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Thank You Scientist - Stranger Heads Prevail CD (album) cover


Thank You Scientist

Crossover Prog

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4 stars It was in the air. I had quite for some time found myself listening - without real satisfaction - to lots of different band and artists, some well enstablished and others quite unknown; I was in search of something new to listen, a kind of thing that happens when you are a good music fan.

Then I stumbled upon this new prog band (they have been around since 2011 but somewhat "legitimated" by a record label only in 2014), a septet mixing lots of genres in one original formula. Guitar, drums and bass are so happily joined by violin, sax and trump, not to mention additional musicianship. I found their first album not only stunning (Maps of non-existent places, 2012) in their daring blend of heavy progressive with jazz fusion, avant-garde and eastern influences, but also extremely exciting in their reminiscences of artists I love and are so very far one from the other ( The Mars Volta, '70s Chicago, Dave Matthews Band, Frogg Café, HoobUstank, Dreamtheater and many others). The band showcases in almost every track the incredible skills of the musicians at playing each their own instrument, though never forgetting how to build complex melodies and achieving a harmonic result not always granted when seven people are playing music of this kind.

Technically gifted, all the band members produce a very rich, multi-layered music, of the kind that every listen reveals something new, and, personally speaking, that's what I seek in the music I buy.

This second album, Stranger Heads Prevail, has the difficult task of keeping the bar high, and it seems to succeed. Partially. At a first listen, the starting tracks - prologue apart - perhaps suffer from excess of grandeur, and I can understand why for some this band's music sounds like 'too much'.

Then "Mr Invisible" kicks in and sets a more focused pace to the central part of the album, with the fusion funky verse taking us thru soaring bridges and a jazz metal interlude to land safely on an immediate chorus. Fun keeps growing with the subsequent tracks: "Automatic blue" is groovy and powerful while the evocative guitar chords that introduce "Need more input" and the following instrumental avant track are the highlight of this album, somewhat excusing the noisy "Psychopomp" (where the band falls again in the 'too much' argument) and the okay songs that close the disc. To sum up, great musicianship aimed to compose great music. Probably a bit revved at times, but very felt and effective for the most part, at least for those who seek complex time signatures and daring play without sacrificing fun or melody.

Report this review (#1640035)
Posted Sunday, November 6, 2016 | Review Permalink
4 stars This is my first review on this site. I've been reading reviews and getting a lot of good guidance for years, so finally joined! And this couldn't be a better first album for me to review. I actually just ran across TYS from a FB post from The Prog Report listing their top 15 albums of 2016, and this was one of the bands I hadn't heard of. Wow, pretty much from the first few songs I was hooked. Also watched a 35min. or so studio broadcast thing they did that showed how tight and ridiculously talented this band is. They incorporate so many different styles, ideas, and influences-almost too many to list. But if I were to classify them I would call them: Modern Progressive Ska Jazz Fusion Melodic Metal. And that covers about half of it. There's so many elements of Prog that seem to work here like ridiculous musicianship, time signature changes out the wazoo,and intricate instrumental passages mixed with melodic vocals. There are definitely nods to Zappa, Chicago, Steely Dan, Queen, Gentle Giant-and so many Prog giants of the 70s, but thet definitely put a modern edge and twist to it, much like Umphrey's Mcgee. I have listened to this album and their first 3 or 4 times each just in the last few days since I discovered them, so I'll have a lot more to say later, when it all sinks in. But I am so blown away from the originality, uniqueness ,musicianship, songwriting, and most of all take all of their influences, throw em in a pot, and come up with a totally original stew. My favs on this album are: the somnambulist, caverns, Mr. Invisible, and Rube Goldberg Variations but there is not a weak track in my opinion. and as far as the vocals are concerned; I'm getting more comfortable with them with repeated listets. It is not a matter of vocal quality- Sal's got a great voice that is very expressive and intense and fits the music perfectly. The range and timbre just take a little getting used. Love this band so much already. Reminds me when I first discovered Umphrey's.
Report this review (#1665099)
Posted Wednesday, December 7, 2016 | Review Permalink
5 stars Wow... I have to say that this sounds as though we are having a prog history lesson. All of prog artists and subgenres get a nod here some how, from Yes, Gentle Giant, Frank Zappa to the Mars Volta. And still, this band manages to sound original, which makes it even more incredible. I really enjoy the way Sal's voice blends in with the rest of the melodic chaos that this music is. While it's true that there's always been prog bands around, I don't think that prog hasn't had a resurgence like this in quite a while and I really like living in these times when all of these bands are coming out with new ideas. Some of them fall short on originality, but I can asure you, this band excels in originality all the while sounding as if they're paying tribute to the giants. I extremely recommend this to anyone eager for getting into new music.
Report this review (#1699107)
Posted Monday, March 6, 2017 | Review Permalink
5 stars I first encountered Thank You Scientist when they were opening for Haken in Glendale, CA. I'd never heard of them, despite their growing acclaim. Their set is one of the best shows I've seen and going into it blind was an incredible experience. This review isn't about their set though, it's about the album, so I'll move along to that.

