass reminds me of Tool in the verses, but the chorus rips into a classic hard rock song. The guitar solo, highlights that Dream Theater influence.
Song For My Friends, on the other hand, is a traditional rock ballad. But don't worry, it isn't sappy, which ruins many a potentially good ballad. Rather the song is a touching ode to friendship in times of isolation and loneliness. Based on the lyrics, it sounds like Cassista wrote this for the musicians he has played and toured with over the years. He clearly misses them, and this track is a nice way to remember those times and look forward to similar times again (someday). The Way You Are is another ballad, but this time a sedate one with piano and orchestral motifs providing the musical backdrop, rather than rock. The short love song provides a nice, calm close-out for the album.
The Cyber God shows yet another side for the band with elements of world music and electronica, with progressive rock tying it together. Vocally Cassista almost chants the lyrics, which deal with our addictions to technology today: "Technology is there to shut your brain."
I think what I enjoyed most about this album was how it's a progressive rock album presented in the format of a classic rock album. The songs are each unique, rather than being musically tied to each other, as is often the case in prog today. There is some thematic overlap, but each song stands alone. Cassista's voice ties the album to a tradition of classic hard rock, outside the progressive rock world, but the music makes the album so much more enjoyable than bands like Guns N' Roses or Aerosmith, for me at least. If you hear one song by Aerosmith, you've heard them all. That isn't the case with Tony Cassista's music.
Fans of classic rock who prefer a more progressive edge will enjoy Tony Cassista's Created on Various Infectious Diseases. It has a solid rock heaviness mixed with progressive flourishes, along with the gentler ballads that classic rock is known for.