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Not Otherwise Specified - Deadweight CD (album) cover


Not Otherwise Specified

Heavy Prog

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4 stars 'Not Otherwise Specified' is a one-man project of Craig Kerley from Georgia, started in 2011. The music is considered Heavy Prog. 'Deadweight' is the name of his third full studio album, and he is helped out with several guests on various tracks through this album. Kerley is a multi-instrumentalist who, on this album, plays keyboards, bass, guitar and vocals.

'The Deep' starts out with an atmospheric and mostly electronic instrumental with processed percussion a nice swirling synth coming in later. This flows into 'Marked from Birth' which continues the main theme, but with more intensity adding guitars and real drums. Organ and mellotron come in later creating a nice atmosphere and a prog lover's paradise and it all becomes quite stately and follows a similar sound of his listed inspirations like Dream Theater and Spock's Beard. Vocals finally start in the 3rd track 'Memories'. It starts out dark and soft, but explodes into a nice heavy sound later with a complex melody and the vocals get better with the increase in intensity when he climbs out of his lower register.

'Filling My Soul' breaks the 7 minute mark. It starts with a march-style rhythm which the guitars take advantage of while they develop the theme and continuing to build until the vocals enter in a more aggressive and dark sound. The added synths create a sound similar to Dream Theater. Craig's vocals are impressive on this track and the lyrical content is great. 'Wandering the Wilderness' is another instrumental that picks up with solo electronic piano, but when the other instruments kick in, it comes to progressive life. There are some great solos played against a heavy background riff here; organ and guitar take their turns with the progressive foundation.

As the album continues, you can expect more great progressive music that continues along the same style as the inspirations that Craig lists. The music has plenty of surprises and progressive style changes throughout. 'Conscience' starts off heavy but has a beautiful, atmospheric section as it continues before breaking into a loud, symphonic-like section similar to the band 'Riverside'. Then it suddenly explodes into a killer synth solo before getting really dark with deep, spoken vocals and then moving to a guitar solo. It is a definite highlight to the album. 'Riptide' is a much shorter track and is an atmospheric song with processed, yet emotional vocals.

'All the Same' gets going back into high gear with a good, solid heavy guitar riff. After another evil sounding spoken word section, we get another rousing guitar solo before returning to regular vocals. This track is more lyric driven. 'I Don't Know' continues the heavy style but more driven by the organ and a more progressive slant. 'In This World' goes for an accessible sound, but still has time for another guitar solo. 'Another Chance Today' is the longest track at over 9 minutes and moves back to Heavy Prog. It begins with a synth-led melody before dark vocals come in. After a guitar solo, the 2nd verse gets more aggressive. Synths take over again on the next instrumental break. The track is also more verbose as it has time to wrap up the album.

This is a great example of Heavy Prog and there are definite influences as mentioned. The music is well performed and I only noticed a few rough edits, but other than that, it is quite professional sounding. The vocals are great as is the storytelling in the lyrics and the musicianship is stellar. The only complaint I really have is that there seemed to be less ingenuity and heart in the 2nd half, even though the style pretty much stays the same, and the album could have benefited with more variety or experimentation. Otherwise, it is definitely an enjoyable album with plenty of heaviness to keep proggers happy.

Report this review (#2133571)
Posted Saturday, February 2, 2019 | Review Permalink
3 stars When progressive rock first emerged as a distinct genre, the United States were slow to make a sound for themselves. The Brits were the genre's progenitors, and they largely defined its archetypes and evolution. "Anglo-prog" is an awfully broad swathe of musical styles, but it conjures up a definite set of sounds. The Italians forged a unique niche, and the French, Spaniards, and Yugoslavs had their own identifiable quirks as well, to say nothing of Krautrock.

The American sound that eventually did emerge was pioneered by bands like Kansas and Starcastle: derived from the Anglo sound but grander, more bombastic, and less subtle. Not Otherwise Specified (NOS), while unmistakably modern, draw heavily from that mid-70s American sound.

Deadweight opens with a pair of instrumentals: the first being mellow and keyboard-driven, and the second being heavier, with Mellotron, electric piano, and distorted guitar trading the lead. NOS aim for grandiosity, and they achieve it, with no small amount of cheese.

Not only do NOS draw from bands like Kansas, they also pull heavily from the first wave of progressive metal. The guitar tones and dramatic vocals are reminiscent of acts like Fates Warning and Dream Theater. "Memories", the first song to feature vocals on the album, is a huge, melodramatic piece that covers a dizzying amount of ground in under six minutes. Spanning from its gentle opening, to its soaring, dramatic midsection, up to its almost Van der Graaf Generator-sounding finale, this song is something of a sampler for what's to come.

The music on Deadweight is consistently heavy. Had this album come out in 1988, this would have been considered a progressive metal album, but metal's definition has shifted over the ensuing decades. The instrumental "Wandering in the Wilderness" typifies this. It features an organ solo that wouldn't have been out of place in a Steppenwolf song, and the combination of the rich string textures and majestic guitar solo lend this piece some gravitas.

This album isn't without its flaws. And first and foremost is that it's just too long. At around an hour long, NOS could have trimmed off about ten minutes here and there and made this a much stronger album. A handful of songs noticeably began to drag. The other major gripe I have is that Deadweight leans heavily on progressive rock tropes. More specifically, it leans on bands like Kansas and Spock's Beard. Those are bands I enjoy, but the cheese factor is often somewhat high for my taste.

All things considered, Deadweight is a good album. I enjoy it a lot, and NOS have a lot of potential to become one of the more exciting bands in the progressive rock world.

Review originally posted here:

Report this review (#2903089)
Posted Friday, March 31, 2023 | Review Permalink

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