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Dean Watson - Unsettled CD (album) cover

UNSETTLED

Dean Watson

 

Jazz Rock/Fusion

3.82 | 52 ratings

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JLocke
Prog Reviewer
4 stars With Unsettled, Dean Watson has managed to create exciting, uncompromising music that is clearly inspired from the great Jazz and Prog acts of old, yet remains firmly grounded in something much more modern.

I admit, when I first received my review copy of this album (generously donated by the artist himself), I was all but unaware of Watson's previous work (collaborations such as Where's The Nine). So I had no idea what to expect. Part of me was expecting just another generic Prog Metal album that claims to be 'Fusion' (this type of stuff seems to litter this sub-genre quite a lot), but I was also hoping that this notion of mine would be wrong. I am happy to say that this is by and large a fresh, original work from a clearly talented artist, and I am eagerly awaiting any future offerings he may have in store.

The album's first track, ''The Encounter'', does begin with a very Prog Metal vibe, and to be honest, that worried me. Not that I have anything against it, but if this was all the album was going to be, I would have been quite disappointed. The piece itself is quite memorable and exciting, however, and once the next track hit my ears, all of my fears went out the window. ''The Push'' is pure Jazz-Rock/Fusion. It's got a killer beat, great rhythms, soulful playing from all the instruments, and is much less bombastic as the previous track. It is already one of my favorite tracks on the Unsettled release.

''Out Of The Mist'' is an absolutely breathtaking musical journey that stole my heart as soon as the opening riff entered my headphones. Beautiful and melancholy, offering a very mystic atmosphere (something an earlier review said this album lacked. Did we even hear the same album?). I just love it. Nothing about the track is overly-eager or hurried; it takes its time getting to where it wishes to be. Around the middle section, heavy, almost tuneless crashes of dread come pummeling onto the scene, creating an instant sense of unrest, but one that absolutely fits the piece perfectly. Soon, the song dies down and returns to its gorgeous main riff. This gears the listener up for some really awesome heavy beats that are just around the corner. After a few bars of that, the lighter, acoustic side of the music starts to slowly mesh with the distorted and the heavy. This envelopes the listener completely, satisfying both sides of this piece to their fullest potential. A steady fadeout ends the ride. If Unsettled has a so-called 'epic' track, I suppose ''Out Of The Mist'' would be it. Just a great song, offering such a variety. Might be my favorite piece out of all of them offered on the album.

''Sequence of Events'' is a jumpy, energetic ride into more heavy territory. I wouldn't say it's one of the best tracks Unsettled has to offer, but I can't deny that the soaring keyboard textures put quite a smile on my face. During the final minute or so of the track's span, things become 100% Jazz, with hot cymbal hits and a wild organ solo. I honestly wish more of the song had featured that than the chugging guitar stuff, but there is enough of it present to make the track worth hearing, even if you're not much of a heavy music fan.

''DIP'' is fantastic. I just love it. The opening is simple, quirky and fun as hell to listen to. I think that it has a little something for everyone. The guitar riffs played in here just make my heart soar with hope. The main riff that carries the song through most of the time is the real star, however. It's really cool and creative. A super guitar solo comes in at around two minutes, but quickly ends to make way for a lovely unison between a more digitized keyboard sound and a traditional piano. Soon, the rest of the instruments switch gears underneath this moment, and the song begins to really charge forward. Things halt, and a light, jazzy piano solo takes over. It slowly brings the mood from upbeat and kind to dark and aggressive, but by this point, I think I was waiting for it. The piece needed to head into completely different territory, and what a great turn it takes, too! Some reverb-laden pick scrapes adding atmosphere that puts me in mind of Tool comes in, then this new, heavy guitar riff chugs ahead, full-force. The guitar patterns at this point make me think of the harder-edges Porcupine Tree stuff, but who's to say where the inspiration actually came from. All I know is that it fits, and is pulled off damn well. An ethereal guitar solo bridges the gap between this and the original riff that has been waiting to carry the track the rest of the way to it's resounding finish.

''The Departure'' instantly put me in mind of something Andreas Vollenweider or Jean-Luc Ponty would do. I'm not entirely sure why, but in any case, it's a good thing. This is a very guitar-centric tune, but various keyboard sounds help texture the space around the star instrument and keep things from getting too boring. And the leads being played here keep moving forward, ensuring a worthwhile listening experience. During the last third of the track, things change gears into more straightforward territory in the guitar department, but it makes way for a cool lead keyboard accompaniment that is all too short. The song ends.

''Gray Matter'' has a very spacey, epic feel to it, but also has a very smooth, jazzy quality. The heavier parts are the guitars' moments to shine, and this pretty much spends me up, guitar-wise on the record. This is the last song in which the super- destructive, hard-hitting guitar solos and rhythms interest me. The next piece will feature them as well, but by that time, it feels like an old hat, at least to me. This particular song also features one of the most beautiful guitar solos on Unsettled, so both elements-- soft and the heavy-- are shining bright and proud on this track. Overall, an above-average work in comparison.

''Orb''. It starts off in a way that doesn't particularly interest me, but does pick up speed after awhile. It probably is my least favorite piece on the record, however. Mainly I think because anytime something truly interesting, experimental, or Jazz-oriented starts to take shape, the Metal side of things jump in and crowd it. It causes the song to sound more disjointed than anything else. I also think by this point, the heavy guitars and dark soundscapes have already been done, and I was waiting for something more to happen. On this particular track, it didn't. Not for me, at least. But hey, the musicianship is top-notch as with all the other works, and there are things to enjoy, here. But the enjoyment I got from it wasn't as consistent as the other tracks. I would say this: the second half of ''Orb'' is much, much better than the first. If you can get through the first part, you'll very much appreciate the rest.

''11th Heaven Blues''. The biggest compliment I can pay this song is that it isn't overly long. As I said, the metal stuff got old for me after a little while. Not that it isn't impressive to hear in the proper environment, but I personally feel like too much focus was put on this side of the music at times and not enough was given to the rest of the elements that make this music great. I like this track just a little more than ''Orb'', but it's nothing distinctive or even all that entertaining for my tastes. And I like Metal-oriented music, just not on Jazz-Rock or Fusion records. There should be a balance, i think.

''Still'' is among my top three tracks on this release. It does everything right, really. Keeps things simple, considering the length of the track (or lack thereof), yet never gets repetitive or boring. Unusual acoustic guitar work accompanied by uplifting Jazz guitar, both elements held in a net of atmospheric ambience. Wonderful little track.

Overall, I was indeed impressed by this album. As I said, I look forward to whatever this man comes up with next, as I'm sure he will continue to hone his skills and improve in any and all areas of his art. Things can only go up from here, and I wish nothing but the best for Dean Watson. Yes, there is some filler, in my opinion. Yes, it does get a little too Metal and grungy at times (especially near the album's end), but this work is far from generic, which is what impressed me the most. The music found within, by and large, is good. Very good. And even though I had some complaints, they were more about personal taste and had nothing to do with the quality of the record itself. Anybody who appreciates good musicianship and songwriting should find something to truly enjoy, here.

So, this was a worthwhile listen, and I do recommend it to the more open-minded listener. I somehow feel like my life has actually been made richer by tunes such as ''Out Of The Mist''. I just wish more songs like those has made the final cut. Perhaps next time a slightly more balanced effort will come from this artist. Until then, however, this album will more than suffice. 3.5 stars.

JLocke | 4/5 |

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