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The Gabriel Construct - Interior City CD (album) cover


The Gabriel Construct


Experimental/Post Metal

4.27 | 14 ratings

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5 stars I'm not sure if composer/multi-instrumentalist Gabriel Riccio intended for this amazing Eclectic/Post Rock album to be a flow-through concept album, but that has been the only way that I've been able to hear it. Something in this music and album concept is reminiscent of DEVIN TOWNSEND's Ziltoid The Omniscient. The humour, the vocals, the high dynamic musical parts, and even the theme of cultural brainwashing, conformity, oppression, fear and isolation (though Devin addresses it more through implication and is more tongue-in-cheek humorous) are quite Ziltoid. While I consider Ziltoid a masterpiece, this is better. MUCH better. The music influences and styles chosen for Interior City are so much diverse--more diverse than any album I've heard in the new modern age of Prog Rock. Gabriel's influences range from 20th century classical composers Olivier Messiaen and Ligeti to 70s proggers Yes and King Crimson (old and new) to jazz maestro Charles Mingus, to rockers DEFTONES, NINE INCH NAILS and to current master Devin The Magnificat--and these influences can be heard in every song, though I am excited to shout out that this young man has a sound and style quite new and refreshing--one that is all his own. Plus, he has surrounded himself with some stellar talent--especially in drummer extraordinaire, TRAVIS ORBIN, bassist, THOMAS MURPHY, and violinist, SOPHIA UDDIN, saxophonist, Sornen LARSEN, and guitarist DAVID STIVELMAN--all of whom, sadly, will probably not be appearing with Gabriel in his live touring band or on future albums due to his recent relocation from East Coast to Chicago. Anyway, this is an album that I want everyone to hear'and I mean everyone! It is so accessible yet so fresh and creative, so powerful yet witty (just look at the song titles), and it's filled with such virtuosic instrumental performances (listen to Gabe's command of the piano instrument!). Plus, this album is incredibly well engineered and produced. (Did I mention how amazingly well engineered and produced this album is? Mega Kudos Engineer Garrett Davis and Mix-Master/Producer Taylor Larson!)

1. 'Arrival in A Distant Land' (6:52) opens the album with what at first sounds like a strum across the strings of a zither'until one realizes that Gabriel is playing the strings of a piano from inside, 'under the hood,' so-to-speak. This familiarity and facility with the piano instrument is displayed to great'no, to amazing'effect throughout the album. The chord sequence played in the bass clef climbs to the middle ranges at the 2:20 mark while the notes popped in the upper registers are still flying along in seemingly random and discordant patterns and time. At 3:13 Gabriel's gentle, almost frightened sounding voice enters with a gorgeous melody and chord foundation. I believe he is here setting up the contract one's soul makes when a commitment to Earthly incarnation is made. 'I can't get out' is the plaintive scream powerfully expressed--assumedly at the moment of realization that this commitment to human life is real and 'permanent.' 'Welcome home. This is your home now,' he sings before resuming the unusual and seemingly random 'interior' piano play till the song's end. (10/10)

2. 'Ranting Prophet' (4:51) opens with the same piano and gentle voice until at 0:48 a burst of multiple track harmonized voices and full rock ensemble enters. Violin mirrors the anxious vocal of the protagonist and his slave-driving 'over-soul/unconscious--a voice that takes turns trading barbs with that of the protagonist for a minute before a cohesive chorus seems to insist that he's condemned to being addicted to pretending that your someone.(!) Crazy violin solo exacerbates the insanity of this news--the idiocy of this internment. (9/10)

3. 'Fear of Humanity' (8:02) opens with some great piano chords and screechy violin scratches flitting about all over the soundscape. A deep-voiced baritone lead vocal enters to announce that 'I'm afraid of humans' and, later, 'I'm afraid of tumors.' This low-register male voice is so unexpected, so unusual and disarming that it is utterly refreshing and genius. At 3:30 the song shifts into high gear with drums, support instruments and 'scatting' vocal choir racing along with police sirens, industrial noise and growls. The 'entities' chasing and pursuing the 5:39 adds a nice electric guitar riff which turns into a kind of group solo. The drummer's sense of timing throughout is breathtakingly fluid in its precision and confidence. At the seven minute mark there is another shift as the band congeals for a brief cool coda. Return to the entity chase--it seems that the musical accompaniment is growing more and more chaotic and overbearing when suddenly--!! (10/10)

