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Cheeto's Magazine - Amazingous CD (album) cover


Cheeto's Magazine

Crossover Prog

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Eclectic Team
5 stars Cheeto's Magazine is a crossover prog band from Barcelona, Spain. The band typically puts on a colorful front in their shows with a bit of humor and cartoon-ish vibes. Originally, the band was a duo putting on shows with Esteban Navarro doing hijinx and vocals, keyboards and Manel Orella on guitar. To build a proper band, they later added Matia Lizana on keyboards, Alex Marques on bass and Gerard Sala on drums. But except for an EP, they never released a full album until 2014, and one other in 2017.

Early in 2019, they released their 3rd full studio album called "Amazingous". It was released on vinyl as 2 LP's, one red and one blue; on CD; and also through streaming or download on Bandcamp. Crossover Prog covers a wide variety of styles which this music does, but overall the style sounds to me like a combination of symphonic prog and eclectic prog. It sounds like if "Styx" and "Queen" got together and had a baby, this is the kind of music they would play at the birthday party.

Starting off with "Chili Guillermo", we instantly get the bright tones of keyboards and guitars and a latin rock vibe. The music is definitely progressive and quite cheerful. You get swept up instantly in the sound, making one think they are in Willy Wonka's Progressive Rock Factory. The music is as colorful as the album cover. When the vocals come in, they are a humorous operatic style, a bit over the top, but this changes to more normal vocals as it goes, and the vocals are very good, matching the mood of the rousing and exciting music. It is both fun and seriously progressive in a perfect mix.

"Cheese Cheater" continues that bright and cheery progressive vibe with keyboards establishing a happy melody. Vocals switch back and forth like a conversation with the normal and goofy vocals. This music just makes you feel good as it is very upbeat. The moods and styles change, as you would expect of this type of music, but the themes recur often so it is very cohesive. Don't worry, you also get a rocking guitar solo in here too, it's all there.

"Outflow" begins with a huge variety of synth and keyboard music changing from one sound to another quickly, including piano that anchors it all. After a happy "Styx"-like beginning, an acoustic guitar comes in retaining the beat through strumming. Again, both styles of vocals occur. Humorous vocals come in later with a latin mariachi style sound as brass instruments come in for a short time. The rhythm is definitely complex as it goes on, but you still feel like dancing to it anyway because it just makes you happy. Things finally mellow towards the middle of the track with a slower vocal passage, almost becoming a ballad of sorts. A lovely piano passage comes in and soon the band builds off of this letting the synths speed up the piano theme until things return to as before. It all ends with an excellent climax of synths.

The first three tracks hang around the 7 minute mark while the next three are around 5 minutes more or less. "Ready to Rumble" is one of those glam rock songs that wants to be a stadium rocker. It succeeds. I could see a lot of people jumping up and down and pumping fists to this one. It still retains enough progressiveness to keep it interesting, but is more interested in getting the crowd involved. It's still a lot of fun and another flat out rocking guitar solo will keep you going. "Close Your Eyes" starts as a lovely ballad, but interesting enough to not be called standard, it later moves to a fast beat with the latin flair showing up in the instrumentation. Later it moves to a stately tone as it moves back to a more serious sound, wrapping itself up in the same feel as it started, but in a more climactic way. The track is more commercial, but it is still pretty good. "Scum" is mostly instrumental, and it has a darker vibe to it as it begins, but the synths can't help but make it all sunny sounding as they come in. The guitar kicks in more heavily along with an organ later. After awhile, you are left with vocal field recordings and a sneaky bass line. Suddenly things get very heavy with a throbbing guitar riff, but again synths come in to save the day. "A.W.K.W.A.R.D." is a tricky little track at about 4 minutes. It sounds like power pop, but a bit more complex. Again, there is that Styx attitude, but Styx at its best. Remember how much you liked "The Grand Illusion"? Well, if Styx had stayed with that style, this is how they would have sounded. Except the lyrics are goofy.

