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(67:04 / 'Red Shoe')
TRACK LIST: 1. Darker Side of You 16:46 2. Eyes of Deception 14:36 3. Superstar 4:04 4. The Quest 7:36 5. Rain 9:02 6. Zero 14:53 LINEUP: Lance Benedict - guitars, bass; drums Ray Zarate - vocals; keyboards
Prolusion. The third release by American two-men outfit PLANET 13, "Third From the Right", is my first encounter with their work, meaning:-) I haven't heard their eponymous debut CD (2004) or its follow-up "One Way Ticket" (2005) either. The CD press kit isn't too informative, just bringing out the duo's personal vision of this their new recording and offering some reference points, namely Black Sabbath, Rush, Queensryche, Iron Maiden and Dream Theater.
Analysis. Within his personal biography on the outfit's website, Ray Zarate pays a compliment to Lance Benedict, saying his partner plays drums like Neil Peart. Well, Lance's command of all his instruments, drums included, can be regarded as rather solid, but only as long as it's applied to the duo's music which, in turn, is proto-progressive in its best manifestations. In other words, I find that comparison to be far-fetched, as well as those concerning the references. While the similarity between Planet 13 and most of the aforesaid bands (the only exception being Dream Theater) does indeed exist and is actually too obvious to miss, this matter doesn't automatically mean the heroes of this occasion are on a par with those whose ideas they've added to their arsenal. Quite the contrary, they are inferior to each of their mentors in absentia - in composition, arrangement and execution all alike, revealing often a more straightforward, at times clearly AOR-like approach. The six tracks that make up this 67-minute album are all relatively vocal-heavy, none even of the three lengthy ones suiting my concept of a genuine epic. The first and, at the same time, the longest track, Darker Side Of You (16:46), is literally fabricated of several different tunes whose kinship with each other can perhaps be accounted due to their common lyrical plot, though otherwise it can't be traced on any level. When I listen to that pseudo suite, a rather long series of familiar images passes by before my mental view, alternating with each other in the following order: Queensryche's "Promised Land", "Nightfall" by Candlemass, "Blizzard of Ozz" by Ozzy Osbourne, Black Sabbath's "Born Again" and Rush's "Test For Echo", each of the sections sounding as a somewhat simplified version of the statistically-average song from the correspondingly listed albums - save the next-to-last one which is a dark synthesizer canvas in the manner of Stonehenge. The other two prolonged numbers, Zero and Eyes Of Deception, are both much more cohesive in their construction and development alike, though on the other hand these are noticeably poorer thematically - especially the latter, drawing for the most part a rather monochromatic (this time around only prog-tinged) Doom/Cathedral Metal somewhere halfway between Black Sabbath's "Headless Cross" and "Chapter VI" by Candlemass. The Quest leaves a somewhat better impression, which is in many ways explained by the fact that it's half the length of the previously described opus. The sole tune on the disc with some really massive up-tempo arrangements, it finds the duo trying to slide between NWBHM a-la Iron Maiden (or, rather, early Judas Priest) and the same lightweight Doom Metal modeled after the Tony Martin-era Black Sabbath, occasionally building structures that instantly evoke late Rush. The 9-minute Rain gladdens me with its remarkable acoustic guitar solo and would have generally been a fine ballad had it been a good deal shorter. But as it is, each of the tracks on this recording is superficially overextended, the relatively short Superstar (4:04) included. The point is that this is a really primitive three-chord potboiler, though I suspect its makers' intension was to create something that would be as both accessible and irresistible as Black Sabbath's Changes. An additional note that the recording is lacking in bright guitar solos (keyboards being used as a background almost everywhere on the disc), let alone expressive instrumental maneuvers, should 'complement' the picture.
Conclusion. From a proto-progressive standpoint, "Third From the Right" is not a bad album, but even so, the music of Planet 13 is devoid of that essential zest which makes compelling (okay, listenable) even the most straightforward creations of each of their numerous influences.
VM: April 5, 2007
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