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Thank You Scientist - Maps of Non-Existent Places CD (album) cover


Thank You Scientist


Crossover Prog

4.01 | 206 ratings

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4 stars American Crossover Prog ensemble Thank You Scientist are one of Prog's Millennial Generation darlings--What can I call it? Prog's 5th Wave?--contemporary to other likewise hailed beloveds such as Haken, The Dear Hunter, Bent Knee, Leprous, and Between the Buried and Me. Considered owing to the success of Coheed and Cambria, though early on showing their own abilities as musicians and composers, Thank You Scientist is still one for the books; a band of immense talent and vision who are still delivering exceptional, modern Progressive Rock and Prog Metal today. Their debut LP, Maps of Non-Existent Places, follows one year after their likewise noteworthy EP The Perils of Time Travel (2011). To age myself in a different way than other reviewers here, Maps came out at a time when I was actually new to the Progressive 'genre' overall, after I had graduated high school, the summer following my senior year (haha, I told you). Thanks to YouTube especially, it was an album from that time that you just couldn't not hear, in a sense. I don't know what it means if you missed this or albums like Haken's Visions or The Mountain, Mastodon's Crack the Skye or The Hunter, Leprous's Tall Poppy Syndrome, Transatlantic's The Whirlwind, Scale The Summit's The Migration, or really any early The Dear Hunter, for instance. These were big albums, to say the very least.

And onto our album, it starts with the remarkably a capella "Prelude", a beautiful display of vocal talent. Hard to say if featured alongside Salvatore Marrano in the vocal ensemble are otherwise credited vocalists Tom Monda (TYS's guitarist), Andrew Digrius (their horns player), or non-member Mark Radice; more is more, right? Leading directly into the Pop/Ska Punk-inspired intro to "A Salesman's Guide to Non-Existence", the Coheed comparisons can easily be made, not that Marrano's voice, specifically, isn't in its own way distinctive. Super strong vocal melodies are here in the chorus; highly memorable, at that. The horn section is obviously not limited to Punk-derivation, drawing from Jazz as well (maybe think Snarky Puppy, though I'm sure there's more convincing comparisons out there). Masters of composition, in my opinion, the bridge, in its relative simplicity brings that much more complexity to the whole. It's almost as if there were two bridges. And it's especially in the latter part of this bridge that their Post-Hardcore influences do come out. A band very of its time. Next is "Feed the Horses". Some of these sonic ideas, however ahead of the curve they may have been (I'm not sure I can quantify that), do now feel a tad dated (similar to listening to early Caligula's Horse for me). There's still certainly strengths here, I can not deny. The saxes of Ellis Jasenovic are certainly one of those strengths, counterpointing with guitar riffs and horn stabs. The section nearing the end, likewise featuring more distinctly Russ Lynch's viols, is one of its most interesting moments. Regardless, not as drawn to this as the better known "A Salesman's Guide".

Immediately of greater interest is "Blood on the Radio", the longest song at over 9 minutes, with a Latin feel and, in that, some great rhythms. There are some vaguely Alt Metal ideas, even as the song morphs and shifts into greater complexity approaching minute 3. Definitely a general showcase of drummer Odin Alvarez here (certainly an interesting name, I'll add). The instrumental section in the middle, including some great Andalusian-like handclaps, is most delectable, finishing out with a trumpet solo from Digrius. And following vocal return, Monda delivers an unsurprisingly sweeping guitar solo. Back into relatively Coheed-esque territory, the guitar has a light twinkle to it on "Absentee", reminiscent somewhat to Math Rock. The acoustic rhythm guitar certainly adds a very different vibe to this track, the mix overall being pretty clean. The song itself doesn't do a whole lot to me, but I'm always brought back around, at times like this, when the musicianship is as exemplary as it is here (the fantastic sax solo in the middle, for instance; later, the breakdown nearing the end).

Finally back to material I certainly recognize, and apparently for good reason, next is "Suspicious Waveforms". It starts off with this really cool instrumental section, balled up in contrapuntal tension, eased up as the ensemble comes together. Really cool rhythms here and then a great violin solo. This is then followed by solos from sax and trumpet, and finally, after what feels like deliberation, Monda brings in his best solo thus far, followed by an insane, modern Fusion bass (I've been meaning to mention bassist Greg Colacino) and a (very brief) drum solo. The flow of the song is certainly satisfying, and it's a killer jam I couldn't help but bop my head and bounce my leg to (or is that the Adderall really soaring through my veins?). This is one of those thangs I want from modern Prog. Next is "Carnival", another with relatively clean instruments, its sharpest elements in the form of strings and horns. The guitar here, riffing seamlessly in between everything, still sounds fantastic. Some of the ensemble attacks throughout are just rapid-fire fast. With much of this, we are back in 3rd-Wave-era (Emo) Post-Hardcore composition. And then we are brought to great surprise, with the change in rhythm (simplified with just guitar, bass and drums) as we get a full violin solo from Lynch. Refreshing to me, really.

In somewhat foreign territory for the album, "Concrete Swan Dive" is next, with clean, direct rhythm section and buzzing horn stabs. The breakdown nearing minute 2 is really something! The lyrics strike me as an interesting inner war, apparently targeted at God, skeptical of salvation, skeptical of divine love, if I can pinpoint it. It's one of the most interesting songs in a bit, compositionally speaking. Suddenly, a wild guitar solo comes in full power, full steam ahead. In for more surprises? Up next, we enter Raga with the intro to "In the Company of Worms", rapidly developing into Heavy Metal, pinch squeals now included. This song is heavy. The tension and vocal melodies feel pretty familiar, but perhaps they're just somewhat similar to our second track here, "A Salesman's Guide". Another head-bopper, for sure. Did Tom Morello just step into the booth? This guitar solo is wild. And then wilder. And wilder? haha. Yet another super powerful number. And finally, we have "My Famed Disappearing Act", another track which has proven difficult to shake. More incredible lead guitar here at the start before more infectious melodies, vocally some of the best on the album. As with numerous other moments throughout, I'll suggest a band who I presume was likewise inspired in part by Thank You Scientist, whom I saw now years ago, and whom I hope are still around: Mid Atlantic Title (their EP Sonic Bloom, 2017, is available online, at least). In the second half, we get soft gang vocals backing Marrano; again, the vocals are just great here, so the more the merrier. Again, guitarist Tom Monda takes up the helm and, as proved time and again, carries the track to that next level within just a few bars. To close, one of the best on the album, easily in the top 3.

Really a solid album overall, let alone being the band's debut full-length. Highly recommended, and well-rated, far as I'm concerned.

True Rate: 4.25/5.00

DangHeck | 4/5 |


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