The self-titled album Dela Sante from Dela Sante is an amazing collection of prog-rock mixed with Caribbean rhythms and sounds. There are elements of King’s X and other prog heroes, but the songs also pass through the radio dial and dabble in reggae, salsa, punk, ska and heavy metal. The performances are stellar, the recording and production terrific, and the writing is smart.
“J.A.G.” opens the album with explosive drums, a fantastically melodic bass line and synths orbiting all around the sonic sphere. Towards the middle of the song it opens up into a freer space with splashed cymbals, stereo toms pounding and samples flying through before an edgy guitar takes over and propels the song into pseudo-metal prog. “Susceptible” is a flurry of guitar-armageddon. Wah-ed out leads fly out in front of tight riffs. “Bienvenidos” is another guitar-based song featuring shredding heroics over moody synths. The song finishes with industrial sounds evoking a factory, airplane or perhaps even a speeding car.
“Crumpets” begins with quarter note clicks on the hi-hat and an ostinato bass line before opening up into a thoughtful drum solo. Synths and reggae guitar chunks follow unexpectedly, but soon justify their presence. There’s a distant horn section that floats in and out and almost whispered vocals chanting a mantra. The song ends with a funky bass line leading the parade while the horns play crescendos before disappearing.
“Tracking Blood” is a bass feature worthy of Mike Watt’s attention. There’s some great virtuosity displayed as the bass leads its way over ray-gun and siren-like synths that almost evoke Brian Wilson’s “Mrs. O’Leary’s Cow.” “Daroone” mixes Vangelis-like synths and a melodic Alex Lifeson-like guitar lead. It’s almost new wave but with more prog edge. The interplay between the guitar and bass are marvelous, weaving through and supporting each other, particularly in the half-time sections. The song ends with agile guitar runs that are flashy but never out of step with the song.
The album switches up a bit with “Bela Steps” which has a salsa feel in the bass line and trumpet performance. The mashing up of the distorted guitar against the Cuban-style piano works extremely well, imagining a world where Tito Puente and Tom Morello hang out and jam together. There’s some great percussion work throughout as well that capitulates into a Morse code of bells. In a similar vibe, “Vaulted” has an interesting intro of trumpets in a street market before opening up into a track that resembles the flute-like melodies of Return To Forever hanging out with Porcupine Tree with a punk rhythm section for support. The transition to the bridge is the only abrupt change on the album that doesn’t feel supported. It’s a nice section and features some great interplay between the drums and flute, but could almost be its own separate song. The song finishes similar to where it began with nimble bass lines and guitar shredding leading the way to an absolutely stellar synth and drum breakdown.
The album closes with “Sinking Rubber” which opens with an Eric Dolphy-esque saxophone over tugboat like synths before opening up into an animated drum feature with presentational horns leading between one chord and the next. The song tosses in guitar heroics and samples while the drums dance around. It’s a little gratuitous and the track could certainly be edited down a bit, but it works well to close the album and clench every last note possible from the band.
The band is tight and what is most notable is that their virtuosity avoids a common pitfall in prog and has lots of heart, passion and feel in the performances.
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