When preparing for the review of D Project’s latest release, Big Face, the one thing that came up in my research was the reference to the Pink Floyd/King Crimson influence in their music. Seemed kind of silly to me to point that out to be honest, saying a neo-prog band has a Floyd/Crimson influence is akin to saying a prog metal band has a Dream Theater influence. When a band is a pioneer of a genre or sub genre, when they inhale those first experimental breaths of a new sound, those that follow will breath what they exhale. And to be blunt, any neo prog band that doesn’t show some Floyd/Crimson influence probably isn’t that good anyways. Upon listening to the work, though that sound was evident, there was so much more to this slice of prog wonder out of the mind of Canadian vocalist and guitarist Stephane Desbiens. The main help he has on this one is provided by Mathieu Gosselin on bass and Jean Gosselin on drums. A bevy of guest musicians assisted in the album, including bass legend Tony Levin.
The album opens with They, and the first of that wonderful prog sound comes in clearly with ethereal keys and a wispy guitar strum. Sound upon sound is layered on the intro, culminating in the opening proper. A quick few hard chords, and the first diversion from that prog sound is taken, one of many, as an almost funk guitar riff takes over the song. Throughout the album, this is one thing that stood out to me, the ability to not be constricted to one sound, but to layer and change and grow, and it makes for passion and power to them, not overpowering, but present. As the song progresses towards the end, the first discordant sounds enter, something they do often on the album. It’s almost as if they introduce a sound that shouldn’t be there, then play through it till it sounds right. This is a musical tool I always love, that sense of making a musical wrong into a right, by working through it, and D Project does it well.
The next three songs, Anger Pt I&II, Big Face, and Anger Pt III, serve as the centerpiece to the album. The general theme of this album is that of the overall wanton destruction we lay upon our society and world. The mood shifts from anger to sorrow to apologetic, and the music serves wonderfully to carry this mood. The highlight for me though, in these center pieces, was the guitar work of Desbiens himself. To be blunt, this dude can play. When children dream of becoming a guitarist, it is solos like the one at the end of Anger Pt. I&II that they dream of playing. If it was a poker game, all his chips would be in the pot, and win or lose, he would walk away with pride, that is how Desbiens plays his instrument. The overall structure of these three songs is brilliant, and really makes the album for me. Heading into the last two songs the theme takes over, with the ultra-apologetic Don’t Tell the Kids. Now don’t think of me as harsh or insensitive, the message and theme of the album overall is an important one, but is also one that has been hashed out in almost every media for the last thirty years, and spending a good deal of my time in the bleeding heart land of Berkeley, California, I have this crammed down my throat on a daily basis. The last thing I need from my music is a guilt trip. Fortunately the music was solid enough that I was able to put feelings of guilt aside and enjoy the wonderful sounds, one of the best parts being the end of the song Macondo. Straight up Floyd stuff here, but it works so well. The powerful female chorus with the searing female vocals, it just sounds so good.
There are many proggy delights to be had on Big Face, enough to satisfy any fan of the genre. From a technical standpoint, it is well structured and well played. Instrumentally, it is solid, and has a few blistering heights that shine brightly. Overall, D Project does justice to the giants that came before them, and though they do channel them at many points on the album, the overall sound is theirs alone.