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A Chinese Firedrill

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A Chinese Firedrill Circles album cover
3.67 | 39 ratings | 7 reviews | 8% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
prog rock music collection

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Studio Album, released in 2006

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Circles (6:15)
2. Automatic Fantasy (7:26)
3. Insane (4:11)
4. Siucra (6:18)
5. Never Say Never (5:30)
6. Grass and Stone (Ethereal) (6:50)
7. Rock, Paper, Scissors (9:22)

Total Time 45:57

Line-up / Musicians

- Joey Vera / bass, guitar, piano, keyboards, vocals

- Greg Studgio / drums

Releases information

CD Bridge/ProgRock Records (2006)

Thanks to The T for the addition
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A CHINESE FIREDRILL Circles ratings distribution

(39 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(8%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(62%)
Good, but non-essential (28%)
Collectors/fans only (3%)
Poor. Only for completionists (0%)


Showing all collaborators reviews and last reviews preview | Show all reviews/ratings

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Windhawk
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars A surprising collection of tunes from veteran bass player Joey Vera on his A Chinese Firedrill project.

7 songs all with different musical foundations, tied together by strong atmopsheres and songs interlocking; as well as some subtle details in the soundscape repeated throughout.

Mainly experimental in style, but the heavy use of synths as well as the laid-back vocal style here gives this release strong similarities to OSI - one of numerous bands and projects Joey Vera has bean involved in. Recommended to fans of that band, especially those that liked their second release Free.

Review by The T
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars This was quite a surprise.

I really wasn't expecting that much of this side project. I'm not much into side-projects. I've always felt that musicians tend to give their best to their main bands, and that side-projects are usually just ego- boosting attempts that usually end up being flat as each individual artist is not as good as the combination of a few of them forming a music group.

I was expecting that even more in the case of Joey Vera, a great bass player but never an outstanding member in his excellent band, FATES WARNING, where guitarist Jim Matheos and drummer Mark Zonder are the ones that generally steal the spotlight.

But in the case of A CHINESE FIREDRILL, Vera's most recent project, the complete opposite is true. Here we have an album of pure originality, great innovation, and full of energy and passion. This doesn't feel like a side-project. This feels as Vera's real thing. He's the absolute star as he plays all the instruments but one (the drums) and sings in "Circles", the first album under this name. Most importantly, he is the only songwriter, and thus he's been able to show us what a terrific, underrated musician we've always have hidden behind his bands' biggest names.

What we have here is an excellent collection of songs of the most varied style and mood. If we were to describe what this music sounds like, we would have to begin with TOOL, even though that influence is very important mostly in the first song, with its very distinctive riff. Another immediate influence is MUSE, especially in the calmer moments. PINK FLOYD's shadow permeates the whole album, as does PORCUPINE TREE's, for this is a very, very atmospheric, psychedelic record. One can hear a little, just a little of Vera's band FATES WARNING in the music, which goes from metal to space-rock to alt-rock with ease. The experimental bits owe a little to OSI, a side-project of his band mate Jim Matheos. But through all of these different mentors, Vera manages to create a thing that is completely his own and that sounds unique.

Talking about the performances, Vera shines in almost every instrument. He has good skills in the guitar, making it produce effects and notes of great beauty and atmospheric effect; he is a capable keyboardist, doing just what he needs to do to add to the magic; of course, he absolutely conquers when he's playing the bass, so there's little to question about that. But is his singing which is a good surprise. No, he's not the next Sinatra, but his voice, helped by effects that make it sound a little bit like Arjen Lucassen's one in any AYREON album, is sedative, narcotic, weirdly pacifying. He can also rock. At his side and rounding up a perfect team, Greg Studgio on drums delivers a magnificent performance, full of incredible creativity, amazing chops and fills, and tight, precise rhythm.

A word about the songs. From the first, "Circles", that has a very strong TOOL influence, to the last, "Rock Paper Scissors", the longest and most ambient of the record, we never feel like there's one wasted minute in this recording. Even though all of the tracks are great, my two favorites would be "Insane" and "Siucra", the first with a fantastic little figure which could very easily be an alt-pop- rock hit if it had any chance at airplay, the latter with an infectious chorus and a nostalgic, questioning riff and melody.

An absolute success. I really confess I didn't have much expectatives coming from Circles but, lucky me, I was incredibly wrong. A must for fans of good space-rock, space-psychedelic-metal, alt-indie- related prog, and all rock music fans in general.