The standout quality to Stranger Heads Prevail, and all of TYS's music is something I find severely lacking from the modern progressive scene. Their music is fun, especially so on this album. We've seemed to have become so hostile to the idea of accidentally making a catchy tune, that musicians will try to avoid it at all costs. Steven Wilson even jokes about this when discussing the track "Sound of Muzak".

On Stranger Heads Prevail, TYS maintains a complex and dynamic sound that utilizes every bit of their seven piece band, but doesn't bog itself down trying to be overly meaningful or deep. In a seven piece it's easy for instruments to begin getting lost in the mix, not so in this case. Each instrument has its time in the forefront leading the melody and then phases back into harmonies in a way that flows wonderfully through each track. I must admit a certain bias as trumpet player myself, the inclusion of lots of clean and technical trumpet definitely makes it easy for me to love this music, but lets be fair, the music is just generally easy to love.

While it doesn't have the unbelievably complexity of much of modern progressive rock, I still think that Stranger Heads is one of the highlights of 2016 in progressive rock. A move back to music for the masses without sacrificing their progressive core.

Report this review (#1704489)
Posted Thursday, March 23, 2017 | Review Permalink
kev rowland
Honorary Reviewer
5 stars It took until 2016 for the next album, during which time they got a new bassist and violinist, but even though some personnel had changed they stayed true to what they had been producing on their previous works. They even started this one with an a capella introduction as they had with the last. Again we are being treated to a band that want to mix so many different styles and musical influences that it is superfluous to even mention them, but when Coheed and Cambria lay down next to Frank Zappa who is cosying up to Mars Volta, then one knows that one is in the presence of something quite special indeed. It is fresh, it is exciting, it is invigorating, and most of all it is just great fun to listen to!

This is not a prog band that wants to copy either Genesis, King Crimson, VDGG or Yes, but instead what to get out there and make a name for themselves performing the music they want, and no matter what everyone else may think of it. Interestingly, the vast majority of progheads who have come across their music think that they are amazing, so how come they aren't more well-known? Certainly they had missed me by totally, of which the only advantage I can think of is that now I know about them I have a few hours' worth of music to discover instead of just one album. That they can mix this complexity and intricacy in a way that makes it so easy to listen to is an art in itself, and something that very few bands ever manage. Full of light and shade, dynamics aplenty, this is an incredibly exciting album and one that I could listen to all day. Each time I play it I make more discoveries, with each musician being an integral part to the musical whole. If, like me, this amazing band had passed you by, then now is the time to discover some of the most interesting music you will find in the current prog scene.

Report this review (#1737731)
Posted Monday, June 26, 2017 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars Review originally published in

What an amazing band!

While the years of this decade have passed, Thank You Scientist has developed a wonderful, unique sound that shows a truly interesting crossover of prog rock, metal and jazz that now has landed in their second studio album entitled Stranger Heads Prevail, which shows a step forward from their previous releases. This album was one of my 2016 favorites, it hit me since the first listen, I still remember I was blown away saying things like "holy sh*t" or "wow, this is so good", expression I still use while listening to it by the way.

Eleven tracks are here, making a total time of 67 minutes of solid music that will make you have a great time. It opens with ""Prologue: A Faint Applause", a two-minute song that works of course as the introduction to what the album will be about. The vocals are acute and sweet, while the music has a circus-like feeling. It leads to "The Somnambulist" which shows much more energy since the very first seconds, that blend of genres I previously mentioned can be appreciated here, I love that metal spirit made by guitars, bass and drums, wonderfully complemented by a brass section and a subtle violin that appears here and there. Of course, Marrano's voice plays a main role during the whole album, being a crucial element of Thank You Scientist's sound.

