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3RDegree Ones & Zeros - Volume 1 album cover
4.08 | 379 ratings | 30 reviews | 25% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
prog rock music collection

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Studio Album, released in 2015

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Hello, World! (0:17)
2. The Gravity (7:51)
3. This Is the Future (4:36)
4. Life (3:08)
5. The Best & Brightest (4:06)
6. Circuit Court (5:20)
7. Life at Any Cost (8:50)
8. What It Means to Be Human (5:31)
9. We Regret to Inform You (5:23)
10. More Life (5:34)

Total Time 50:36

Line-up / Musicians

- George Dobbs / lead & backing vocals, keyboards, percussion
- Bryan Zeigler / electric guitars, backing vocals
- Patrick Kliesch / electric & acoustic guitars, backing vocals, synth programming
- Eric Pseja / electric guitar, 12-string acoustic guitar, backing vocals
- Robert James Pashman / bass, keyboards, backing vocals
- Aaron Nobel / drums, percussion

- Daniel Tracey / harmony vocals (9)
- Kyree Vibrant / backing vocals (8,10)

Releases information

Artwork: Aleksandr Kouznetsov

CD Not On Label ‎- 3RD005 (2015, US)

Digital album

Thanks to 3RDegree for the addition
and to projeKct for the last updates
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3RDEGREE Ones & Zeros - Volume 1 ratings distribution

(379 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(25%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(33%)
Good, but non-essential (30%)
Collectors/fans only (10%)
Poor. Only for completionists (3%)

3RDEGREE Ones & Zeros - Volume 1 reviews

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Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Roland113
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars . . . in my not so humble opinion.

This is one of the most frighteningly dark guerrilla concept albums that I've had the pleasure of listening to.

3rdegree is back with the follow up to their politically poignant 2012 release "The Long Division". I was lucky enough to get an advance copy of the CD from the band and it does not disappoint. While "The Long Division" explored the current political landscape, "Ones & Zeros: vol. 1" takes us a few years into the future. Not a science fiction of aliens and interstellar travel, but five or ten years from now. What happens when the current trend of consistently upgrading one's personal electronics extends beyond the simple phone and watch, what happens when technology starts to mend with biology? It's a world where upgrades include your glasses, your clothes and even your mind. It's a compelling story, with appropriately intricate music to accompany it.

'Hello World' sets the stage by introducing us to Valhalla Biotech. While this is only a fifteen second intro, it shows a new level of sophistication and immersion in recording and atmosphere for the band. The jingly high tech commercial only sounds slightly ominous. 'The Gravity' immediately sheds the ominous sound with a rolling rock beat as singer George Dobbs chimes in about the 'extraordinary times' that we are experiencing, quickly supported by the quartet of backup singers, also known as 'the rest of the band'. While the band does not focus on twenty minute epic pieces, they cram a ton of music and ideas into the eight minutes of this song. The vocal call and answer at the six minute mark utilizes the voices of all five singers to great effect. Just in case that wasn't enough, the funky rhythm section of Aaron Nobel and Robert James Pashman are locked in behind the vocal gymnastics. Nobel does some of his best work here.

'This is the Future' is mostly an upbeat vehicle to push the story further along. Notable to this song is the beginning of the central figure's story as a new set of upgrades are installed. Easily overlooked during the call from Valhalla is Pashman's utter disregard for order as he provides the sick background for the call. 'Life' is a soft introspective piece that lets Pat Kliesch set the atmosphere with a nice acoustic bit allowing Dobbs to show his range with a gorgeous showpiece. 'Life' is a nice set up for the closer, 'More Life' with a few musical nods that adds to the continuity of the album.

The Best & Brightest is really one of my favorite songs on the cd. The song gives Pashman a chance to really set the atmosphere with the keyboards, not to mention Dobbs' tasteful piano work throughout. The band gets into a slick groove for newcomer Bryan Zeigler to solo over towards the half way point of the song. Again, the keyboards really set the groove while Pashman's bass growls underneath. It should be pointed out; the harmonies throughout the entire CD are both intricate and tight with 'The Best & Brightest' being a perfect example of their acumen. 'Circuit Court' is another favorite, with a Steely Dan feel as Dobbs and company happily bemoan the lack of privacy in the internet age. We do get a nice Tony Banks solo from Dobbs followed by an example of what Zeigler brings to the table. This song is another one not to be missed.