4. in the transition and intro to 'My Alien Father' (4:46) a solo piano arpeggiates a gorgeous intro. A treated higher register male voice enters speaking of the alien chase and their X- men-like 'shapeshifting' tactics. Brilliant vocal harmonies are used 'They're out there.' 'They watch us.' 'Please greet me,' pleads the protagonist. (Awesome fretless bass work here!) 'Will you enslave my body and mind or will you bring me to life?' precedes an awesomely layered, multi-melodied and all-too-brief instrumental section reminding me of the absolute best of anything Sir Robert of Fripp has ever done. (10/10)

5. 'Retreat Underground' (2:38) takes off running with drums, piano, and bass playing at seering speeds while the Devin Townsend-like vocals (solo and multi-layered/beautifully harmonized) sing over the top. (9/10)

6. 'Subway Dwellers' (5:32) bleeds from the preceding song while shifting tempo and style to a little more of a pop-jazz structure (though using the same instrumentation). The use of many cacophonous background voices/samples truly lends to the 'subway dwellers' effect. Creepy and eerie. If I have a complaint with one part of this album it is with the part of the album that begins with this song: the music becomes a bit repetitive and monotonous as the lyrics become more important to listen to (something I am not particularly well-suited to). The song is good, the structure good, just too much the same'until the Tears For Fears section in the last 30 seconds of the song. (8/10)

7. 'Defense Highway' (10:49) opens slowly, as if having trouble developing into a groove, but then, thanks to the direction of the violin, structure coagulates and the song gets up and goes. Another Devin-like racer with great screeching and voice-warbling to illustrate the protagonists fragile grip on reality and self-control. A delicate, quiet part in the fifth minute seems to Amazing drum work throughout this song. An incredible section beginning at the 5:38 mark 'Walking'' is so familiar yet so brilliant--fast and slow alternating, running and collapsing, running and hiding, running and giving up, letting go. This song is all over the place but so incredibly powerful in its representation of yin-yang duality, the human rollercoaster, the madhouse and house of mirrors that we all walk through every day. The chaos at 8:35 is again won over by the gentle piano play and angelic vocal choir. At 9:38 Gabriel once again whips out an incredibly moving chord progression and beautiful vocal section--which then quickly morphs into an out-of-control race of fuzzy freneticism. Even the winning piano and ensuing saxophone triumphant are a bit out of control. Am I listening to the modern-day version of Rael and Brother John's trip through The Ravine? Will they come out with IT'with the realization that all is one, all is illusory, all is part of the game to which we all contracted our irreversible participation? (10/10)

8. 'Inner Sanctum' (7:34) is very reminiscent of many of the heavier song parts and grungier styles from TOBY DRIVER's Kayo Dot and maudlin of The Well projects--and this one, too, gets a little overwhelming with its barrage of cacophony coming at me from so many depths and directions. Still, I understand the point being made here: it is only through incredible strength and perseverance that one can fend off the incredibly distracting and overwhelming cacophony of external noise in order to find, strengthen and maintain the Inner Voice. The electric guitar and violin clattering for front-and-center attention at the three minute mark seem to feel triumphant and hopeful. This then followed by a very TD-feeling nightmare- dream-feeling section of purposely plodding, monotonous heavy discordant music while the droning, slowly drawn out treated vocal seems to desend into the murkiness, as if sucked into the tar 'Goodbye' he repeats as he gives in'and before the crazed cacophony of wildly random bashing and crashing of all instruments closes the song. (9/10)

