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Gordian Knot - Emergent CD (album) cover


Gordian Knot


Experimental/Post Metal

3.77 | 162 ratings

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4 stars Updated on Oct 4, 2008

A Review by Rizal B. Prasetijo (my best friend in prog)

Compared to its self debut title album (please refer to my previous posting: Gordian Knot's Gordian Knot), I found that the band attempts to push the possible boundary that musicians could achieve in combining the jazz fusion and progressive rock/metal, the two different and sometimes contradict genres, in its second album. And, as you could hear it later on, particularly on the second and third tracks - Muttersprache and A Shaman's Whisper -, Gordian Knot amazingly achieves its objective. There are also a number of changes in its personnel. While the band keeps retaining Sean Malone (guitar, bass, keyboard) as its brain and Sean Reinert (drummer), it lets go its two previous guitarists - Ron Jarzombek and Glenn Snelwar. The two guest stars - Trey Gunn and John Myung - are also not present in the second album. As a result, Gordian Knot invites two new guitarists - Jason Göbel and Jim Matheos - to join in. They also invite Steve Hackett (ex Genesis' guitarist, known as one of few guitarists pioneered the tapping technique in early 70s) and Bill Bruford (ex King Crimson and Yes' drummer). If you are a death metal fan, you'll also notice that all ex-Cynic members (Messrs. Göbel, Malone, Matheos, and Reinert) involve in the making of Gordian Knot's Emergent. Finally, before I am releasing my two cents opinion on the album, I would like to show my special gratitudes to Didit Suryadi (who first told me about this amazing band) as well as to Tatan Taufik (who ordered the album for me). Jazakumullaah khairan katsira (May Allaah reward all your good deeds).

The album is begun by Arsis, an almost two minute bass solo, displaying Sean Malone's adroitness on the fretless bass guitar and his veneration (in my opinion) to Jaco Pastorious (one of the greatest jazz bassists). For your information, Arsis (and thesis) is a phrase in musical composition, where a point being inverted, that is, it rises in one part, and falls in another, or vice versa. Furthermore, if you are an audiophilist, the track could also be used to examine whether your sound system is able to properly deliver the sub 500Hz notes or not.

Opened up by spacey atmospheric keyboard followed quickly by heavy metal staccato guitar riffs, Muttersprache (6:23, German for "mother tongue") is Gordian Knot's declaration to the musical industry that jazz fusion and progressive rock/metal can be intermingled seamlessly at even their extreme points. The composition is essentially built on the metal ambiance, but incorporating jazz chords and dissonant intervals to form a stunning mixture of these two different and contradict genres. The interplay among guitarists - started by Jason Göbel's glissando semiquaver metal guitar liners, followed by Steve Hackett's jazzy solo guitar, then Sean Malone's jazzy tunes on Chapman Stick - are absolutely ear dropping. You should also pay attention to Steve Hackett's jazzy notes using the heavy metal as the background at the end of the song. What a taunting and great musical experiment. In an attempt to further appreciate this striking piece, I would encourage you to browse Sean Malone's blog (, in which he told you the history behind the writing of the composition.

The third track, A Shaman's Whisper (6:30), essentially follows the foundation of Muttersprache. However, Messrs. Göbel (guitarist), Malone (bassist and keyboard), Reinert (drummer), Snelwar (guitarist appearing on Gordian Knot's debut album) takes the composition into a further extreme. As a result, the song is jazzier in sound than the previous track, while also being heavier. How could these gifted musicians create such extraordinary and tricky composition? The knack is to let all guitarists - begun by Sean Malone, then, Jason Göbel, then Paul Maldival, then back to Jason Gobel, back again to Paul Maldival - play jazz/jazz rock liners (with the exception of Paul Maldival's roaring semiquaver metal notes in the middle of song), while the musical background is painted by heavy metal color, sometimes even by syncopated heavy metal guitar riffs. Don't also forget to pay attention to Bill Bruford's distinctive jazzy syncopated slit drumming and Sean Reinert forceful and expressive rock drumming in this stunning composition. Finally, it is also interesting to note that, based on Sean Malone's blog spot, the song (originally titled Whispers at Gesthemane) was actually written during the Gordian Knot's debut album. The bridge section of the composition became an entirely new composition, titled Code/Anticode, appeared on the first Gordian Knot album (again, please see my previous posting Gordian Knot's Gordian Knot).

Marked by forceful Sean Reinhart's drum beats and Sean Malone's dissonant keyboard chords, Fischer's Gambit (5:38) quickly reminds me on how stunning and shocking the Robert "Bobby" Fischer's opening moves (knows as Fischer's Gambit) are (please refer to for further details). Sean Malone swinging dark keyboard personifies trepidation experienced by Fischer's opponents in predicting and reacting to his gambit, while Jim Matheos' solo acoustic guitar, created Spanish and tropical seaside senses, symbolizes Fischer's contentment in putting his opponent into difficulties. What a mind boggling composition! Here, Gordian Knot is able to describe two opposing feelings - nervousness and indulgence - seamlessly in one solid song.

