Melodic Revolution 2023
Exploding into space, Virginian pursuers of art-rock farthest reaches find themselves bound to Earth.
It’s an elegantly strange album for an ensemble whose journey was always aimed at locating terra incognita and whose previous platter, "The Face Of Life" from 2019 – the final chapter of a trilogy which began when their debut had been launched into orbit one decade earlier – opened the gates for new possibilities that any progressive rock group would eagerly embrace. This is what Mike Visaggio’s starship troopers attempt to do here, on their fourth studio record – dedicated to, in the leader’s own words, “human’s desire to explore space”: a beaten path in creative terms – yet not without certain difficulties stemming from the players’ proclivity for evoking sonically familiar staples of their chosen genre. However, the fruits of the American quintet’s efforts and aspirations are admirable enough to warrant the listener’s focus.
Perhaps, sensing the limits of what the album is about, the band anticipate the influx of epic pieces by starting their trip through time with a relatively short, spanning just over six minutes, “First Stage” where the ensemble’s intrinsic cinematicity and love for expansive passages come cleverly contrasted with sharp guitar riffs and heavy beat that dramatically tear the synthesizers’ fabric until bass and ivories introduce serene reflectiveness to the flow and push Saint John Coleman’s voice to the fore. So while the lyrics feel rather banal, the histrionic delivery of vocal lines more than make up for the down-to-earth approach which will be shattered to bits once Visaggio’s barrelhouse piano reveals the real place for the record’s events to unfold – in a pub nearby, quite far from events horizon – and then allow the titular composition display the entire breadth of these musicians’ flight of fantasy. In it, Mark Tupko’s four strings and Peter Matuchniak’s six keep the tense waves of organ in check, so the tempo changes don’t disrupt the tuneful rapture of the collective’s alternately solemn and rock ‘n’ rolling reverie and, instead, marry orchestral grandeur to frivolous jive.
No surprise, then, in such a cosmic perspective switching in “Radio Silence” to a retrofuturistic, lamp-warm, domestic elegy, measured by Michael Murray’s fusion-flavored drumming and Tupco’s rumble, but the pellucid pop allure of “We Can’t Forget” does hide a few wonders in its otherworldly vibrancy – simultaneously jovial and anxious, for there are often danger and tragedy in people’s constant probing of the unknown, the incessant scoping of Mars, as refracted via Visaggio’s fervent solo, included. That’s why there’s bliss in the virtuosic instrumental onslaught which “Door To Forever” resolves in romantic, pensive gliding among the clouds and looking beyond the atmospheric pale into the infinite field of bluesy dreams. And that’s why this elegantly strange platter is concentrated on harnessing the light – no matter lesser or grander – the source of human life.