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Cerebus Effect - 2005 - "Acts of Deception"

(53 min, 'CE Music')

TRACK LIST:                             
1.  Y 7:19
2.  Identity Crisis 5:09
3.  Dark at the End of the Tunnel 1:25
4.  Illusions 3:34
5.  Of Mortal Constraints 3:02
6.  Operation Midnight Climax 11:22
7.  Nine Against Ten 6:38
8.  Neutrino Flux 2:50
9.  Fine Lines Between Science & Art 2:58
10. Unconsoled 3:04
11. W 6:10


Joseph Walker - electric guitar
Patrick Gaffney - drums; electronics
Dan Britton - keyboards; acoustic guitar; vocals
Mike Galway - bass

Prolusion. CEREBUS EFFECT was formed some five years ago in the American city of Baltimore. According to the CD press kit, "Acts of Deception" is their first full-length studio album. In the photograph, all four of the musicians look like they're somewhere in their mid twenties, though bassist Mike Galway has been around for no less than ten years, having had time to leave traces in such successful acts as Uncle Gut and Dysfunctional Family, apart from some others.

Analysis. Lots of good signs have appeared over the progressive horizon closer to the end of the year. Outstanding albums are falling as if from a cornucopia, so I am forced to reshuffle my Top-20-2005 literally every update, mentally thanking God for keeping our beloved genre alive and evolving. I feel especially happy when I hear an album where the music is both profound and unique. The musicians' technical filigree wouldn't be at the first place, but in the case of Cerebus Effect all three of the elements exist, being inseparably linked among themselves. Besides all of that, the band's horizon is incredibly wide, and perhaps any direction of progressive music is within their grasp. Like cards in the deck, the four basic Prog Rock genres: Art-Rock, Prog-Metal, Jazz-Fusion and RIO are intermixed in their music, not only coexisting well with each other, but also giving way to their various manifestations: from Zeuhl to Techno Thrash and even Metal-In-Opposition, the (excellent) vocals ranging from clear forms to those with distinct Doom/Death intonations. That said, only two compositions come with a true lyrical content: Operation Midnight Climax and Identity Crisis, the former featuring a few semi-growled phrases in Russian, among which I deciphered "grandmother", "grandfather" and "our Russia". As well as Illusions, Nine Against Ten and W, both combine probably all of the mentioned stylings. These five will be ones of the year's finest audio puzzles for the brave and adventurous listener. You will be happy throughout the long process of unraveling them. The music is amazingly involved, constantly evolving, endlessly changing in different directions, with lots of subtle nuances and undercurrents, always leaving you guessing to where the band will move next moment. Identity Crisis and Illusions are the most intense, dark and heavy, the interwoven passages of organ, piano and acoustic guitar bringing even more excitement to the primordially disturbing sound. The other three alternate harsh, dense and more transparent textures, but are never accessible, either. As said, Cerebus Effect can't be subjected to comparison regarding composition and sound, either. Parallels are possible only in the overall sense, on the latent quasi-structural level. Very roughly speaking, it would be like Van Der Graaf Generator, Shylock, National Health, Present, Mekong Delta and Iced Earth in one package. The album's opener, Y, is another gem in the series, being on par with the Five by most parameters. Like each of them, it is also made up of ever-changing arrangements, full of quirkiness, but the music is easier comprehensible, just because it's stylistically uniform: a quasi Jazz-Fusion with distinct symphonic tendencies. The 3-minute pieces: Of Mortal Constraints and Unconsoled, both are built around the beautiful parts of acoustic guitar and piano. The first is a fluid symphonic Space Fusion, and another is closer to Art-Rock. The shortest tracks: Dark at the End of the Tunnel, Neutrino Flux and Fine Lines Between Science & Art each is clearly Psychedelic Rock, even though there is nothing but assorted percussion and some electronics on the latter. By far not as compelling as most of the other compositions, these aren't your typical makeweights, to say the least.

Conclusion. Overall, Cerebus Effect's "Acts of Deception" is essential listen from start to finish. As to those having certain suspicion to the impromptu psychedelic experiments, in any case, there are no less than 45 minutes of brilliant progressive music on this album. No one adventurous will go wrong with it! Top-20-2005

VM: December 9, 2005

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