"Life at Any Cost' is another example of the wonderful songwriting these guys are known for. What starts as a rolling piece changes to a beautifully atmospheric, and somewhat ominous electric piano at the three minute mark, headphones recommended here! After the keyboard sets the tone, the riff is punctuated by a series of hits and growls before guitarist Eric Pseja crashes in with an crunchy lick that adds an angry, dark feel to the piece. This sets up another beautifully melodic solo by singer / keyboardist George Dobbs. After the angry sections we're treated to Bryan Zeigler's melodic soloing once again.

The last three songs are all fantastic as well, I'm not going to delve into the details other than lyrically it leads to a strong conclusion to the story and features so much more of what I've mentioned above. Fantastic five part harmonies in unexpected places, tasteful solos by the army of guitarists, beautiful keyboards by Dobbs and Pashman, an incredibly tight rhythm section and several more great solos.

Seriously, this album easily deserves all five stars; if I have a complaint it's that the cd is too short. My personal preference would be to hear longer solos because the grooves that these guys put behind them deserve to be given a longer life. The upside of this is that it leaves you wanting more. At no point do I get tired of listening to this album. Every time you think that they're going to get complacent the time signature shifts and the band is off in a different direction. Once you start to get used to the new direction, the five part acapella hits you out of nowhere. I said it before, this band puts so much into every song, there really is no wasted space on the entire CD.

This is on my short list for albums of the year and comes highly recommended.

Review by BrufordFreak
COLLABORATOR Heavy Prog & JR/F/Canterbury Teams
4 stars One of the things I had to get used to in this album is the 'scantly clad' music presented here: there are very few added layers or fluffy fills and incidentals in these songs. Each song feels rather stripped down, bare, and naked. And clean. The drums feel live. The vocals feel live. The acoustic guitars feel live. Like the recently released CORVUS STONE surprise, Unscrewed, 3RDegree seems to have gravitated to a pre-computerized recording/engineering style--which I love! Every sound is crystal clear and feeling as if you are in the room with it-- as if the band is playing live, in the same room, with each other. Other than ECHOLYN, STEELY DAN, early DAVID BOWIE, or the occasional flash of CARAVAN or PETER MURPHY, I can't find myself feeling many immediate associations with the music on Ones & Zeros. It's just good, unusual, fresh and original music--on the pop side of prog. Lyrically, once again 3RDegree comes through with a masterfully cogent presentation of one of the current 'pink elephants' in the room of human civilization. They get you thinking about some of the many signs of increasingly imminent decay and death, get you asking 'How should we behave, how should we think? What should we do?' The fake adverts used to tie each song together are more focused on the ludicrous, hollow and double-edged promises of science and technology, like the 'advances' of bioengineering and medicine. It is obvious that the band wants us to think. I love it! They remind me of the Lacuna Corporation ads in the 2004 film, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Like STEVEN WILSON, 3RDegree seems brave enough to be willing to point a mirror on some of the most sensitive, touchy subjects of our modern 'civilized' lives and world. Bravo! and kudos to them! Like their previous album, 2012's The Long Division, 3RDegree have produced an album that has totally taken me by surprise. And, also like The Long Division, I find Ones & Zeros growing on me with each listen. Wonderful stuff! Check it out!

Favorite songs: They're all wonderful but personally I like: the mostly instrumental 9. 'We Regret to Inform You' (5:23); the piercing indictments of 6. 'Circuit Court' (5:19), 7. 'Life at Any Cost' (8:49), and 8. 'What It Means to Be Human' (5:31); 2. 'The Gravity' (7:51); 4. 'Life' (3:08), 5. 'The Best & Brightest' (4:06), and the tongue-in-cheek anthem, 10. 'More Life' (5:33).

Though this is definitely the poppier side of prog (and thus the "crossover" designation), the cleverness of the lyrics and the charming, upbeat sophistication of the music make this, in my humble opinion, a masterpiece of progressive rock music.