For many bands, this would have been enough as you already have a 5 star album. But, Cheeto's Magazine had to go one big step further. "Big Boy" is the last track, and it has a run time of over 25 minutes. It starts with a lot of keyboard flourishes and guitar heaviness. It suddenly gets cut off, has a few glitches and then builds up quickly again to a stately section before returning to the beginning section and then vocals come in. At 5 minutes, things go minimal with a tinkling piano and a soft synth, then a new theme comes in with the vocals. "Starcastle" style guitar and synth come in and things brighten up again. Vocal riffs make this section infectious, and positive lyrics and instrumentals also make it somewhat uplifting. At ten minutes, the track takes a dark left turn and that is reflected in both lyrics and music. At thirteen minutes, there is an excellent progressive instrumental section which hangs on the heavy side a bit and meters and moods fight against each other. This is amazing-ous! Suddenly, it all stops except for a beautiful piano and vocal section. At the end of this section, there is a spoken vocal recording as things start to build again a step at a time and sung vocals become more and more intense along with the music. Then there are some really cool vocal and instrumental effects as it builds with a solid guitar riff and keyboard solo. Complexity returns with a new theme in both vocals and instrumental sections.

I am completely blown away with this album. It looked interesting from the start with the tracklist and the album cover alone, but it is everything I expected plus much more. I stand by my claim that this is how Styx should have sounded if they continued being more progressive after "The Grand Illusion". But then add in more quirkiness, both funny and serious vocals, a degree of playfulness and lots of complex music and you've got it.

Folks, what we have here is another contender for best album, and so far, it is definitely the best for February 2019. Very highly recommended, and the last epic track is worth it alone, but most of the rest of the album is just as good. This is a must hear album!

Report this review (#2137072)
Posted Sunday, February 17, 2019 | Review Permalink
4 stars This band is really starting to grow on me. Although I first heard about this band as a sort of satirical band, perhaps even a sort of prog-as-farce element, I have given their previous releases a few listens and while I didn't feel the time wasted, I wasn't impressed too much either.

Also, although they are listed as "Crossover" prog--the 25-minute epic [i]Big Boy[/i] speaks against the idea of this band being mainly a gimmick band. This song is just good, listenable prog, approachable without feeling too much like prog-lite or even too much like simply retracing the highlights of the 70s and 90s.

[i]Ready to Rumble[/i], on the other hand is mostly good "straight-up" rock-n-roll, with a synth providing the key anthemic riffs.

Overall, if I had to no narrow it down, they are most like a combination of PFM or 10-cc at their most absurd with Morse-era Spock's Beard providing most of the structure motifs. Perhaps I would throw a little Saga in there as well. But for the variety of styles and mixes they sound most like Spock's Beard.

The lowlight of the album, to me is [i]Cheese Cheater[/i], although it does get more interesting toward the end.

Report this review (#2149327)
Posted Sunday, February 24, 2019 | Review Permalink
5 stars Very nice, 'fresh' and positive album. It made me smile - 'come on Barbie , let's go party!' )) in Prog !! It's straight forward that's why some compared it to Neal Morse, yes it has this Major chord structure sometimes, but to me it's more like A.C.T at their best! 'It's so fantastic, to be plastic!' )) it has plenty of lush synth sequences- solos and of course riff guitars- but, again this act and Threshold style. With every track you are treated with delicious Prog - and when listening to the first time - you really want to hear what will come next?!! The sound is modern and well balanced. Maybe I'm not 100% like the cover, but after all it's striky - no mid tones very straight, but works nice with music. Think it rocks 4,8!
Report this review (#2165444)
Posted Wednesday, March 13, 2019 | Review Permalink
Prog Metal Team
4 stars Modern prog in the vein of metal has always been somewhat of an issue to me, with so many bands either sounding like Dream Theater or Animals As Leaders/Periphery clones, either uneccesarily dramatic, or simply very similar to all the other dark, gloomy, highly technical bands out there, doing little to separate themselves from the crowd. To this, there are of course exceptions however, enter Cheetos Magazine, a band that if nothing else, is wonderfully refreshing, but oh boy is it something else. While remaining firmly in prog territory, with longer songs with many shifts and solos throughout, I haven't heard such upbeat, fun music in absolutely ages. The best way I can think of to describe this band's aesthetic is that of some sort of twisted children's entertainment, further accentuated by the brightly coloured album art and goofy vocals. There's a very defined 80s feel that everything has, with over the top synths and a very cheery, almost glam rock vibe in places.

