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3RDegree - Ones & Zeros - Volume 1 CD (album) cover

ONES & ZEROS - VOLUME 1

3RDegree

 

Crossover Prog

4.11 | 355 ratings

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rogerthat
Prog Reviewer
4 stars One of my pet peeves with prog is a lot of it floats in blissful oblivion of the times we live in. And while I do appreciate the merits of musical escapism to transport listeners temporarily from everyday strife, it doesn't help the cause of a genre that is increasingly disconnected from the mainstream of music culture. It's no coincidence that both Radiohead with OK Computer/Kid A as well as Muse with Absolution (or for that matter, Porcupine Tree with In Absentia), bands which enjoy /enjoyed a good deal of popularity, had something more relevant, more contemporary to say.

Which is why 3RDegree's concept album Ones and Zeros is a welcome departure from the norm. I will not get deeply into the lyrics here, as Roland113's review has done ample justice to that. But the issue of technology getting, indeed, embedded into our lives to the point where it might one day control us is a pertinent one. So, while the device used is of dystopian sci-fi along the lines of a Brave New World or Childhood's End, the subject matter hits closer home as some of what is described in the album is already being felt. Are we indeed heading towards a digitised version of the Utopia that Huxley had conceived and will it indeed take a virus breakdown to preserve what is human about ourselves? I am a bit of a fence-sitter as far as this debate goes. But it is an engaging topic and, thanks to 3RDegree's smart execution, results in an album that is hard edged and packs a punch.

Speaking of which, brevity is of essence here. At just over 50 minutes, the album clocks in a good deal shorter than certain extravaganzas which may not have seen the light of day but for the CD age. 3RDegree is classified under Crossover Prog, but as far as this specific album goes, the style as well as approach is more evocative of 80s Rush, maybe some of the neo prog of the time too. Genesis influence comes with the territory as well. They do not leap too far out of the basket of known prog influences/elements and as such the music sounds like something made in the 80s but with excellent production and, especially, unobtrusive drums.

That is my one minor complaint with the album - that the music is not as contemporary as the lyrics. But it's not a big deal; there are nice twists and turns in the music that I enjoyed. 3RDegree are able to put together complex tracks that do not involve much, if any, noodling; the songwriting is tight as hell. At the same time, they nicely manage the change-ups between electric distorted guitar riffs and lush acoustic, so that the album never feels like an oppressive wall of sound. In saying that, however, it is also not frightfully dynamic. As I noted earlier, more 80s Rush/neo than 70s Genesis/Yes. The flipside is most of the tracks groove nicely and are both pretty accessible and infectious.

Yes, 3RDegree pull off the trickiest part of a concept album exceedingly well - integrating the music with the lyrical concept. The songs are entertaining to listen to by themselves without one being aware of the concept. And yet if you were clued into the concept, you would observe how subtly the mood shifts from optimism to doubt to even despair as the assurances of a bright digital future get weaker and ring more and more hollow. My favourite would have to be Circuit Court with The Gravity being not far behind; but the songs as such are hard to dislike.

Four stars for a solid, relevant and tightly executed album; knocking off one star only because it doesn't offer something strikingly new 'sonically'. I grant that that is something that has become increasingly difficult in rock but I have to respect the rating system all the same; so four stars it will be.

rogerthat | 4/5 |

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