Review by tszirmay
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars Intelligent music played by intelligent players for an intelligent audience. What a novel idea! Prog has two current leading candidates for 'darling' status, the multi-national Corvus Stone and the fine US group 3rd Degree. Both really push the boundaries of creativity and musical intelligence but 3rd Degree is quickly drawing a massive cascade of critical praise, an American progressive band that has both a message (the last album "the Long Division" was about the huge political divide in the USA), as well as technical know-how, featuring some brilliant playing by all instrumentalists. They are smart, profoundly introspective as well as world weary, totally uninhibited in their at times snarling rhetoric. Where so many prog bands concentrate on sci-fi, folk or fantasy and a few on the human condition (Porcupine Tree, S. Wilson, Fish) , we finally have a group that delves into the darker sensibilities of current or impending issues such as the Internet, privacy, artificial intelligence and social disarray. Therefore, we have reflective material that is looking at the future with a keen eye on reality and omitting all the technological razzle dazzle we are enslaved to love, obey and, of course, purchase.

There is a wide variety of American influences, such as a sense of Zappa-styled sarcasm, slight hints of humor much like the Tubes, a little Todd Rundgren's Utopia, a drizzle of Sparks and lots of classy arrangements. The songs are all interconnected, like any valid concept album worthy of its name, and not a second is wasted on droning atmospherics or needless fluff (though I do like both in moderate and creative amounts). Being a big bass guitar fan, I am immediately drawn to Robert James Pashman's brooding rumble, anchoring George Dodds' swiveling voice that can intone the oddest emotions such as 'hope' on the thrilling second track "The Gravity". Whistling synths and acoustic guitar meld together like pearls in wine, boom-boom drumming rhythms and wailing voice combine to push the envelope to lick stage and seal the deal. Knock you right off your feet from the beginning! A sensational toe dip into their musical pool.

Twisting and turning into the immediate horizon and the latest technological gadgetry, "This is the Future" evokes a contrasting collision between chaos and sanity, endless digital multi-tasking, focusing on nothing but texting everywhere and everyone, torrential tidbits of bio-transistor sentiments, a few Gbs here and a couple of Zip files there. Hold on to the re charger and please, plug it in! Ohh that felt sooooo good! So while the device juices back up to full power, a gentle but reflective ballad comes in to soothe the frayed and tattered nerves, appropriately titled "Life"!

'Aging is no longer a disease' intones the wily infomercial, the ultimate intro to a nerd anthem par excellence, "The Best and Brightest "conveys both rash cyber-imbecility and an endless tribute to the latest 'device' of the industrial boom, before 'we fall behind the Chinese' and get torpedoed, albeit temporarily , by the latest Trojan techno condom that leaks (Hello Julian and Edward). They used to be called G-men once, now its C-men everywhere! Kraftwerk was 'korrekt' with Computer Love, a few decades ago! Ach du!

Zappa-esque sarcasm appears on the slickly titled 'Circuit Court', where the divining judge is some virtual and well-pixeled geek playing a delightful synthesizer and a Ziegler guitar solo that has a definite Steely Dan meets the Tubes kind of mood. Loads of harmony vocals and a roller-coaster delivery makes this a real scorcher to be appreciated for its originality. The epic, nearly 9 minute "Life at Any Cost" is a towering masterpiece, musically, vocally and lyrically. Smooth as silk, brooding yet exalted, with a slight sense of wasteland. Loads of keyboards, guitars, solid bass and Aaron Nobel's tectonic drumming really turn the lights on. The slick e-piano does create a modern, urban sheen, the ideal foreplay for a wicked instrumental section that showcases the talents of each player. The twirling guitar solo and George's incredible vocals are true specimens of genius, not to be outdone by the rest of the crew who do this piece utter justice.

"What it means to Be Human" is borderline weird, with bizarroid vocals, plodding beats and an iron-fisted synthesizer solo, something really out of worldly. George howls angrily, high-pitched like Jeff Lynne of ELO on helium, shockingly abstract yet accessible. This segues into the magnificent "We Regret to Inform You", a subtle depiction of the 'who, what, where and when' but no time for 'why'! Quarantine, seclusion, apartheid, call it what you will! We have become techno hermits, addicted to hallucinatory bytes and in sensual intercourse with our matrix mouse. Lifecycle is just 'accept or delete', Goodbye, father! Valhalla Bio Tech will now take over your soul. Thank you for your business and have a transcendent day!

"More Life" is a sweeping finale, protecting your computer and hence your existence. No active threats have been detected, you may resume your download. The orchestral symphonics are purposefully grandiose, 'life is meaning' but meaning what, one might precisely ask? The final acoustic guitar and synthesized rivulets are simply sublime.