Chili Guillermo is an amazingly energetic piece with sweeping keyboard and synth lines that simply explode right from the get go, the song barely letting up as quirky vocal lines are belted out, backed up by a bouncy melody from the backing vocals. Of all the songs on the album, this one is definitely the one that I've had the strongest urge to just start singing whenever I listen to it, especially with the short, yet absolutely wonderful chorus, such a short melodic line beng so perfectly catchy. This song never fails to put a smile on my face, as it's just the perfect blend of melody, power, and an incredibly happy tone. Cheese Cheater is a slightly less bombastic song, but instead has a more quirky edge to edge, most clearly seen during the short break into a reggae style beat before kicking it back into high gear. The song becomes even better in the second half once the tone and melody completely shifts into more metallic, proggy territory, while still maintaining its sense of fun. I also must commend the vocalist of the band for being able to pull off so many different sounding voices, as I genuinely thought for the first few listens that the band had multiple vocalists. Outflow honestly took me quite a few listens to get into, since the song in general was quite a bit less insane than the previous two. That said, even upon first listening, I still found the little "Trompeto" skit to be extremely charming, and still find it to be so. Once the song quietens down even further, falling completely into ballad territory, the song reminds me firmly of something that would be a long lost Disney song, which works exceptionally here, despite the fact that by all accounts, I wouldn't expect it to.

The songs after this point become somewhat less progressive for a bit, while still maintaining enough complexity to remain highly interesting. Ready To Rumble is just an incredibly fun glam rock-esque track, and another one that's a ton of fun to sing along to, especially repeatedly screaming out "shut up!". It has some twists and turns, but it's really this opening part that strikes true for me, simply for being so wonderfully fun and catchy. Close Your Eyes starts out very softly and pleasantly before slightly picking up, evoking a very strong image of a beautiful sunny day, especially with the bouncy bass and trumpets. The song never hits the same heights as anything else on the album, but instead relies on a larger aspect of beauty, especially with the layers upon layers of vocals. Scum is an instrumental focused track, and the closest thing to a darker sounding track on this album, with some very sparse moments led by a quiet, mysterious sounding bass, playing a tune reminiscient of old detective movies, before breaking out into some pure prog metal territory with a surprisingly heavy, djenty riff, which is then nicely contrasted with some bright sounding keyboards. A.W.K.W.A.R.D is another contender for my favourite song on this album, being by far the most complex song here, shifitng between so many different sections in an almost manic fashion, each part being more amazing than the last, until it all climaxes in a part equal parts awesome and goofy. I personally recommend that you watch the official music video for this song as well, as it's a drug trip and a half, and I personally find that it elevates the song to even greater heights by sheer fact of how insane it is. Speaking of insane, even after all this varied, well composed music, Cheetos Magazine then decides to further one up itself by ending the album with a 25 minute song, one which I'm very glad to say, is absolutely great. While I won't go too far into detail, due to the incredible length and scope of it, this is where the band goes into full prog mode, with a range of influences ranging from symphonic, to techno, to a lot in between, one of my favourite moments being where the music briefly cuts out in the intro before quickly fading back in and becoming so much more intense. Unlike a lot of other songs that approach this length, there isn't any time within the song that feels wasted, with regular changes that stick within the identity of the song, yet define themselves enough to add some amazing variety to it, changing at breakneck pace to uphold the diversity present here, making 25 minutes feel like mere moments.

This album was a big surprise to me, I went in expecting an amusing novelty band, but ended up finding an absolute gem. Few albums manage to evoke such a strong, childlike joy within me, one that causes me to want to just break out into song and madly pump my fists up in the air, it's honestly amazing. This is so far my choice for album of the year, and this is taking albums like the new Devin Townsend release into consideration, but even so, none match how refreshing I find this album in what tends to be a stagnant sea of modern prog metal.

Best songs: Chili Guillermo, A.W.K.W.A.R.D, Big Boy

Weakest songs: none

Verdict: This is one of the most enjoyable albums I've heard in quite a while, and I strongly recommend it to anyone looking for something bright and cheery, if you're fine with some synths that can be kinda cheesy at points. I didn't expect to like this album as much as I did.

Report this review (#2202343)
Posted Monday, May 13, 2019 | Review Permalink
4 stars A new category, Tongue-In-Cheek-Prog?

