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Syzygy - 2012 - "A Glorius Disturbance"

(280:59 CD+2DVD, Syzygy)


******

Prolusion. The US band SYZYGY was formed in 2003, but with a past history going back to the 1990's and a band then called Witsend. They released their first album as Syzygy in 2003, and six years later their so far most recent studio album "Realms of Eternity" appeared. Towards the end of 2012 their so far most recent release appeared, a massive box set consisting of two DVDs and one CD, featuring concert footage and extensive interviews with the band. And as with their previous creations, self-released through the band's own label.

Concert CD (72:27)
******!

TRACK LIST: 

1.  Vanitas 6:13
2.  Mount Ethereal 7:57
3.  Circadian Rhythm 3:46
4.  Strange Loop II 6:39
5.  Dreams 10:33
6.  Darkfield 11:34
7.  The Coronation 9:43
8.  Beggar's Tale 3:03
9.  MOTH 12:59

LINEUP:

Carl Baldassarre  guitars; vocals
Sam Giunta  keyboards 
Paul Mihacevich  drums 
Al Rolik  bass; vocals
Mark Boals  vocals 
Analysis. Syzygy is a band that invites to a broad range of associations with their chosen style. For starters, unless I'm very much mistaken, they have left small calling cards and homages to a number of different artists in most of their compositions. Small snippets of sound here and there, agonizingly familiar sounding but gone before you can twist your mind around to catch the association. The second aspect is the sheer diversity at hand. From harder edged, pumping rock to dramatic symphonic cascades, from the simplistic and relatively straightforward to complex, sophisticated and fairly challenging material. These guys cover a lot of bases, and frequently within the framework of a single tune too. Bass and guitars reminding strongly of Rush appear on tracks such as Varitas, Mount Ethereal and MOTH, as do dramatic symphonic excursions that should please fans of bands such as ELP. Gentler symphonic escapades with Genesis and Pink Floyd associations are fairly frequent throughout, and occasional jazz-oriented, whimsical escapades that wouldn't have been out of place in a Gentle Giant piece or by one of the Canterbury bands are given occasional visits. Powerful Deep Purple-style guitar and organ constructions and somewhat more refined material with powerful lead vocals in the driver seat in a manner closer to Rainbow also pops up on an occasion or two here. Just about the only songs at hand that don't invite to multiple associations are Circadian Rhythm and The Coronation, as these are gentler acoustic oriented creations with more of a pastoral touch to them. Syzygy makes all of these combinations, and most likely a few handfuls more I didn't manage to catch on this occasion, work like a charm. Perhaps because this isn't a case of a band directly copying or emulating other bands, but rather using familiar sounds that appear natural to them due to the music they have listened to and performed themselves over the years. Some of the band members have multiple decades as performing artists, and that is something you can tell when listening to these live recordings. And as I'm a sucker for good drummers, the fireworks performance of Paul Mihacevich is one detail of the overall performance I treasure in particular. High quality recordings of a band with a fairly expansive stylistic canvas, with enough complexities to suit fervent progheads but also unafraid to rock out in a more energetic and simple manner when they feel for it, with room for the occasional pastoral detour. As long as you appreciate diversity and enjoy listening to a good band performing live, this live CD should fulfill most expectations.

Concert DVD (112:59)
*****+

TRACK LIST: 

2009 3RP Festival:
1.  Vanitas
2.  Mount Ethereal
3.  Strange Loop II
4.  Dreams
5.  MOTH

2010 Day of Prog Festival:
1.  Darkfield
2.  Circadian Rhythm
3.  The Coronation
4.  Beggar's Tale
5.  The Sea
6.  In the Dead of Night
7.  Burn

LINEUP:

Same
Analysis. "A Glorious Disturbance" is one of the most ambitious undertakings I've seen from an independent band for some time. Releasing a massive box set of this kind takes some investment in time as well as money, and I'll have to admit that this in itself does impress me. Then again, this is a band that has taken note of how the music business works today, where obscurity is the most imminent danger facing artists. As such they have opted for a high profile presence, heavily marketing their albums and generally seeing to it that people take notice of them. Marketing by visibility, one of the trusted promotion mechanisms from the old days of the music business. It'll be interesting to hear how this has worked out for the band at some point. As for this live DVD, it has a lot going for it. It is a production made on a budget, which is noticeable, and the end product isn't of the standard of label productions. For a prog audience that has a wide selection of live DVDs to choose from, this is an aspect of this production that needs to be understood. Compared against benchmark releases such as the live DVD series courtesy of Metal Mind Productions this one isn't quite up to scratch. The audio quality is impeccable however. We expect that from live recordings these days, and Syzygy is as good as most others in that department. Nice and clear sound throughout, a balanced mix and a generally high quality audio capture. As far as the performance goes it's a good one too. Not quite perfect at all times, but this is a live performance after all. For those who truly need purebred perfection, these guys have a few studio albums out that should cater for such needs. The video footage is a bit of a hit and miss affair. The editing indicates that we're not shown the concerts in full, but rather edited selections from two concerts, at the now disbanded 3RP festival in 2009 and at The Day of Prog in 2010. The majority of the material is pulled from the latter performance. The image quality from 3RP is the better one, fairly sharp images with balanced color, while the footage from The Day of Prog suffers ever so slightly from washed out colors and to my eye appears slightly lower in quality. Recording conditions might well be responsible for this however. There haven't been too many cameras in action at either location, so there's a limited variety of shots and angles to choose from. The editing of those does leave a bit to be desired I guess; besides the footage appearing as single tracks edited out of a context there's also a fair few effects utilized that aren't what one would call up to date. They do provide variation however, which is the key point presumably, but those accustomed to and expecting the bells and whistles of label DVDs might find this detail a tad annoying. Personally I didn't really care, apart from noticing it. It all depends on what you expect and how important it is to have your expectations met I guess. The most important aspect of a live DVD is still, at least as far as I'm concerned, how entertaining the total experience is. And while this is a DVD that might be found somewhat wanting in the bells and whistles department, seeing this band performing on stage is a blast. This is a band that seems to truly enjoy themselves. They look genuinely happy. Lots of smiles, positive body language and a fair degree of stage antics too. The guitarist jumps a bit here and there, some more or less synchronized riff pumping by bassist Al Rolik and guitarist Carl Baldassarre, and signs of a good and strong friendship among the band members, knowing looks and body gestures, small comments from one guy to the other. There are lots and lots of such details to notice, and it seems crystal clear to me that this is a band that also knows that they are in the entertainment business, and when giving a concert entertaining the audience isn't limited to performing their music alone. This aspect alone warrants watching this DVD, as it is a fair bit more entertaining in this particular department than many other live DVDs tend to be.

Special Features DVD (95:33)
Not rated

TRACK LIST: 
 
1.  Carl Baldassarre interview
2.  The Writing of Realms
3.  Mark Boals interview
4.  Band Roundtable
Analysis. To set aside a whole DVD for special features on a box-set is a new one for me. I haven't reviewed that many DVDs, so how uncommon this actually is for the band I can't tell, but it sure is an investment doing it in this manner. One that does come with a cost I imagine. I'll also advice anyone buying this box-set to watch the live DVD before heading into this second DVD, as the experience will be a much more intriguing one having seen and heard the band on stage prior to checking out this extended assembly of special features. At first we're given a lengthy interview with guitarist Carl Baldassarre, where he covers the complete band history and the personal relations between the various members of the band in some detail. Lots of neat little details are brought to the surface, and existing fans will probably be given a few surprising revelations too, at least if they haven't made an effort to track the history of the band earlier. The next section is one that will be intriguing for fans as well as fellow musicians I imagine. Main songwriters Baldassarre and Giunta at the mixing table, giving us details run through the creation of Syzygy's second album "Realm of Eternity". How the compositions came to be in some instances, the creation of various segments and movements in each and every song, songwriting and composition techniques applied and how certain effects were planned in minute detail. A long section is this one, but an enticing and intriguing little documentary. Some of the commentary leading into the various topics sound a tad superfluous and strained, but once these guys get going on the music itself and various memories attached to it it's a spellbinding experience for those with an interest in topics of this nature. Vocalist Mark Boals is given a few minutes of time to answer questions next, and at last we're treated to a relaxed round table with the band, dealing with topics ranging from past history to what we can expect from the band in the future. I might add that Carl Baldassarre does most of the talking, as he does whenever he's featured. He comes across as a highly social, talkative and jovial person on all fronts. A perfect spokesman for the band, and if he isn't working in a field where those skills are used extensively he most certainly should. All in all, this is an intriguing and insightful view into the life of the band, how they function as a unit and how the creative processes work for this particular set of people. A DVD well worth investigating by those who find themselves intrigued by material of such a nature, and a quality supplement to this ambitious box set by Syzygy.

Conclusion. "A Glorious Disturbance" is a box-set that merits a description as glorious. Good quality live video footage, excellent quality live audio footage, and a separate special features DVD with insightful and interesting sections. There's a lot of value for money here, and the sheer quality of the band shines through on all the material features. A certain fondness for sophisticated 70's hard rock in general is required, as well as a taste for progressive rock from the same decade. A band that should appeal broadly, with a possible key audience those who have Deep Purple, Genesis and ELP side by side in their music collection.

OMB=Olav M Bjornsen: October 22, 23 & 24, 2013
The Rating Room


Related Links:

Syzygy


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