While so much prog is anchored in the past or the sci-fi future, here is an ingenious band that looks only a few years ahead, with a certain dread. Their craft is truly intelligent and we should all be thankful to our modems for accessing the 3rd Degree. A thrilling cover and slick artwork complete the well-formatted folder.

5 Google that, web surfers!

Review by LearsFool
5 stars If a recent to time of writing poll on the PA forum is any indication, usually cheerfully sung songs from major prog bands that are thinly veiling dark/terrifying subject matter (e.g. Yes with "South Side of The Sky" - it's about polar explorers freezing to death) don't connect like the artists clearly think they should. Perhaps, I now think, the fault lies with those artists, because there is no finer or more fully connecting piece of intentionally dissonant mainline prog then this surprise masterpiece.

I'll admit, being used to the more overtly dark musics of Throbbing Gristle, Nurse With Wound, and Swans, this concept album didn't chill my spine, but, and this is a further testament to 3RDegree's greatness, it instead engendered in me several smirks and laughs. This record is so clearly off and dystopian in theme, and the way the band went about it is so uniquely fine-tuned, that it's as likely to make a listener take humour in the dark subject matter as it is to make another listener freeze in their tracks in horror as they get up to get a frosty beverage from the fridge. The whole spiel about ageing being an obsolete disease is perfect on two counts, and the moment when I realised that this was a special album, reminding me of the "Barco AM PM" slice from "Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas To Heaven" in the best way.

Oh, and the music! Beautiful and excellent modern cross. I think that this record achieves a great modernisation of the classic symph sonic pallet, achieving such in part by way of mixing in some juicy influences otherwise not inherent to that specific idiom, and bringing a poppy edge to parts of it in a good way. Perhaps 3RDegree is something like the second coming of Supertramp. The playing is stellar and the production is a great throwback to the analog age. Altogether, this is probably the best piece of mainline prog in a long time, one of the most successful concept albums for a longer time, and an album of the year candidate.

Review by rdtprog
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Heavy / RPI / Symphonic Prog Team
3 stars This is a concept album about the future of the world and how human deal with technology. It's not the first time the band deal with that with their ironic view. We can hear throughout the album a robotic voice to link every songs together and keep the concept intact. But with the music now... After the "Long Division" album, which i stop listening realizing that he was not very progressive, the band was supposed to have done their most progressive album. From the start of the album, i can only say that i recognize the same 80's influence with so much vocals, (which are very good), that the music seems to support the vocals. The song structures are simple, there is many catchy hooks and some more unusual twists. We have to wait for the song "the Best & The Brightest to hear some heavier parts with some nice break, some spacey keyboards. "Circuit Court" is a weak track, where nothing seems to work together. "Life at any Cost" is starting to be interesting with the nice break that brings some faster tempo, heavy and darker parts with the first and probably the last memorable guitar solo. "What it means to be Human" is another complex song that show some nice work with the vocals and nice musicianship. "We Regret to Inform You" is another nice track with a long instrumental section and some nice bass playing. The last song is the return to some more simple structure type of song, some jazzy parts. In conclusion, the cd improve halfway through, but i can't say i share the same enthusiasm as many reviewers here, so this is not a masterpiece, but only the best 3rdegree album.
Review by Mellotron Storm
5 stars 3RDEGREE have truly out-done themselves with their latest "Ones & Zeros: vol. 1". This is a concept album that looks into the future in a very detailed, dark and yet humerous way. I can't even begin to imagine the time and energy that went into not only the clever lyrics but outstanding instrumental work. I'm not even into concept albums yet here I am giving this recording 5 stars without any hesitation. These Americans have created a record that is sophisticated and complex yet very melodic and accessible. Not an easy thing to do. This is the third straight studio album I have received by this band and each one has out-done the other.

"Hello World!" is a 17 second futuristic ad for Valhalla Biotech the company that this album revolves around. It blends into "The Gravity" which is a top three track for me. It's catchy with harmonies that really add a lot to my enjoyment of it. The vocals are the focus until it settles down before 2 minutes and becomes spacey. Great sound! A pleasant synth/ guitar section arrives 3 minutes in as reserved vocals join in. A relaxed guitar solo follows then back to that earlier theme where vocals are the focus. How good is this 6 minutes in?! Oh my! My head is banging and I adore the passionate vocals. So good!