Inspired by pretty contrasting words on this website I decided to search for this album on the Internet, and soon found the entire CD, then I was ready for a listening session. My first impression is that this music sounds overwhelming: it has a very adventurous approach, it is very varied, it is performed by outstanding musicians, and last but not least, the music and the lyrics contain a rare element in prog, HUMOR!

From the first track Chili Guillermo to the final, epic composition Big Boy you will be flooded by cascades of shiftings moods, surprising breaks, excellent soli, and musical ideas. The 8 songs contain a lot of music that alternates between Heavy Prog, Prog Metal and AOR, featuring bombastic keyboards and lots of heavy guitar, from metallic riffs to biting wah wah. The one moment it sounds like Styx (Minimoog flights) or Kansas (Hammond runs), the other moment like a kind of Spock's Beard on steroids, very dynamic and exciting. But this Spanish band is not satisfied by making Old School Heavy Prog or Eighties AOR. Because lots of tracks contain surprising elements that can be considered as tongue-in-cheek musica ideas. Like the swinging rhythm with a Latin-American touch and Kiss-like lyrics (Get Up And Dancing All Night Long) in Outflow. The funny atmosphere in Cheese Cheater reminds me of Frank Zappa. And in Close Your Eyes the music is between AOR, salsa and symphonic rock, featuring Boy Georg-like vocals that emphasizes the tongue-in-cheek attitude. Also parodical sounds the short track A.W.K.W.A.R.D. with a funky bass, bombastic outbursts and poppy vocals, somewhere between Madonna and Michael Jackson, a fascinating contrast with the sumptuous prog outbursts!

The magnum opus on this CD is the final composition Big Boy. It starts with a funny voice in Spanish (the only moment I was aware of listening to a Spanish band), then multiple changes of climates, very impressive but also very quirky: from a catchy beat and bombastic outbursts to dreamy parts, embellished with sparkling piano, classical orchestrations, fat synthesizer flights and heavy guitar work. Bands like Kansas, Styx and Ayreon come to my mind, but at other moments it's pure pop, in a parodical way, again that tongue-in-cheek.

Although I enjoyed this fresh and adventurous tongue-in-cheek prog, for me one listening session is OK, a bit too quirky sound. But I am curious or this excellent and varied album will reach a wider audience, or only appeal to a selected prog audience that love quirky prog.

Report this review (#2202426)
Posted Monday, May 13, 2019 | Review Permalink
3 stars Following my personal quest of reviewing this year´s albums.... Cheeto's Magazine-Amazingous (2019)

I found its choral and songwriting sound in general closer to Queen´s, if Queen played alongside a kind of Rick Wakeman clone and had an average good voice frontman and came from the USA or really liked Quiet Riot or any of those 80´s bands and were Infected with the "Hard/Metal Rock Corny Ballads Syndrome" (as Queen was or any of those groups were and the "Cape-Man" himself is) and yes had some loving for Zappa´s vocal canons and humor.

Well what can I say? This release has some enjoyable sections, if not truly original or really humorous beyond the usual vocal quirks cliches, they play well with their influences. Problem is I am not a die hard Queen, Quiet Riot (or Def Lepard or any of those 80´s groups) or Rick Wakeman fan and less a corny ballads (irreverent or not) admirer, therefore this work really does not tick my bomb.

As far as comedy goes I do prefer Richard Pryor he really makes me laugh.

***3 PA stars

Report this review (#2203631)
Posted Saturday, May 18, 2019 | Review Permalink
4 stars Amazingous is an excellent album from the Spanish prog outfit, with absolutely outstanding synthesizer work, impeccable production, and great arrangements. From the band who did a prog cover of Green Day's "Basket Case", comes great tracks like the groovy "Chili Guillermo", the dance-able "Outflow", the darker "Scum", and of course the outstanding epic "Big Boy", a 25-minute adventure through the various sounds of Cheeto's Magazine. The silly vocals were a little off-putting for me, but if you can get past that, it's a truly great album with some outstanding moments, and as mentioned before, it shows off what Cheeto's Magazine does best: incredible synthesizer work that dances across the whole album.
Report this review (#2204654)
Posted Tuesday, May 21, 2019 | Review Permalink

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