Jealous, that’s how you’d describe my feelings towards Nathan Frost, not only is he a successful video game designer, he is also a virtuoso musician and, when he decides to record an album, after fine tuning his music for a few years, he doesn’t just get a few of his mates to perform on it and produce it, he gets a scion of the modern progressive music scene (and one of his heroes) as well as some of the star musicians in progressive metal today. I wish I was that talented, instead I just write about it, jealous? You bet! Add in the fact that it’s another instrumental prog album for me to review and we could be on a winner here. Oh, and another thing, it happens to be instrumental jazz/prog fusion and, as many of you know, I like that….. a lot.
Joking apart, Nathan Frost started playing piano at the age of 3 and, also, started an unhealthy interest in video games from this young age. Picking up a high school girlfriend’s bass, he cofounded Strychnine in Vancouver, British Columbia, where he played bass, keyboards, and sang whenever he wasn’t programming videogames, studying music theory, and slouching through classes. For over thirteen years, Nathan Frost honed the distinctively ultra-progressive, genre-fusing, stream-of-consciousness metal that became “Synecron” in between developing high-profile videogames. When he was finally afforded the time to record, he contacted the keyboard maestro and noted producer Derek Sherinian (who, also, just happened to be one of Nathan’s musical heroes). After putting the music through the Derek filter, Sherinian introduced Nathan to another of his musical heroes, drummer Virgil Donati and, to some of the best performers in progressive metal today, drummer Marco Minnemann and guitarists Marco Sfogli and Taka Minamino. Painstakingly mixed and mastered by veteran sound engineer Steven Seibold, the compositions take the listener through an intricate musical journey overflowing with dramatic twists, virtuosic performances and uncompromising creativity.
First things first, I am seriously encouraged by the fact that every one of the six tracks comes in at over six minutes, you can’t get enough of a good thing, right? Synecron is bookended by two tracks that are, essentially, similar versions of the same song, each one there to extol the virtues of the 2 drummers involved in the project. Up first on Empire Rising 2000 AD is Marco Minneman and he adds his inimitable epic style to a stupendous opener, all power and precision with majestic keyboards from Frost and Sherinian and stunning guitar licks from both Sfogli and Minamino. A veritable fusion fest, the superlative drumming makes sure it is fast paced and suitably impressive. Singularity is another bombastic track, intensely dynamic and crammed full of technical wizardry. The coruscating, melodic keyboards, searing guitar and epic drums all add to the thoroughly impressive construction as the track ebbs and flows, searingly fast one minute and nicely slow and subdued the next. The impressively overblown and over the top Empire Falling is a prog rock masterpiece, the requisite monumental Hammond organ and atmospheric violin giving the music a truly imposing feel. Some more of those rousing drums and scintillating guitar not going amiss either. If you’re a progressive rock fan there is no way you will not be blown away by this humongous piece of prog-rock grandeur.
Everything is stripped back bare for the sheer simplicity and beauty of Samsaara. Nathan Frost showing a fantastically deft touch on the lush piano, all delicate and refined. You feel transported to a world of peace and harmony which, unfortunately, happens far less often in our hectic lives. My only, extremely minuscule, gripe is that, at over 9 minutes, it may be a tad too long. After the peace and quiet comes the dark and dangerous. Consilience is a hard-nosed bruiser of a song with a funky jazz/prog groove, crunching guitar riffs and licks trade off with some deft and dexterous synth refrains. The cool, pumping vibe carries everything smoothly along as guitar and keyboard carry on their melodious duel, of course, jaw dropping drums are a given. In juxtapose to the previous track, Consilience feels criminally short, it is that good. Everything comes round full circle as Virgil Donati gives his all on Empire Rising 505AD, much of the same as the first track, Empire Rising 2000AD but, with the legendary drummer providing his interpretation in his inimitable, eye popping, ears bleeding style. Whilst they may seem the same on the surface, each track has its own subtle differences but both take you on a breakneck ride of thunderous heavy prog fusion.
Well, after the ringing in my ears has stopped and I have had time to take a breath, I have come to the conclusion that Nathan Frost is one seriously talented guy. Yes, he is surrounded by a stellar cast on this recording but, you never feel he is out of his depth and he definitely has the musical talent to live with the big boys. This guy has a long and successful future ahead of him and Synecron, as a debut release, is a notably impressive slab of jazz/prog fusion that certainly stays long in the memory.