Maybe, just to point out as reference, the sound might remind you of Coheed and Cambria and A.C.T., the main difference is that magnificent use of sax, trumpet and violin that we can appreciate and love in "Caverns". This great track could fit in the heavy prog label, with that inherent jazzy sound. In the final part there is a killer guitar solo. "Mr. Invisible" was the first track I listened from the album, and I must say it still is my favorite. What a song, my gosh! The jazz feeling is simply delicious, I love how in spite the challenging composition, the music could be catchy and easy to dig. I love its changes, the soft parts and then when it becomes heavier; I love the instrumental passages and the ones with vocals, I love how the musicians understand each other perfectly and share their talent with us.

"A Wolf in Cheap Clothing" starts slow, after the previous vertiginous track, this seems to share a moment of tranquility, just before its explosion that arrives a few seconds before minute two, so then Thank You Scientist once again offers a wonderful blend of jazz-prog-metal that no ears should let escape. "Blue Automatic" offers endless figures made by guitars, bass and violin, the guys are amazing musicians with so much technique. With some other bands/albums I sometimes have an issue with the Djent-ly sound and with those samples of virtuosity that lack of emotion, with Thank You Scientist that feeling has never appeared in my mind, on the other hand, these guys make me feel much interest in keeping my ears listening to every single minute.

"Need More Input" is a killer! Man, the contrast of their passages, how first it is laid-back and then explosive and exciting, later soft and expectant, and later more powerful and with infinite notes played that create so many textures and nuances. There is a great instrumental passage with a mid-eastern feeling and then one with a balkan-feeling, amazing. This is another favorite of mine, without a doubt. There are no weak tracks in this album, fortunately, so you will be positively surprised with all the songs That surprise came to me with "Rube Goldberg Variations" due to its delicate sound that create exquisite jazzy nuances when trumpet, sax and violin take the leadership. They even dared to create a Latin-jazz passage, so we can reaffirm how talented they are. This is the only instrumental track off the album, by the way.

"Psychopomp" has also that mid-eastern sound combined with a gypsy feeling. The song develops different structures and as usual, countless colors, textures and changes. The song's length is over nine minutes, but they pass so fast with a blink of an eye, which means it has naturally grew on me. "The Amateur Arsonist's Handbook" is the last lengthy track of the record, and in the end it sums up what their sound is about. "Epilogue: And the Clever Depart" brings the last minute of the album, a soft goodbye track.

Listening to this album is a great experience, but now I am truly excited because I will see Thank You Scientist on stage next Progtoberfest at Chicago, and am sure it will be an unforgettable experience. Please, do yourself a favor and listen to them.

Enjoy it!

Report this review (#1790550)
Posted Wednesday, October 4, 2017 | Review Permalink
Prog Metal Team
4 stars After the bombastic, high octane, bombastic debut of Thank You Scientist filled with all sorts of influences and concepts, their followup is a high octane, bombastic sophomore album with all sorts of influences, but the sound considerably maturing. While the foundation of the band is still clear to see, with the pop and ska elements being fused with jazz, metal, and the insanity of The Mars Volta all still being there, but with more room to breath within tracks, along with certain compositional problems no longer being present, namely the lack of any track that goes too far off course and ends up losing its way. The album overall has a much more refined sound most noticeable in the improvement of aspects of each song to latch onto allowing each song to be immediately distinctive, causing the album to be much easier to get into when compared to their often dense (yet still great) .

Even from the opening notes of The Somnambulist, you can tell that the album will generally have a more restrained feel to it, as despite the chaos that takes place within the first 15 seconds, everything still feels very subdued. Overall, while nothing particularly amazing for the band, the rest of the song is an enjoyable, jazzy rock piece that is quite a suitable opener. This slight lukewarmness is immediately destroyed by my personal favourite song by the band, Caverns, jumps between riffs excellently in the intro before transitioning into a section almost devoid of brass, instead having a wonderfully interweaving melody involving the guitars. The lyrics are also excellent, with the powerful chorus conveying them well, and the change of tone into something sounding completely hopeless and distraught sweeps through. I also really love the heavier, slower riff at the end and how much it sounds like part of Haken's Visions, which I just find to be a fun touch. Mr Invisible then comes in after such an intense song with its amazingly funky bassline and just like Feed The Horses, strong Michael Jackson vibes, making for a really great, enjoyable song.