The next track, Grace (the live version, 8:24), is a bolder and richer version of a soothing and relaxing of Grace, appeared as the last track on Gordian Knot's debut album, in my view. Using the Chapman Stick and Echoplex, Sean Malone ingeniously creates so much layers of soundscape, flourish, and atmosphere, you'd think there are a number of musicians appeared on the stage. However, the composition never really goes anywhere, and isn't supposed to. This is the weakest song in the entire album in my opinion.

Opened up by twenty second soft piano, I see Some Brighter Thing (7:28) is a softer variation of A Shaman's Whisper. Jason Göbel's staccato metal guitar riffs quickly take over the scene and act as an intro for Sean Malone's glissando crotchet, quaver, and semiquaver Chapman Stick liners for almost 60 seconds. Here lies the difference between A Shaman's Whisper and Some Brighter Thing. The former composition put all guitarists on jazz/jazz rock mode, while painted the background by metal riffs. The latter song alternates the object and the background. It started with Jason Göbel, followed by Sean Malone on solo jazz/jazz rock notes and uses the metal ambiance as the background. Then, suddenly at 3:58", marked by stunning syncopated and hocketing Sean Malone's piano, Bill Bruford drumming, and Jason Göbel's guitar riffs for slightly over 30 seconds, the order is reversed. Steve Hackett plays a solo heavy rock guitar, followed by Jim Matheos on a similar mode, but the background turns into jazz/jazz rock ambiance. The composition is closed by jazzy/jazz rock ambiance.

Marked by Bill Bruford's intense drumming and Sean Malone's forceful piano chords for 20 seconds, The Brook The Ocean (4:00) is a collegial work of two talented musicians sharing their magic chemistries in the progressive jazz corridor. Sean Malone's solo dissonance bass liners, which again reminding me to Jaco Pastorius' transcendent bass notes, snare my metal cone speakers for the next 70 seconds (Beware: You won't be able to enjoy this interlude if your sound system could not properly generate sub 500Hz liners). Then, both Messrs. Bruford and Malone come together for almost 60 seconds. At 2:35, Bill Bruford puts forward his distinctive forceful, highly precise, polyrhythmic solo drumming for 70 seconds, and the composition is closed by the return of Sean Malone's keyboard and bass with a dazzling violence. The intensity of these musicians clearly imitates the unpredictable and strength of sea waves in its nature.

The last track, Singing Deep Mountain (8:57), is built on a progressive jazz foundation, but incorporating heavy rock liners and a number of augmenting guitar cannon in its body. Opened up with steady rhythm bass and drumming for about 16 seconds, Jim Matheos' syncopated jazz guitar notes are met with Jason Göbel syncopated rock guitar riffs for almost 70 seconds. Then, gradually, Jason Göbel takes over with his heavy rock guitar liners. At 2:55, the insertion of uplifting melodies makes the composition becoming somewhat brighter and lighter. Sean Malone's jazzy Chapman Stick further accentuates the ambiance. However, the song gradually turns darker and heavier, though still retaining its jazzy nuances, at 5:02. This is apparently a prelude for Steve Hackett's solo jazz rock guitar, lasting for 20 seconds. As the composition becoming further darker and heavier, Steve Hackett finally unleashes his roaring and dense heavy rock liners, which are accompanied by Sean Malone's somewhat metal bass sound, at 6:22 for slightly over 30 seconds. Interestingly, while the rock/metal ambiance gains momentum, Bill Bruford is keeping his jazz drum beats intact. Gradually, as the song becomes brighter and lighter again, wordless vocal melodies (quite electronically processed so they barely sound like vocals) takes the scene for almost 80 seconds. At 8:15", the composition slows and fades out, giving you a pleasure ending. It is interesting to note that if you read Sean Malone's blog, he realized afterwards that the ending of the song is a resemblance to the end of Yes' "And You And I".

I would never be hesitant to recommend Gordian Knot's Emergent to any progressive rock, metal, and jazz followers as hearing the album would open your musical horizon what the mixture of these genres could do. Happy listening!

Best regards, Rizal B. Prasetijo

Notes: We have conducted a series of regular ProgRing (Progressive Gathering) down here in Jakarta to discuss about recent issues in progressive music. Rizal has been very vocal in promoting how great Sean Malone's Gordian Knot is in the recent progring to the audience. In fact, we just met last night and he was still enthusiastic talking about Gordian Knot. Keep on proggin' .., Rizal!