Review by Mellotron Storm
3 stars Joey Vera known mostly for his bass playing with FATES WARNING goes solo. He wrote and composed all the songs, and plays all the instruments except for drums and percussion. There is some really good heavy sections on this record which is no surprise considering Joey has played with ARMOURED SAINT, ANTHRAX and OSI. He has played as well with CHROMA KEY and that side of the music is very prominant as well. I would describe this album as a blend of PORCUPINE TREE and PHIDEAUX. Vera's vocals remind me of Phideaux Xavier's a lot, and the music really has a PT flavour. What we get really is a collection of excellent songs.

"Circles" is a song that would do well on FM radio. It has such a catchy chorus that it's infectious. Some chunky bass in the atmospheric intro before some killer heaviness arrives quickly. It eases off when the vocals come in. This contrast continues. Again I love the chorus. More atmosphere 3 minutes in. Great track. "Automatic Fantasy" eventually gets going as percussion, acoustic guitar then vocals come in. Very PORCUPINE TREE-like 2 1/2 minutes in. Awesome passage. Heavy 3 minutes in then back to the PT flavour. Piano 4 minutes in. Themes are repeated. "Insane" is the song where Joey brings Phideaux to my mind. Piano, percussion and Wilson-like guitar lead the way instrumentally. Full sound before 1 1/2 minutes. Contrast continues.

"Siucra" opens with wind-like sounds before a pleasant melody takes over. Vocals 1 1/2 minutes in. This is such an uplifting, feel good song. Very moving for me and a favourite along with the opening track. "Never Say Never" is heavy and raw at times. A Phideaux flavour is prominant once again before 2 minutes. Straight up metal 4 minutes in. "Grass And Stone (Ethereal)" opens with lots of atmosphere. Reserved vocals in this dark intro. Acoustic guitar is strummed as the mood changes. It gets more passionate 2 1/2 minutes in. Very atmospheric tune. The drumming in this one is outstanding. "Rock, Paper, Scissors" is the final and longest track. Spacey early as vocals join in. The guitar is excellent as he sings the title over and over. Quite powerful 4 minutes in. Very atmospheric 6 minutes in before heaviness returns a minute later. I don't like the chorus at all here.

Joey has done himself very proud with this release. There are sections that i'm not big on but overall a really good release. 3.5 stars.

Review by Menswear
4 stars Criminally Underrated Artist.

This is an outrage. Flying under the radar like that, when pop stars make millions barely knowing how to play piano and/ or guitar (ahem Bieber) when we have fantastic one-man bands like Ayreon, OSI or Lunatic Soul. For those who like a Jack-of-All-Trades that actually know his stuff, you can add now A Chinese Firedrill, the brain child of Mr.Vera.

You can anticipate a blend of 311 (absolutely marvelous reggae-metal band), Linkin Park and OSI (absolutely marvelous, period). What a great bland of technology and acoustic prowness! Joey is creating (again) a great mood of espionnage music with more mellow moments than OSI though. Getting close to the pop/rock sideline, this album is satisfying hooks with finger snapping moments.

It's a real keeper for those who wants to get away from the Flower Kings pattern of 75 minutes albums with 20 minutes long epics that never ends. Joey is good with the bass, very good I might add. Expect thick, juicy, hearty bass licks with surprisingly good vocals that could be FM material easily.

My discovery of the year, although 6 years too late! A lost gem that purchasing should be your priority with feeding your children, going to work, taking daily showers and avoiding mischief in general.

Latest members reviews

4 stars A Chinese Firedrill is a project assembled and put together by bass player Joey Vera. He has written all the tunes, and play most instruments, with just drums and "DJ scratching" handled by others. Which makes this album more of a solo release than a band project as such. Previous to this rele ... (read more)

Report this review (#375829) | Posted by usa prog music | Friday, January 7, 2011 | Review Permanlink

2 stars Joey Vera's pedigree is without reproach. Come on, Armored Saint and Fates Warning! However, I guess to be in touch with what's going on in the hard rock/heavy metal community as it exists today, I'm guessing he felt he had to put a "modern" spin on his solo work to stay relevant. While it's ver ... (read more)

Report this review (#275792) | Posted by pfdfcc | Thursday, April 1, 2010 | Review Permanlink

4 stars Wow! I had seen this album but was reluctant. I didn't want a Fates Warning/OSI hybrid dose of music as I don't get real excited about either, though I own all released by these bands. What I did get was one of the heaviest atmosperic albums I have heard. This has more of the feeling of Chrom ... (read more)

Report this review (#213929) | Posted by danzx | Monday, May 4, 2009 | Review Permanlink

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