15 Songs, 1 Hour 7 Minutes

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Ratings and Reviews

An incredibly talented band

G Gary Harris

There are a number of superlative adjectives one could use to describe this album, but perhaps the thing that strikes the listener as most egregious is just how talented the individual members of the band are. Everything about the performers - and the album - smacks of tier 1, first rate musicianship.

The tightness in execution comes through on every track, and particularly in numbers where the guitar and keys are interlocked in elegant duets which meander through various modes and time signatures. While undoubtedly intricate and nuanced, the music remains accessible to any listener, showcasing the band's ability ot write music which is rooted in the most desirable of ingredients: great melodies, grooves, etc. The instrumental breaks between the lyrics always seem perfect for the songs (i.e., "Building a Machine", which features curious "metallic" timbres to simulate the building of the eponymous contrivance. Out of these timbres, the guitar emerges - perfectly mixed - just before a key change heralds the return to the chorus - brilliant!)

The keyboard playing also warrants mention - clearly, Mark Focarile is a student of classical and baroque styles in addition to his prodigious familiartiy with the prog idiom. Note his solo towards the middle of "Digital Warrior", which features intricate polyphonic counterpoint that evokes Jordan Rudess or Michael Pinella, but sounds anything but derivative. Whether playing a straight piano sound or using a square or sawtooth lead (or a rock organ, as in "2001"), he seems to always have the right timbre for the given moment in a piece.

Lastly, the vocals: Dave Alley's performance here can only be summed up as a tour-de-force. His multitracked harmonizations are always interesting - often inflecting modal hints before the band confirms them. Rather than conventional parallel thirds and sixths, Dave often opts for unusual intervals and rhythms which bring out a certain polyphonic effect in certain tracks. On some tracks one hears him doubling himself in the 5th octave, evoking James LaBrie's work in "Strange Deja Vu." The effect is an unusual one and is an example of the kind of thing that makes this album a truly first-rate record.

Hats off to MMZ for a triumphant effort. I can't wait to hear these guys play it live!

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