A Review by Gatot

I heard the Gordian Knot name quite long time ago from metal heads in my country and I though the band was a pure metal band until last progressive gathering (ProgRing) on end of May 08. Yeah, we have committed to have a regular prog gathering among those prog heads in Jakarta at least once in a month. One of the attendees mentioned Gordian Knot as a terrific prog band led by a bass player Sean Malone. So since that prog gathering I chased the album and found this "Emergent" which happens to be the band (project?) second release. One of the chief reasons was the big names like Bill Bruford (Yes, King Crimson, UK, Genesis, Earth Work, etc), Steve Hackett (Genesis), Jim Matheos (Fates Warning). It creates high curiosity to me really. And, yes! Finally I got one of the albums. Yeaaaaahhh ...!!! Let's enjoy the journey with Gordian Knot music ...

Not an egoistic composer ., bravo Malone!

My prog colleague is right, this is definitely an excellent album! I understand from a little research I have done that Sean Malone is basically a composer. Yes, he is! More to it, I need to add that he is not a kind of "egoistic" composers who force the musical instrument capability into their music dominantly. Sorry to say, I have to tell you that John Petrucci, Steve Vai and Joe Satriani are examples of composers who always put their instrument (guitar) as dominant factor to their music - that's why I have never adored their music. They are better called "musician" not "composer". You might compare with Steve Hacket who always positions himself as a true composer: creating music by emphasizing holistic approach in songwriting, putting instruments on what is best for the music. He does not force every song must be guitar dominated arrangement. That's why I like almost all Hackett solo albums because he is a true composer not just a musician.

Sean Malone is in the same position as Steve Hackett. He has adopted holistic approach in songwriting by considering what best for the message in the music he is trying to articulate and not necessarily from instruments where he is mastering with. The result is a well rounded composition featuring multi instruments. Of course there are spaces where he demonstrates his great bass playing but it does not hamper the whole music. The opening track "Arsis" (1:59), for example, it's a great place for him to demonstrate his love and mastery in bass guitar. I do enjoy this ambient bass guitar solo and as far as I remember I have never heard any album that opens with bass guitar solo.

In other tracks like "Muttersprache" (6:26) and "A Shaman's Whisper" (6:33) he lets guitar makes the lead to the music while he plays normal bass guitar playing. In fact, in "Muttersprache", I can see a nice combination of prog met riffs accompanying guitar playing in the vein of King Crimson's Fripp. It's really a grandiose track right after overture. Sean has applied different time signatures and many style changes in the music. Sometimes you can hear keyboard playing in the vein of ELP but this time accompanied by King Crimson's drummer Bill Bruford. Oh man .. can you imagine that? Well, I suggest you purchase the album, so that you can proof yourself on what I mean here. If you are not happy, I think you might not be a prog head. This track is really greeeaaaaat.!!!

"A Shaman's Whisper" (6:33) starts with metal riffs followed beautifully with musical break that features percussion. Guitar solo then takes the lead backed by musical riffs containing guitar, bass and drum. It's another guitar-based composition. "Fischer's Gambit" (5:43) brings the music to slower tempo with bass guitar serves as beat keeper accompanying electric piano solo in jazz style. The acoustic guitar solo performed is excellent. On "Grace (Live)" (8:27) the major instruments used are guitar solo in improvisation mode.

On "Some Brighter Thing" (7:34), Sean Malone demonstrates his bass guitar mastery through thick and dynamic bass lines with nice syncopation, combined beautifully by Bruford unique snare sounds. This track reminds me to Bruford's "One of A Kind" album, musically. The guitar solo is quite complex but mixed thinly. "The Brook The Ocean" (4:06) demonstrates again the unique snare sound of Bill Bruford followed by bass guitar solo that reminds me to Yes's "Heart of The Sunrise" at the beginning. What follows is a dynamic solo which reminds me to Jaco Pastorius bass playing style. When Bruford enters his drumming, it reminds me to his "Sahara of Snow". Wow! I do enjoy this track especially on the combined bass guitar work by Malone and drumming by Bruford. It's fabulous!

The concluding track "Singing Deep Mountain" is the longest track (9:00) in this album. It starts mellow and ambient with bass guitar followed excellently with killing Bruford drum beats and great Hackett guitar solo in thin sound. The double guitar solo is really great. There are segments with acoustic guitar that enrich the whole textures of the music. The later part of this song contains vocal work in ambient mode.

Overall, I respect highly this album as an excellent album. I tend to give this album with a five star rating (masterpiece) but I just want to make sure the "hallo effect" is gone later. For the time being I'd rather put this album as an excellent addition to any prog music collection. I might revise this rating later with more spins. Highly recommended, 4 stars plus. Keep on proggin' ..!

Peace on earth and mercy mild - GW (i-Rock! Music Community)

Gatot | 4/5 |


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