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(51:34, Cuneiform Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. Where's the Captain 5:11 2. Coma Cluster 4:42 3. Mostly Skulls 5:12 4. That Ticket Exploded 5:54 5. The Noose 4:28 6. Inciting 4:39 7. Gradual Decay 4:45 8. The Ditch 5:49 9. After the Air Raid 3:20 10. The Children & the Rats 4:59 11. Glass Tables 4:35 LINEUP: Mike Eber – guitars Johnny DeBlase – basses Jeff Eber – drums
Prolusion. ZEVIOUS are a trio based in New York City, USA. Guitarist Mike Eber and bassist Johnny DeBlase first met in 1999 when attending college in Allentown, Pennsylvania. Eber eventually moved to NYC in 2004, while the following year DeBlase moved to Philadelphia. In 2005, Mike Eber’s cousin Jeff, who had been extensively touring the USA as the drummer of experimental progressive metal band Dysrhythmia, settled in NYC, where he met up with his cousin and DeBlase. As a result, Zevious was born; their self-titled debut album was released in 2008. "After the Air Raid", their sophomore effort, came as the culmination of two years of composing and performing live across the north-eastern part of the US. The album was recorded and mixed by Colin Marston of tech/extreme prog-metal band Behold The Arctopus.
Analysis. Another impressive Cuneiform find, Zevious offer a cutting-edge permutation of that old classic rock stalwart, the power trio. “After the Air Raid” presents the discerning listener with a high-energy blend of sleek jazz/fusion modes, angular math-rock exertions, and a spicy sprinkling of metallic heaviness – challenging without being overtaxing, thoroughly modern without renouncing old-school progressive rock influences. The three members of the band have been around for over ten years, and their collective experience is clearly brought to bear in this album, which can in some ways be considered their real debut. “After the Air Raid” is one of those discs whose appeal is not immediately obvious, but which will grow at every successive listen. Not as spiky and impenetrable as the likes of their label mates Upsilon Acrux, Zevious have managed not to banish melody completely from their compositional approach, though they handle it in a very unconventional manner. The abundance of asymmetrical rhythm patterns cannot conceal the flow of the sound, as well as the agility of the individual instruments. In spite of its innovative potential, Zevious’ music is not meant to be abrasive or forbidding. Its power lies in its ability to keep the listener on their toes, though without wearying them out with a relentless barrage of wildly clashing sounds. Though ‘only’ a trio, Zevious sound big, almost like a 21st-century version of Rush, on account of the sheer volume of sound they can produce as a simple three-piece, without any keyboards or other props. None of the three band members can be mentioned as the main actor in the development of their musical conception. While Mike Eber’s guitar weaves dazzling webs, avoiding the pitfalls of mindless shredding (as it would be all too easy to do in such circumstances), Johnny DeBlase’s fluid yet powerful bass playing provides a solid layer of bottom end for Jeff Eber’s stunning drum patterns. The latter displays the experience gained as a member of avant-progressive metal band Dysrhythmia in the head-spinning, polymetric structures of his drumming – though the influence of more ‘classic’ drummers, such as Bill Bruford, is also detectable. While the 11 tracks included on the album all range between 3 and nearly 6 minutes in length, they pack more twists and turns in their limited running time than many so-called ‘epics’, though without descending into the excesses to which the more experimental prog acts are often prone. While most of the compositions clearly point to math-rock’s riveting, multilayered angularity, the jazz foundation of the band’s music adds a welcome note of melody that is often lacking in otherwise outstanding bands like Don Caballero or Battles. With such a consistently high level of quality, it is difficult to pick out any standout tracks – though I was particularly impressed by the brilliant, Black Sabbath-meets-jazz/fusion exercise of That Ticket Exploded, or the Rush-on-steroids, bass-driven extravaganza that is Inciting. The Noose and The Ditch both steer towards heavier territory - the former strongly reminiscent of a jazzier version of King Crimson with its devastatingly effective bass-drum interplay, the latter more aggressive, even punky, with Mike Eber’s guitar let loose over crashing drums and steady bass line. In sharp contrast, the title-track displays the more subdued, atmospheric side of the band’s sound, a hauntingly melancholy piece centred around Mike’s subtly echoing guitar work. Running at slightly over 50 minutes, the album is very dense, and perhaps a tad overlong considering the intensity of the music on offer. However, the playing is stellar throughout, even though devoid of that sense of showing off that can plague similar offerings. Perhaps not quite a masterpiece yet, but definitely an excellent effort from one of the most promising bands on the current progressive rock scene.
Conclusion. A stunning melting pot of diverse influences and creative ideas, “After the Air Raid” is highly recommended to anyone with a keen interest in genuinely progressive music. Those who prefer the more mainstream-oriented varieties of prog, on the other hand, are quite likely to find it a somewhat stressful listen – the same goes for those who object to lack of vocals. Either way, this is undoubtedly one of the most interesting releases of 2009. Top-2009
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