No, not DREAM THEATER, FATES WARNING, QUEENSRŸCHE clone Progressive style. Progressive as an adjective.
Up now is the debut album by America’s DEGREE ABSOLUTE, four years in the making (though mastering was complete over a year ago) and lovingly crafted by three musicians. What they’ve put together is a tight piece of Metal that, while it doesn’t especially push boundaries, reinvents what we already know. It is also an album with a really odd flow.
The first time I listened to DEGREE ABSOLUTE, I was ready to peg them as American-style “dark” Power Metal from the first few songs, but the longer the album went the more I realized Progressive was the better category. On “Degree Absolute,” the band leads with their most accessible songs, somewhere between FATES WARNING-influenced Prog and dark Power Metal and quite competent at that. By “Distance,” however, the band takes us into subdued, melancholic jazz while “HalfManHalfBiscuit” experiments with ambience punctured by some almost Industrial stabbing from the guitars.
Then there’s “Pi,” which starts off like WATCHTOWER playing Thrash before getting even more technical and stays instrumental throughout. “Ask Nothing Of Me” follows with a similar beginning—nice transition—but then gets a little more on the Heavy Metal track, but always Progressive, always technical, always individual. This is probably the song that vocalist/guitarist/founder Aaron Bell sounds the best on, from a vocal standpoint. He’s a competent vocalist, but his pipes don’t match his excellent guitar chops. But it’s the instrumental music we’re here for, not the singing.
“Ergo Sum” is my favourite song on the album and is also the longest. In this eleven minute epic, we hit everything, from synthed parts, emotional guitar solos that take their hints from “Light Of Day, Day Of Darkness,” speedy acoustic work, vocal work that plays up to Bell’s strengths and some really deep lyrics. There’s a message of hope—it’s uplifting, but in no way cheerful or cheesy. You may want to stick around for the unlisted instrumental track at the end, a brooding piece that sounds like Doom played with Grind distortion. I seem to be the only person who likes it, though, so take that for what you will.
This is a really good album, especially for a debut. I expect the best from DEGREE ABSOLUTE in the coming years—I just hope they don’t have to wait so long on their next releases. “Degree Absolute” is highly recommended for fans of truly Progressive music and good Metal in general.
Man, does that cover remind anybody else of the Windmill People from Six-String Samurai? (Online March 19, 2006)