One of the main instigations for the first (second) wave of Punk Rock, in the '70s, was to tear down the bloated dinosaur glam prog that was popular at the time, from bands like Emerson, Lake, & Palmer, Yes... heck, even The Who, the original punks, were writing grandiose, possibly self-indulgent, symphonic works in that decade. While the proletariat optimism of punk was refreshing, and essential, tearing the impenetrable wall of the 15-foot stage down to size, it had its pitfalls, as well. So while, yes, anyone can (and should) make music, that doesn't mean everyone can play music WELL. And while punk's snotty 3 chords, played at 210 bpm, was absolutely great at expressing frustration, anger, malaise, lack of confidence, and bravado, their emotional lexicon tended to stop there.
Prog, and a number of musical movements that have followed since, most notably metal, emphasize technicality and virtuosity. While, often, this can turn into clinical, cerebral exercises, an extensive musical vocabulary, and the physical chops to pull it off, allow for a more varied, more subtle, more nuanced depiction of a life. No one ever said life was simple (if they did, they were lying to you, or themselves). Life is full of ups and down, troughs and tremendous victories. Too often, albums are expected to be one thing, which makes artists pigeonhole themselves into one mood, portraying themselves as if they were one thing only; two-dimensional as a Calvin And Hobbes comic strip.
This is most definitely not the case with Crysis, from Dutch progressive outfit Modest Midget. Crysis is meant as a sonic simile of life's various cycles, both internal and external. As soon as one ends, another begins. As in life, you will find many moods and many motivations, on its twelve tracks. As you might imagine, this creates a rather uneven listening experience, more of a roller coaster than a parabola; a wild, amusing, heartfelt, and thought-provoking experience.
This can be seen, in micro, in the first three tracks of Crysis; "The Grand Gate Opening", is a dark, mystical synth meditation, that sounds like the grand oaken gates of a Tibetan monastery opening against a Himalayan blizzard, which gives way to the spookshow "A Centurion's Itchy Belly", full of tremulous, warbling theremins and Wicked-Witch-In-A-Hurricane guitars, that manages to be both silly and unsettling, simultaneously, which is reinforced further still by the odd, stabbing dissonance of a ragtime piano. Already you're reeling, like Sonny Liston on the ropes, and when the left hook of "Rocky Valley Of Dawn"'s upbeat ska guitar bounce comes in, you abandon all hope of trying to predict what's coming next. Much like life.
A lot of sweat and blisters went into making this record, that much is obvious. 11 musicians playing 25 instruments across six different studios. This alone is a far cry from punk's plug it in and go for it approach. There is a time and a place for raw, in-the-red adrenaline (see The Stooges' classic Raw Power for examples of this, particularly Iggy's original mix), but there is certainly more to life. And how much of frustration comes about from not being able to try what you're trying to say.
I won't say that I loved every second of Crysis but I don't love every second of life, either. Looking for a detailed depiction of what it feels like, waiting for the dentist? Or an erudite description of waking up from a dream, with the taste of the moon's green cheese still on your tongue), you're bound to find at least a little bit of it, here.
Recommended For Fans Of: Pink Floyd, Steely Dan, The Carpenters, Genesis, Frank Zappa
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