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Man On Fire - Chrysalis CD (album) cover

CHRYSALIS

Man On Fire

 

Eclectic Prog

3.79 | 74 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Jonda Thorn
5 stars Chrysalis is quite simply the most unique and non-traditional prog release I have heard this year. Try as I may, I really can't find a point of reference that actually applies. Perhaps a bit of 'Security' era Peter Gabriel, but with a dose of Mick Karn-style bass, a hook sensibility worthy of Kevin Gilbert, a horn section (that adds touches that is at times symphonic, at times jazzy, and other times, downright Motown funky), classically-influenced violin, and unstoppable grooves that wouldn't be out of place on a dance floor at times. That's not to say this is dance music, which it most definitely isn't. Just check out the shifting odd time signatures snaking through the 4 part title track suite. There are enough different musical ideas in there to fill an entire album.

The album starts with an onslaught of relentless, almost Nine Inch Nails-style synths that underscore the groove on the opening track 'Repeat It" , the fretless bass of Eric Sands upfront in the mix breaking up the rhythm. Soon the growling voice of Jeff Hodges enters the mix and it becomes very clear very quickly that his vocals have matured significantly. While never a bad singer by any means, Hodges voice throughout the CD are a revelation, full of emotion and fairly bursting with intermittent rage, melancholy, and tenderness as the tunes require. It's a powerful vocal performance that will surprise longtime fans.

Over the course of the next 2 tracks, "In a Sense" and "A (Post-Apocalyptic) Bedtime Story", Man on Fire show that their 6 year break has paid off in rich dividends. That amazing fretless bass is back and will continue to be on for the remainder of the album, supplying elastic, rubber band melodies and grooves that, when matched with the nimble drumming of Quentin Ravenell, combine to make one of the most original and thrilling rhythm section on the current prog scene. "In a Sense" also introduces jenny Hugh on violin with a repeating riff that will remain in your head for days. "Bedtime Story" dials it down a notch with a dark ballad that lyrically paints a portrait of a what I believe to be life in a nuclear winter. These two tracks also feature what may be Man on Fire's most potent new weapon in their musical arsenal - the soulful voice of new co-vocalist Elise Testone, whose sultry voice fits Hodge's raspier tone like a glove and adds yet another layer to the band's distinctly American sound.

The 10+ minute 4-part "Chrysalis" suite follows next and the prog credentials are given a thorough workout as the music turns on a dime and moves through so many different moods and stylistic changes it might make you dizzy. The addition of Cameron Harder Handel, a world-class trumpeter, is felt strongly on these tracks as she steps to the forefront for some intense, jazzy solos that crown musical movements that remind me a little of early Spock's Beard at their best. Of special note is that this this suite also features Vitaly Popeloff from fellow 10T Records band FROM.UZ on lead guitar. His contributions are incendiary!

"The Projectionist" reminds me a bit of 80s era Rush, with its prominent bass, melodic vocals, ringing guitar tones, and a great guitar solo. "Tear Gas" comes on then like a runaway train, establishing the most driving in-your-face beat of the entire CD, along with heavy bursts of distorted guitar (almost metal in nature), along with that trumpet again for 2 separate solo spots. The final extended minute of so at the end of the song has a dissonant ambiance that brings Porcupine Tree to mind, while not sounding at all like any attempt at trying to emulate the PT sound. "Higher than Mountains" follows with the most upbeat sounding track of the release, sounding at times like Yes, but with bigger balls and a stronger sense of groove. This track has some killer drum work that really sets it apart.

Finally, we get to "Gravity" the album's closing 10 minute track and what a finale it is! Simply put, "Gravity" takes all the best ingredients from all that has gone before and applies them to what is the perfect closer, as well as the standout track of the entire CD. Pure musical ecstasy! Modern prog doesn't get better than this, and without ever sounding remotely like any band on the scene, past or present.

Gicen that lead singer/keyboardist/songwriter Jeff Hodges is a professional producer with several high-profile projects under his belt, it's no surprise that "Chrysalis" is a true audiophile recording, with incredible separation and clarity throughout. It is also thoroughly modern in its sound and approach. There is no attempt to emulate the 70s anywhere on the CD, although the music it contains is without question progressive rock.

This is the most original release I have heard all year and I cannot praise it too highly. Based on the year thus far, this release gets my vote for the Best CD of 2011!

Jonda Thorn | 5/5 |

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