The next 3 songs all fall into what I'd consider TYS's general sound, quick time changes with overtones of pop, jazz and metal, each with moments of incredible amounts of energy, yet each of them also balance it nicely with quieter moments in order not to create a neverending onslaught of noise. Out of these, Need More Input stands out as being my least favourite song the band has put out, with barely a moment of interest to be found on it. The final three songs manage to be much more interesting, with Rube Goldberg Variations being an infinitely more entertaining instrumental than Suspicious Waveforms, with this one flipping through styles at a rapid pace, while also being by far the most crafted song the band has written so far, constantly progressing while still holding onto the key elements of what makes it great. Similarly, Psychopomp manages to maintain perfect focus throughout its 9 and a half minute runtime, having a really nice Middle Eastern sound to it, while also containing riff after riff, with the one in the chorus being absolutely perfect, despite the simplicity of it. The album closes off quite well with The Amateur Arsonist's Handbook, which is much faster paced and rock oriented than anything else on the album, and also contains a jaw dropping violin solo.

Overall, despite the fact that this is by far a more mature album by the band than the debut, I'd put them at about equal with each other, since I feel like this one hits a couple of spots that feel slightly off, along with the entirety of Need More Input, leading to me having very similar opinions about both, amazing albums, but not the band's full potential. I look forward to seeing what's to come for Thank You Scientist, as I feel like they have the potential to create a straight up masterpiece. And as one last small note, don't end your album with a cheesy acapella piece when the full fledged track before it closed it off perfectly, that's just bound to leave people with a bad taste in their mouths.

Best songs: Caverns, Rube Goldberg Variations, Psychopomp

Weakest songs: Need More Input, Epillogue: And the Clever Depart

Verdict: The easier of the albums by the band to get into, with a much less dense overall sound and many moments of wild experimentation that are far less caffeinated than you;d find on their debut, suggested to those who enjoy the Mars Volta or complex, jazzy music in general, although this album is far from inaccessible to more casual listeners anyway, at least in parts.

Report this review (#2137767)
Posted Tuesday, February 19, 2019 | Review Permalink
5 stars Ok, here it goes, my official first review on the site after almost 10 years of milking from this community's knowledge. And the chosen album is Stranger Heads Prevail, the latest effort of the weird ensemble of Thank You Scientist, an album that shows advocates of classic prog that the current scene is well nurtured and thriving.

I will begin with a personal anecdote: I was studying abroad by the time of this release (Sep-Oct 2016) and that was the first time I travelled outside my home country and this album reflects somewhat my experience abroad: I was eager to meet new people, speak other languages, be part of another culture; and while I was living that life, I came across this band, who, as I back then, took risks, had a good time and turned this album into something not seen very often.

To put it simply, this album's feel is refreshing, at times quirky, then jazzy, then melancholic and sometimes even aggressive; this is because of the band's unique blend of a funky bass, a cool brass section, a dramatic violin, some harsh and metallic guitars, prolific drums and of course, the awesome and energetic voice of Salvatore. If someone asked what genre this belongs to, one would probably argue that it is jazz rock with a spoonful of pop and a hint of metalcore. You have such variety, from the A Capella/Vaudeville pieces of Prologue and Epilogue, to the metallic Sonambulist to a groovy Rube Goldberg Variations. The best trait of this record is the flawless interaction between brass, guitars and vocals, often yielding powerful but melodic and intricate lines backed up by a rock solid rhythmic section.

This is not perfect by any means though, it can sometimes feel a bit repetitive and drag a little too long, and I would have liked more brass and a little less guitar but these aren't deal-breakers and I can live with them.

So, to conclude, this a refreshing and modern album with enough variety to appeal to any prog or jazz fan, so listen to this, specially if you like stuff such as Snarky Puppy, Coheed and Cambria, Anathema, or any prog in general really.

Best tracks: The Sonambulist, Rube Goldberg Variations, Mister Invisible, Automatic Blue

Final Veredict: Obviusly, 5 stars for an awesome record

Report this review (#2167602)
Posted Thursday, March 21, 2019 | Review Permalink
5 stars Thank You Scientist have pushed progressive metal into previously uncharted territory. By forgoing the standard keyboardist accessory piece and swapping in a violinist and several wind instrumentalists, Thank You Scientist bring ska-punk, jazz fusion, and jam band sensibilities to a genre that has been historically resistant to those elements. While the band's first record 'Maps of Non-existent Places' could be considered something of a classic, 'Stranger Heads' brings more varied and experimental song writing to the fore thus resulting in one of the most colorful listening experiences you will ever encounter. Thanks to the success of their most recent 2019 release 'Terraformer', Thank You Scientist is poised to become one of the powerhouse prog acts of the next decade.
Report this review (#2353801)
Posted Thursday, April 23, 2020 | Review Permalink

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