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Cerebus Effect - Acts of Deception CD (album) cover

ACTS OF DECEPTION

Cerebus Effect

 

Jazz Rock/Fusion

3.64 | 19 ratings

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avestin
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Eclectic.

(Thanks to Martin (Alucard) for introducing me to this band)

This is one of the albums that took me a while to get into, but when I finally did, I realized how much it was worth the bother. The beautiful thing about it is that once I got to know it well, I saw what a talented band this is. As Erik notes in his review, "varied" is a word that fits this album. The songs have a noticeable jazz-rock basis which is then complemented on several tracks by metal and sometimes the synthesizer is playing in a style that is expected from Canterbury band (hence the term Canterbury Metal).

I don't like to go for the track by track review style, but for this release, in order to convey the eclectic nature of the album, I feel it would help a lot to go briefly over the different tracks.

The first song starts off right away without introduction with the guitars and keyboard playing the main theme that would later reappear. Then come in those Canterbury sounding keyboard that give this band a part of its special quality. The keyboard in this release, change quite frequently between various sounds of instruments. Later the keyboard change to a piano sound and do the same improvisation-like but again and clear the stage for the guitars to wander off form the main theme and take the track to a more heavy edged direction. It is a track that never fails to captivate me, as I hear with each listen a new layer and quality that was previously hidden from me. One time you can concentrate on the bass line (which is quite remarkable) and another time on the guitar itself or the keyboards part. And with each listen you can get a somewhat different musical experience.

The second track wastes no time and goes straight forward to the deal with an aggressive opening (as is the rest of the song) accompanied by a harsh vocal line. Still, though this song is what is referred to as having the metal leaning of the band, it is obvious from the rhythm section where the roots of this track lie (jazz rock that is). The bass part is not quite discernable here, but it does a very good job. In the chorus, you can again hear the Canterburian sounding keyboards playing along with the guitars and this should make it clear why the term Canterbury metal was coined. At first I got a bit repelled by this song, but it grew on me slowly and finally I got to appreciate the intricate musicianship performed on it and the continuously changing time signatures. The vocals, while not beautiful, fit this track perfectly, in my ears. They alternate between a harsh grunting semi-narrative voice to a clearer and deep type of vocals.

The third track is sort of an opener for the fourth track and features a blur of sounds (percussions, keyboards) that prepare you for the horror theme presented in the next track.

The fourth track opens with an organ-sounding keyboard playing fast accompanied by heavy riffs of the guitar and frantic drum playing. It sounds like it depicts a monster horror movie or something of that sort. This is a fierce track and has a great atmosphere which is somewhat dark and frightening.

The fifth starts smoothly to let you relax from the tension of the previous one. Human like voices from the keyboards with the bass swirling along create a sort of ethereal atmosphere. The acoustic guitar joins in to speed things up a bit but still remaining in a calm mode relative to the other tracks.

The sixth track continues directly form where its predecessor left and gives way to the electric guitar and the drums to pave the way and the narrative vocals join in. This grows into an epic that puts forth all the bands best qualities and shows their excellent musicianship and their various musical styles. If I were to choose a track from this album to demonstrate to someone their sound, I would choose this one. It contains both their more aggressive side and their mellow sounding side. The keyboards here go through several sounds and enrich the textures created. The vocals alternate between the harsh narrative form and the lighter chanting-like type. The guitar goes from acoustic to electric sound and back. All in all, this encompasses almost their entire repertoire of sounds.

On to the seventh track, we get the once again the horror sounding keyboards, with yet more aggressive rhythm but the keyboards change frequently to the electric piano sound which is in my mind and in the form that they play it more associated with jazz- rock and Canterbury genres and not the with the sort of "metalish" intensity that is portrayed in this track. And this mixture is what I like about them so much. They are not afraid to mingle sounds and alternate between rhythms and they do it while maintaining the integrity of each track and without losing focus. For instance, in the middle of this track, it losses its fierceness to a more laid back jazz rhythm, only to get back to the intensity of the beginning a short while later, without it sounding weird and keeping a thread to attach the whole pack together. Towards the end you get a real treat when the keyboards with an electric piano sound do an improvisation while the guitar fiercely plays heavy riffs to support it.

The next two tracks are somewhat linked together for me. They constitute the "side population" of the album (sorry about this scientific term), meaning they differ a bit in sound and deviate form the general sound. The fifth track can be counted in this group as well. This is mainly manifested by the abstract structure of these tracks. But this again shows how varied this album is (as is the band itself). Experimentalism is one of the guiding rules in their compositions.

The 8th track starts abstractly with the guitar and keyboards improvising independently from each other. And yet this does not sound too weird and fits the rest of the album and makes for a weird brake between the tracks.

The 9th track also starts as detached as its predecessor, but the percussions are the dominant instrument here, and it goes on with them performing a sort of solo until the end of it.

These two tracks create a weird atmosphere that reminds me more of the type of mood that you get while listening to Univers Zero early albums, just not as dark, but as weird.

Track 10th marks the beginning of the "return to normal" with the acoustic guitar and keyboard opening with a soft tune which is then enhanced a bit with subtle guitar riffs and light percussions which then "grow" a bit to a bigger rhythm escort. This is not in line with the general sound which is why I see it as being in the middle between the "main group" and the "side population" tracks.

The last track is the "return to the norm" as heard on the 2nd, 4th and 6th tracks. It too portrays the typical Cerebus sound. This track as opposed to others gives the bass the opportunity to be heard more clearly and be appreciated for its important role in the band's sound.

All in all, this band was a very pleasant surprise for me. I am taken by this band's ability to combine what seems to be contradicting styles of music and fusing them together to create a fresh sound that has me captivated. This album is mostly coherent and keeps the interest of the listener through out its length.

A downside is the fact that the bass is not clearly heard on all tracks and this is a pity as it is a crucial instrument here and adds much to the sound of each track. Despite this, I enjoy this album immensely and I don't hesitate to recommend this to anyone who likes the mingling of several genres, to people who like jazz-rock, metal, and the more adventurous type of bands.

I believe this album will give pleasure to all its listeners and therefore (and for all the reasons mentioned above) deserves a 4 star rating.

avestin | 4/5 |

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