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Syzygy - 2014 - "Cosmos & Chaos: 20th Anniversary Compendium"

(73:38, ‘Syzygy Music’)


1. Cosmos (Guitar Prelude In E Major) 1:18
2. Poetry In B Minor (For Solo Piano) 1:15
3. Guitar Etude No. 1 (D Major) 2:21
4. Guitar Etude No. 2 (G Major) 4:10
5. Tautology (For Guitar & Bass) 3:55
6. The Tone Row (For Keyboard & Guitar) 2:15
7. Voyager 5:23
8. Circadian Rhythm 3:36
9. Closure 7:14
10. Strange Loop II 6:22
11. Mount Ethereal 7:34
12. Chaos (Fantasia on Drum Track) 1:47
13. Opus No. 1 (Witsend Quartet - 1984) 5:46
14. Opus No. 3 (Witsend Quartet - 1984) 6:01
15. Strange Loop II (Live 2010) 6:38
16. Mount Ethereal (Live 2010) 8.03


Carl Baldassarre – guitars; vocals
Al Rolik – bass; vocals
Sam Giunta - keyboards
Paul Mihacevich – drums 
Roman Zmudzinski – drums 
Mark Boals – vocals  
Gary Priebe – bass  

Prolusion. While the US band SYZYGY didn't official form until 2003, the band has a history going back many years. Initially all the way back to 1980 and a band called Abraxas, but more in case here is the prehistory of the band lasting from 1984 until 2003, when they were known as Witsend. Witsend released one album in the almost 20 years of its existence, namely "Cosmos & Chaos", which saw the light of day in 1993. This 2014 release by Syzygy revisits the album 20 years on, and while recorded in 2013, this production wasn't officially available until 2014, when it was self-released by Syzygy.

Analysis. Celebrating a previous album is something well-known bands do from time to time, while lesser known bands such as Syzygy, usually don't stray down such paths all that often –‘presumably due to a certain financial risk being involved in doing so. Still, Syzygy managed to get a lot of good press for their 2012 live production "A Glorious Disturbance", so in that context this move is a good one to maintain interest in the band and visibility before, one would expect, a new studio album to be released. I understand that this isn't exactly a remake of the original Witsend album, but rather a remastered version. In addition the tracks have been sorted by type rather than in the original order, and four bonus tracks have been added to the disc as well. While this CD does sound marginally better than the original, at least if my memory serves me well today, there aren't any substantial alterations to the material as such. Those fond of a better quality sound will probably find this production slightly more interesting due to the remastering, but otherwise the compositions are all the same, with all their strengths and arguable weaknesses very much present. As with most albums released that I encounter weak in this context should be read as pleasant and compelling, but without a general feeling of being material of superior worth. The solo instrumental pieces are intriguing at best and pleasantly engaging at worst, and for the two duets the second of these, The Tone Row, is the one most striking for me with its slight and ongoing jazz tendencies. The folkier Tautology has its moments as well, but not in an ongoing manner, as far as I'm concerned. The longer compositions are the ones the greater majority of progressive rock fans will find most striking and compelling. The nods back to classical music and traditional instrumental fare is here replaced by material that contains obvious nods to ‘70s Genesis in places, although fairly often with a slight touch of classic hard rock, creating a stronger general impact. Some of these are really well made numbers, with Closure the one that made the strongest impression for me. Otherwise you often get some kind of Genesis meets Deep Purple vibe here, as well as a token few sections that may or may not have something of a neo progressive feel to them. Fairly often with some truly hypnotizing sequences appearing on a regular basis, but more often than not also with passages of a more anonymous general nature. Pleasant in sum, but with moments of magic the band would later manage to extend on their aforementioned live CD/DVD release from 2012. The four bonus tracks are pleasant additions to this album, but first and foremost tracks of interest to existing fans, the 1984 Witsend recordings as well as the two live tracks from 2010 sharing the traits of being pleasantly compelling with moments of brilliance, pretty similar to most of the other compositions on the album. It took the band a couple of more years to hone their craft into a higher level, but as documents of the road towards achieving that these two live recordings from 2010 are intriguing listens.

Conclusion. Syzygy has been a project in the works and in development for multiple decades, and the album "Cosmos & Chaos" was a first important step for them when it was issued in 1993 under the Witsend moniker. This anniversary edition is a slight improvement over the original release in sound. A pleasant affair that merits a check by those who are intrigued by bands exploring the meeting points between classic progressive rock and hard rock, as well as existing fans of both Syzygy and Witsend.

OMB=Olav M Bjornsen: September 16, 2016
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