Keyboard virtuosos and technically proficient guitarists quite often come together to produce progressive jazz fusion albums with differing degrees of success. I reviewed Alessandro Bertoni’s ‘Keystone’, the self titled album by Relocator and Nathan Frost’s ‘Synecron’ and all three connected with me. I loved the technical wizardry on show as well as the more intense and emotional moments.
I have always thought that it must be more difficult to write instrumental music that will connect with an audience to the same level as that which employs a vocalist. How do you get across the meaning that is intent in the song? Instrumental music of this calibre and proficiency can sometimes leave the average listener cold whilst appealing more to other musicians who understand and appreciate the level of complexity involved.
If an artist can get it right and write music that will appeal to different demographics then they could have just hit the motherlode.
Asymmetry is a progressive instrumental music duo from Cleveland, Ohio. They play technical and heavy instrumental progressive rock. The duo consists of Gabe Zentner (guitar) and Brian Cobb (bass, drums and keyboard programming). They got together via Craigslist in 2008 and hit it off straightaway, both musically and on a personal level.
The new album was co-written but, generally, they wrote their own tracks which were then interpreted by the other. The exception to this is the title track and it is this collaborative style of writing that they both want to employ in the future. Gabe’s writing was mainly metal whereas Brian employed classical, melodic prog.
Written in Blood begins this tech-fest of an album. A complex and driving riff spearhead the assault before a spiralling keyboard adds to the intensity. Despite the powerful riff there is a melodic edge to the track. The disparate keyboard adds a chaotic note to proceedings and it is never anything less than full out attack. It is a pretty monstrous introduction to the album. That slightly distorted feel continues with Riffed as an acute keyboard note pierces your psyche before a sharp riff kicks in. There is an almost oriental edge to the squirreling keyboard, something just out of reach. A hectic and complex bassline muscles its way in to the mix and you are left with a melting pot of technical wizardry that just holds off from being too convoluted. A keyboard solo from the dark side creeps through your mind to add something dark and mysterious and it is matched by a tapering guitar. Mysteries abound around this track, clever and distinct.
Brian’s bass gets to take centre stage on the short interlude track Bs Threes, seemingly a linking track but smooth and nicely played in its own way. Descent is a technical thrash fest with a riff that the devil would approve of, the drums sound like they are being pounded by the gods and the low humming keyboard in the background has a certain menace to it. I like my instrumental prog to be as heavy as this with discordant and shrieking guitars and a feeling that it could flay the skin from your body. It is never anything less than right bang in your face and it is all the better for it. Time for a breather? Don’t worry, the next track is low down and funky, laid back and chilled. A Walk in the Park is certainly that and much more. Jazzed up bass and drums and a strummed guitar deliver a much more peaceful experience than the previous track although the skill involved is still of a high level. I’ve got my Southern Comfort and I’m chilling in the late afternoon sun that is the vibe that this song brings with it.
What follows next is one huge mother of a track. The Fighter begins with a huge wall of sound typified by the crunching riff that cuts you in half. Fierce and impassioned, there is a burning desire to this track and intelligence to its composition that makes it one of the most accessible yet intricate and sophisticated numbers on this album. Byzantine and interlaced guitars combine with the frenetic drumming to give you a sonic experience you will not forget in a hurry. Speed, thrash, technically progressive metal. Wow, that’s a mouthful but that’s the only way to describe Count This. An incredible show of technically proficient guitar playing that, complete with the impressive rhythm section delivers another coup-de-grace to the aural receptors. It’s a hard edge, monstrous sound that never ceases to hit you hard where it hurts. When everything picks up another gear and screams off, it gets even better and adds to the self-satisfied grin you have by the end of the song. Another bass interlude that soothes the senses and cools your furrowed brow, Motorized Portals cleans the palate ready for what comes next.
Circadian Rhythm is a real smorgasbord of ideas. The low and sly bass and guitar that lead in the track set a clean canvas for the guitar to paint pictures on. The riff kicks in, hard rock like, along with the thumping drums and this musical juggernaut is let of the leash. Hard and heavy but intensely melodic, there is a brutal honesty to the track. It has a Satch vibe to it, which is never a bad thing and Cobb gets to really show his bass skills as he lays down some intricate bass licks. Zentner contributes a gnarled solo full of distortion to this crucible of musical dexterity and the track runs out to its conclusion. Untitled in its own way is a good song but, after the shining light of the previous track, just seems to lose a little something. All the elements are there, whip-cracking guitar, tasty bass lines and the powerful drums but it just seems to lack the polish of what has gone before. It is still a fine track with some burning guitar and an energetic rhythm but I can’t get myself to elevate any higher. Another light interlude follows, Gabe Takes a Break is a classy guitar served up as light refreshment ready for the final encore.
The final track Crescendo to Insanity is where both Brian and Gabe contributed their songwriting skills and is a true collaboration. Fervent and earnest, there is a hint of something about to come off the rails throughout this track. The guitar never slows down, it is always ardent and fervid feeding the raging maelstrom of music that surrounds it. As we get deeper into this frenzied bucket of paranoia it feeds on your fears and apprehensions. I actually found myself holding my breath the more I listened to it, wondering where it was going to take me next. Melding and mixing monstrous riffs with fiery licks to sear your senses this musical duo seem hell bent on stealing your soul. I can quite imagine that this will be a monster of a track live and not just for the listener either! All of a sudden proceedings come to such an abrupt halt that you feel you have hit a solid object head on. Images and sounds follow like you have been concussed and are slowly coming round, swirling round your mind. It isn’t long before the dread duo force you to your feet and keep you putting one metaphorical foot in front of the other. That chaotic rhythm is cruel but catchy right through to the close.
There is nothing new in Redacted, no boundaries are exceeded and no-one reinvents the wheel. However, what you do get is some seriously enjoyable music that blows you into next week. Not something that will affect you to the bottom of your being but something that can keep you smiling for a long time after the last note with its chaotic and thunderous musical delivery. These guys have a lot more in them and I’d be fascinated to hear what they come up with next.