9. 'Languishing in Lower Chakra' (11:09) finds the listener hearing the stillness, peace, and near-calm of the protagonist after the chaos of internal battle, after the psychic meltdown. Musically, Gabriel uses the gentle yet randomly flitting and floating piano play of the opening song to create this place of calm retreat. Gradually these notes become . . . organized--are joined by supportive elements'electric keyboard, clapping, sounds of feet running, PA voices, television voices, angelic humming and gathering of energy--all swirling gently but with an increasing element of organization and insistence, of wakefulness and strength. Are these the distractions trying to lure this catotonic creature back into the world of action and reaction? Is he returning to consciousness? Or is he dying but hearing his last voices and noises from Earth Plane? The choir of oddly treated and fading in and out 'heavenly' voices leads me to believe further that this is a dying or at least near-death experience conveyed through music: Reversed notes and chords from the introductory 'birth' sequence enters with the protagonist's floating background voice repeating his initial plea, 'I can't '' followed by the insistent repetition of a spoken voice, 'Get me out of here!" This is an odd song yet I find it very effective in the context of this incredible storytelling. My take on this one is that Gabriel's protagonist is struggling with a solution to the problem of how to cope with the incredibly taxing, insistent and ultimately depressing amount of information bombarding us from this 'civilized' world. The protagonist is either choosing to attempt to learn--or learning out of absolute necessity--the 'art' of detachment, here passively observing the dross and cacophony of the external world from a place of inward peace and calm. This exercise is not easy as one is constantly being lured out of one's 'center''that sanctuary of internal peace--by the distractions of the 'noise' coming from 'outside.' Or I could be way off base and the character is merely going through a bardo-type experience'a post-human life or near-death experience in which he is the unwitting passive observer of petty events occurring around his unresponsive corporeal body. Or maybe sleep has become his only refuge. (8/10)

10. 'Curing Somatization' (10:26) Heavy and discordant cacophony opens this song (reentry and bombardment of stimuli?) before a quiet, calm (return to safety of the inner sanctuary?), within which can be heard an aimless, almost child-like voice sing-songing to itself. Then at 2:05 is a return to the barrage of noise but it seems to be more organized, more structured, more controlled or 'managed.' But the chaos always seems to be pressing in from around, creeping closer and closer. Paranoia. Delusion. 'I've only been running from myself,' screams one voice. 'I built this city to hide,' comes later. The musical shift at the beginning of the sixth minute coincides with lyrics like, 'I try to create something, (but) I destroy what's beautiful. I try to save and I kill instead.' I'm trying to love but I'm in hate's grasp,' and 'Fear is my one form of wealth,' and 'Why do I torture myself.' Then a strong, clear male voice sings beautifully, incredibly emotionally, 'Erosion of confusion, I forgive you for all you have done. Corrosion of illusion, I forgive myself for choosing hell' (the realization that these constructs, the interior city, is hell--that that is what the human experience is). 'This city can't control all that I see. This city has no power over me. It's taken on a life of its own. AND I CAN LET IT GO!' is the protagonist's awakening moment'his moment of true detachment. Then he turns to his new reality, the beauty of his new Truth, with the beautiful piano chords, now fully formed, fully supportive, full of profound beauty, familiar from the opening song (The pre-birth blissful state of ignorance and spiritual wholeness?): 'Welcome home! This is your home now. Step OUTSIDE! You're not alone,' ends the album and we've come full circle, back to the Eden of the beginning. (9/10) It is so refreshing to hear an album--from a younger person'which tries to tackle an incredibly important and meaningful topic: the struggle to find purpose and meaning in this human life experience. Interior City is, I believe, an allegory for our time--for Mr. Riccio's generation--which attempts to give meaning to life--to offer a way to cope with 'this mortal coil' while incarnated during this particularly difficult challenging time on planet Earth. Gabriel accepts that, yes, we have made the choice to commit to human life form but that it is also quite a struggle to find reason and justification for this choice. Detached Self- centeredness may be the best solution to surviving the overwhelmingly confusing experience with some semblance of sanity. The ability Mr. Riccio has shown in being able to express his ideas through music is masterful. With the diverse talents and interests he has shown in his brief yet diverse and expereimental past, I do not reckon that 'Prog Metal' will be the resting place of this master's musical expression. Don't be surprise if we hear some classical or world musically- influenced music coming from The Gabriel Construct in the not-too-distant future. I know, I, for one, will be there to receive and relish any recordings offered by this new and bright, bright light of music and art. Clearly a five star masterpiece of music; Interior City is one of the most profoundly moving artistic oeuvres I've encountered in my lifetime.

BrufordFreak | 5/5 |


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