December’s Triple Feature features two mini-reviews from Jason, and one from Justin. All three bands show lots of promise, and the genres are all over the place. Like always, these albums don’t inspire many words for us, but they are still worthy of your time.
Non Newtonian Man is a new progressive rock band that hails from Italy. The band includes Simone Cavallaro on bass, Luca Corradi on guitar, Antonio Curedda on vocals, Michele Curedda on keys, Andrea Ruzzenenti on guitar and vocals, and Davide Ruzzenenti on drums. The band plays a very modern-sounding progressive rock that honestly reminds me quite a bit of Israel’s Distorted Harmony.
“Clouds” is one of those albums that is really enjoyable and has lots of great moments, but the whole package together just doesn’t stick with me. I’m not sure whether it’s the lack of hooks or the fact that most of the songs sound the same, but this album feels good in the moment, and then I can’t remember anything about it later.
For a debut, it is rather ballsy to release a 70 minute album. Is it too long? Yes, definitely. I love an album of epic length as much as any prog fan, but this particular album has tons of filler, and I feel like the band could have self-edited themselves into everyone’s “best of” lists. As it stands, the album feels like it lasts forever, but also feels completely one note from beginning to end.
There are some strengths here, and also lots of potential. The vocalist has a buttery smooth voice and perfect ability to throw hooks and gravy vocal lines in at whim. However, he doesn’t use it all that much, or at least as much as I’d like. On top of that, the guitars and even just the overall sound come across as very modern, which is a good thing. There are many fine examples of groove and instrumental genius throughout the album, as well. Again, the problem is that they have the sound, the talent, and some big moments, but nothing much happens in between them, especially with the album being as long as it is.
The album does have some great songs. “Overwhelming” is my favorite song on the album: It has this groovy vocal performance and the best chorus on the album. “Biomechanical Man” is a 16+ minute song that does feel overly long, but it also contains some of the grooviest moments and the most furious instrumentals, too. “Queen” ends the album with a catchy chorus and is just a great song.
So, I ranted a little bit, and I’ll tell you why. I believe in Non Newtonian Man. I think they could be something huge in the prog community. I think they need to edit themselves quite a bit, though, and I feel like they need to focus on their strengths more. This band could be big: They really could.
Matthew Fearnley is a guitarist that hails from the UK, and his brand of progressive metal is something that grabs you from the very start. He recently released a new EP called “Normality Paralysis” on November 10th, and it is quite a delicious bite of what I hope is a grand album someday.
Matthew has lots of guest musicians that add to his skills, but his guitars are honestly front and center. You’ll hear lots of finger work on the guitars with very ominous and chugging licks and riffs. I would point to Caligula’s Horse as a comparison, though this is not as djenty or polyrhythmic, and there is more chug here. Additionally, you’ll hear plenty of electronic elements, lots of energy, and a background of rumbling bass and fast paced drumming.
The whole EP is rather good, but I do feel the mix obviously lends itself to the guitars, and the keys and drums sometimes get a little lost. The drums especially could use a boost.
My two favorite songs are “Clarity”, a heavy song with a very cool keyboard and violin interlude in the second half; and then “Normality Paralysis”, a track with a huge sound with lots of keys and strings to accompany the rumbling riffs and fast-paced licks.
Overall, this is a very technical instrumental EP and very enjoyable. Could I listen to a whole album like this? I could so long as Matthew can compose some serious guitar hooks that would bring this whole package together. He’s halfway there with the very enjoyable keyboard interludes and overall electronic accent the EP contains, but it needs just a little something more to be truly mind-blowing.
To me, “Swunk” seems more like a term that should belong in the category of modern Internet Age devolutions of the English language, but the etymology is actually much older. An archaic word for intensive labor and mixed energies, “swunk” ironically fell out of fashion despite denoting the crossing or merging of boundaries. For “Soundscapes,” a synergistic and explorative work of jazz fusion, this mantra is more than appropriate.
Hailing from Italy but currently based in London, the band’s four members are Saverio Giugliano (sax, keys), Antonio Cece (guitars, programming), Daniele De Santo (bass), and – since their 2014 studio debut – Marco Fazzari providing drums, drum machine, and percussion. “Soundscapes” is their sophomore release, following “Swunk Infusion,” which incidentally was also the name beneath which the band previously toured before they decided to shorten the moniker. The band describe their new release as a “salad bowl album,” the contents – ingredients – of which are clearly identifiable by individual genres and styles: funk, jazz, rock, and electronica to name a few.
Featuring rich saxophone and guitar leads, trio-style accompaniment, electronic inserts, and sound sampling, “Soundscapes” references as much Return to Forever and Mahavishnu Orchestra as it does more modern jazz fusion – such as Trioscapes and Nova Collective. Swunk work with theme & variation, employing thoughtful call-and-response between instruments appropriate to their genres of choice. From the soulful motion and chording of “Standing on the Shoulders of a Giant” to the funk and electronic/synth vibes of “Savmarine” to the dreamscape of “Ore 22:00,” the band’s music covers a wide array of sounds and musical experiences. The bass, guitar, and synth interactions on “Buddha” are possibly my favorite groove on the record, although I also greatly enjoy the layers of programmed sounds and guitar work on both “Solaium” and “118,” as well as the parallel guitar, bass, and sax lines on “Travel,” a song with a fantastic smooth jazz feel.
Soulful and engaging, “Soundscapes” contains pieces memorable enough to whistle along with the themes after just a couple listens, but with enough depth to continue discovering unique musical ideas. This collection of tunes is a great release for anyone who enjoys thoughtful instrumental music – that is, compositions that truly allow each instrument to have a strong voice without excessive soloing. In that regard, there isn’t really a standout star among these musicians, not because they’re untalented, but because the band intentionally listen to one another in order to create the headspace that is their music. Certainly, Giugliano’s sax is the most prominent voice as the lead, but Cece’s guitar work is noteworthy for its tasteful excellence and technical efficiency, as is De Santo’s strong low-end support and Fazzari’s nuanced timekeeping. Aptly titled and flawlessly performed, “Soundscapes” is an album to keep dropping onto the turntable.
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