The Far Cry 2021
Veterans of progressive campaigns get back on track to seize the day.
A new presence on the art-rock scene, this American quartet are a force to reckon with – in the future, not at the moment, which can be a good sign, given that drummer Robert Hutchinson and singing bassist Jeff Brewer first performed together back in 1976, and their glories could lie in the past. They also served in Connecticut prog group HOLDING PATTERN, although not simultaneously, yet if the band’s frontman Tony Spada moved on to greener pastures, his former colleagues went their separate ways into oblivion only to meet again in 2013, rediscover their common ground and enter the studio seven years later with an album which finds the ground in question quite shaky. It’s not going to collapse, no – no matter what the title of “The Missing Floor” may seem to suggest over a quasi-orchestral barrage – but the record. impressive as it is, is all over the place in stylistic terms… and in a single place, ambition-wise.
There are epics scattered across this platter and conceptual links holding the pieces together, yet while cinematic tapestries such as “The Mask Of Deception” gravitate towards power metal, where Bryan Collin’s guitar riffs and Chris Dabbo’s keyboard passages often rage and meander for the sake of thunder and contrast vaudevillian voice before harmonies-infused histrionics take flight, the Latin-tinged, punchy pulse of “Programophone” flips Frippertronics on its techno head, with spoken social commentary applied to triumphant funk and four-string acrobatics to disorient and delight the listener in equal measure. So when folk motifs lead “Simple Pleasures” to the fore for a transparent parading of optimism, the foursome’s sweet instrumental swirl and intricate interplay – including a soaring piano solo and a vortex of cosmic synthesizers, a delicate acoustic strum and an electric jive – plus vocal polyphony, reveal the collective’s full potential, despite an awkward fadeout.
However, the vibes-sprinkled, scintillating “Winterlude” won’t fail to bare the band’s romantic underbelly, passing the miraculous instant to the solemn ivories of “Winterlude Waning” further down the line. It’s there that the album’s titular number segues from a delicate six-string lace to an organ-bolstered bombastic assault and offers a brilliant top melody and an atmospheric, fairy-tale release to the preceding “Tarkus”-like intensity, letting “Dream Dancer” vanish into reverie. If only the ensemble could maintain this momentum for the record’s entire duration, their debut would deliver a smash; presently, they deliver a mighty promise.