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Thank You Scientist - Terraformer CD (album) cover

TERRAFORMER

Thank You Scientist

 

Crossover Prog

4.33 | 76 ratings

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TCat
Prog Reviewer
5 stars Thank You Scientist is a 7 member Crossover Prog band from New Jersey founded in 2009. They have released an EP and 3 full length albums during their time together. "Terraformer" is the 3rd full length album and was released in June of 2019. The line up consists of Salvatore Marrano on vocals, Tom Monda on guitars, Ben Karas on violin, Joe Gullace on trumpet, Sam Greenfield on sax, Cody McCorry on bass and Joe Fadem on drums. Though the line up has changed through the years, the core duo of Marrano and Monda has been constant, and the members have always been at least 7. Two of the current members were also present on the previous album; both Cody McCorry and Ben Karas. This album has 13 tracks and a long run time of over 82 minutes. Seven of those tracks are over the 7 minute mark.

"Wrinkle" starts things off as an introductory track. Nice chiming guitars and a fast and progressive sax/violin duo, both instruments playing impressively together note for note as in some Zappa works, definitely give an impressive beginning to everything. "FXMLDR" continues with the heavy prog sound, then the vocals start up. Salvatore's vocals are in a higher register that sounds like a cross between Michael Jackson, Scritti Politti's Green Gartside and The Mars Volta's Cedric Bixler- Zavala (maybe even some Claudio Sanchez from Coheed and Cambria thrown in). The music is complex, and on this album, very jazzy sounding, with heavy edges around the music. The sax solo in this one is amazing. "Swarm" continues with a fast paced progressive sound, again complex, this time throwing the melodic trumpet in there to anchor the otherwise complexity of the music. There are sudden bouts of dissonance put in there to keep things interesting. The interplay between the guitar and sax during one of the longer instrumental breaks is awesome and, as much of the music here, technically difficult.

The overall sound is softened a bit more for "Son of a Serpent" with more emphasis on the brass, but also sudden bursts of guitar energy come along at times. The violin gets to shine in some complex passages too. Even with a softer sound, the music continues to be full of tricky meters, constant tempo and timing changes. There is still time for an exciting guitar solo that gets you floating along at first and then suddenly sweeps you away on heaviness before returning to the more brass and violin led sound. Layered vocal chorus is a nice touch towards the end. "Birdwatching" gives you a 3 minute break from the epic tracks. The feeling of this one is smoother, with nice soft vocals and a certain lushness to the synths and supporting instruments. Later, the percussion and effects get a bit crazier.

After a smooth beginning, the song suddenly veers off into Kayo Dot territory with heavy guitars and synths with sax, violin and trumpet swirling around in a improvised fashion, then the violin leads the charge as it takes on a catchy feel and capturing the other instruments into the whirlwind of sound, and then the vocals start up and the band's unique jazzy complexity continues. As is the case with most complex music like this, it is impossible to describe the many changes in the music, but what is great about this album is that the complexities aren't buried into layers of heavy music as was the case with some of The Mars Volta's more complex albums, but it is all out there where you can hear it. This track is followed by another epic track called "Chromology". This one is instrumental, and again driven more by the brass and sound very much like a Steely Dan style track, but Steely Dan on Steroids, with some of the vintage sound of Chicago thrown in, I'm talking about the good earlier Chicago, not the commercial "poor excuse for a band" Chicago. There is even a big band section in there, just before the guitar takes us back to the present. Then there is that screaming violin that kicks in during the last few minutes, Wow! Excellent track! My favorite of the album. You know the track from Rush "La Villa Strangiato"? Think along those lines, except the lead instruments are the brass and violin. Love it!

"Geronimo" takes us back down to Earth, with a more laid-back sound. After the first verse, there is a nice short trumpet solo. The song continues with a more lyric-laden structure, but the overall sound is a bit more accessible and melodic, yet still interesting enough to make you keep listening, because, you never know when a heavy guitar will come in there and take you somewhere else before landing you back on your feet again. "Life of Vermin" continues in the same style as the previous track, but tends towards a tension building atmosphere. Brass and violin are strong again, but the guitar has more of a larger role in this one. There is a reprieve from the building tension towards the middle as things mellow out a bit, then a raucous trumpet solo comes in building it all back up again, followed by violin and then heavy guitar. It all eventually comes to a swirling and climactic end.

There is a short, jazzy track that follows, "Shatner's Lament" which features a muted trumpet backed up by brushed percussion and what sounds like a bass clarinet. It's a nice break from the complexity. "Anchor" is another epic 10 minute track which starts off softly with guitar and violin supporting the vocals. Things get more intense as it continues, but everything stays somewhat controlled. More heaviness and emotion comes in later as it continues to build, playing off of a riff from the guitar and violin. The tempo increases, and the instrumental section gets more complex, then it suddenly breaks into a great guitar/violin solo section as the backing instruments take on a symphonic atmosphere and builds to a excellent climax before breaking down into the vocals again. Things build again rather quickly a few more times generating more emotional passages. Another major highlight track on this album that is full of highlights.

Another short intermediate track follows with "New Moon". It is a softer track with vocals and an atmospheric guitar that sounds almost like a slide guitar and some nice symphonic sounding synths. A lovely little tidbit. This is followed by the title track "Terraformer", the last track on this album. The previous track flows into it and it suddenly gets heavy with complex guitar and violin riffage going on. This track is a bit heavier than the previous tracks, relying more on the interplay between the violin and guitar, but with rapid fire guitar notes and fast, tech style drumming at times, but it is still just as great.

An album of this length might be tough for many listeners, especially with the complexity of the music. But, as is the case with most of the best progressive albums, with repeated listenings and as you grow more familiar with the songs, things get better and it no longer seems like so much of an assault on your senses. Even with the lighter, jazzier sound on this album, it can seem like too much on the first few listens. But time and practice will increase your love and appreciation for this amazing album. No doubt that this is a front runner for one of the best prog albums of the year. The music is complex, yes, the album is also very long, and usually that combination can result in exhausting a listener's head, but this album is put together quite well with the track sequence working for it when you first hear it, and later, as your familiarity with the music grows, it doesn't come across as so much of a sonic assault. This album has a lot of balance for being such a complex monster, but it is a friendly monster and it does a great job of delivering it's complexities by giving you time to catch up, yet not ever getting boring either. Every track on here is great, nothing feels like filler at all, but it definitely shows off the abilities of the musicians involved. The fact that there is a more jazz style involved here, with pretty much all of the instruments getting a fair amount of play time, the music is easier to wrap your head around the complexities and keeps you wanting to come back to the album for more. This is definitely a five star album that needs to get more attention as I consider it one of the best so far this year.

TCat | 5/5 |

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