Frameshift – Absence of Empathy
Fri, 22 Jun 2012 16:49:19 +0000
As a child born in the 70s, and a person that finally got into rock music in the mid 80s, I was able to truly appreciate the flash fire that was affectionately known as “glam” or “hair” metal – bands that were (for right or wrong) often accused of having my style than substance. One such band, Skid Row, was fronted by the guy that had the best locks, and the best stage name – Canadian, Sebastian Bach. Hailing from my neck of the woods, this was a band that got a lot of radio (and video) play in Southern Canada, and ended up being one of my favorite bands in the late 80s/early 90s. After their third album, the band lost their way, and Bach started performing in theatre and Broadway. This proved to be a wise move, as he was able to take care of his voice unlike many from that era.
Fast forward a decade to 2005 and Henning Pauly’s second Frameshift production, An Absence of Empathy. Pauly’s first Frameshift album had Dream Theater’s James LaBrie at the vocal helm, and was thefirst choice to provide the vocal duties again. However, LaBrie was unavailable in 2005 (committed to Octavarium), and suggested Sebastian Bach as a replacement. It turned out to be a beautiful match for the theme of this album, which explores numerous and disturbing forms of violence – murder, rape, war, and torture, with two tracks exploring each issue… one song taking the side of the victim and one the aggressor; or two songs from two different perspectives on the same topic.
What starts slow, and quickly sets the stage for a varied and frantic prog-metal album, the opening track, Human Grain, is based on a heavy and rich riff that is accompanied by dramatic guitar/keyboard arpeggio unisons, and what I can only describe as ‘scratchy’ keyboards. It sets the stage for the raw and visceral forms of violence and disturbing emotions that this album explores. Henning provided all the musical work outside of the drumming, and showcases his immense talent across multiple instruments, especially with some of the guitar solos. However, the real show throughout the album is Bach’s vocals. As mentioned, because he took such good care of his voice, he’s able to deliver powerful and gritty melodies, passionate and emotive ballads, along with screams and wail’s better than anything I ever heard during his “prime” years with Skid Row. His vocal delivery allows the listener to mentally “step” into the minds of the character’s he is portraying – a mother mourning for her raped daughter; a man’s fit of rage resulting and the murder of his wife; a serial killer; a rebellious student on a viscous rampage.
This is by far the heavier of the two Frameshift albums, understandably due to the themes. There isn’t one track here that I automatically reach for the ‘skip’ button, the whole album is just that good. It has a flow that leaves you wondering what happened to the last 75 minutes, as it goes by without even noticing its length. Human Grain, Just One More and Miseducation provide a fantastic opening 1-2-3 punch of heavi-ness right out of the gate; In An Empty Room and What Kind of Animal are the emotional and touching ballads, with both Bach and Pauly pouring their heart into the music; in a paradox, I Killed You and How Long Can I Resist are a couple of upbeat and fun tracks; Blade is the epic of the album, providing a haunting drum beat and choir to support the passionate screams of Bach as the character defends his land from oppressors.
I highly suggest reading the overview and history of this album at the label’s website – http://www.therecordlabel.net/progressive-rock/frameshift/an-absence-of-empathy/. I always find music much more enjoyable when knowing a little about it before or while listening. For any fans of prog, metal and/or glam, I dare you to take a chance on this album, and will bet you won’t be disappointed.
Sadly, the third and fourth Frameshift installments have been stalled for years … especially disappointing, as Magali Lutyen (Beautiful Sin, Epysode) and Dan Swano (Star One, Nightingale) were tagged for the vocal duties for Frameshift #4, The God Delusion. Hopefully, Henning Pauly will be able to get the ideas out of his imagination and into the recording studio in the near future.
Now enjoy the tracks I picked for you!
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