"This Is The Future" has a nice intro with some excellent guitar before the vocals kick in. Catchy stuff. This song reminds me of the previous album somewhat. Great sound here. The drummer is busy and we get those futuristic words that come and go throughout the album helping to keep us up with the story line, then back to the music. "Life" features strummed guitar and liquid sounding keys as the reserved vocals join in. It's beautiful when the backing vocals come in. Such a feel good tune. "The Best & Brightest" is also a top three track for me. These guys have so many great ideas including the way this starts in that spacey manner with vocals before it picks up with a repetitive vocal line then it kicks into gear. All i'm feeling right now is emotion, it's been a while.

"Circuit Court" has a STEELY DAN vibe until the chorus arrives. The organ is a nice touch here. This is smooth and sophisticated. I like the instrumental break before 3 1/2 minutes to almost 4 minutes. Such an enjoyable song. "Life At Any Cost" is another catchy and intelligent track with those killer vocals. This all changes before 3 1/2 minutes when it turns heavy and all instrumental. The guitar reminds me of GARDEN WALL here and I love the synths over top. The guitar then starts to soar and this continues for some time. The vocals are back 5 minutes in. Man I don't how this didn't make my top three.

"What It Means To Be Human" is powerful yet restrained until it picks up before 2 minutes but then we get another change with lots of vocal melodies. So cool as the drums support. Synths to the fore before 3 1/2 minutes after the vocals have stopped. It's brief though as the vocals and that powerful sound return. "We Regret To Inform You" is my other top three song. The intro reminds me of a good place for some reason. We get heavy and distorted guitar with prominent bass as lighter sounds come in over top. Man I love the sound here. Emotion. Those futuristic words come and go. This song blows me away, vocals come in after 3 minutes. "More Life" is another catchy, vocal led tune. Check out the backing vocals 1 1/2 minutes in followed by some great keyboard sounds, huge bass lines then a guitar solo. Nice. Those backing vocals are back. So freaking good!

Without question this will be a very serious contender for my album of the year.

Review by Evolver
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Crossover & JR/F/Canterbury Teams
5 stars Back in 2012, an election year here in the U.S., 3RDegree released one of the finest albums of that year, "The Long Division", a scathing critique of the political system, and the way the corporate news outlets portray the process. The album blew me away in it's concept and execution. I really had might doubts that any band could improve upon such an effort. But with "Ones & Zeros: Volume 1", they have accomplished that task.

The concept here is a not too distant, nor unthinkable future, where our present obsession with immortalization through our many electronic gadgets has led to the ability to (if you can afford it) digitize your consciousness, ensuring virtual immortality. This process is overseen by a corporate entity called "Valhalla", that controls these "people" with a mechanical logic. I don't want to give much away, but the story is told with a clever and sophisticated humor, reminding me more than a little of the wordplay of 10CC or XTC. Just the images from the song title [i]Circuit Court[/i] in this context should give a taste of this.

The music itself could best be describes as the vocal tonality of 10CC, with the inventive instrumentation of that same band, except with an underlying complexity reminiscent of Echolyn, with the hooks and power of Spock's Beard. But the mix of those styles brought together, makes the sound truly original 3RDegree music.

I received the album some weeks ago, yet still, every time I listen to it, I hear more and more inside each song. I cannot find anything at all to knock this down from a perfect rating.

Review by rogerthat
4 stars One of my pet peeves with prog is a lot of it floats in blissful oblivion of the times we live in. And while I do appreciate the merits of musical escapism to transport listeners temporarily from everyday strife, it doesn't help the cause of a genre that is increasingly disconnected from the mainstream of music culture. It's no coincidence that both Radiohead with OK Computer/Kid A as well as Muse with Absolution (or for that matter, Porcupine Tree with In Absentia), bands which enjoy /enjoyed a good deal of popularity, had something more relevant, more contemporary to say.

Which is why 3RDegree's concept album Ones and Zeros is a welcome departure from the norm. I will not get deeply into the lyrics here, as Roland113's review has done ample justice to that. But the issue of technology getting, indeed, embedded into our lives to the point where it might one day control us is a pertinent one. So, while the device used is of dystopian sci-fi along the lines of a Brave New World or Childhood's End, the subject matter hits closer home as some of what is described in the album is already being felt. Are we indeed heading towards a digitised version of the Utopia that Huxley had conceived and will it indeed take a virus breakdown to preserve what is human about ourselves? I am a bit of a fence-sitter as far as this debate goes. But it is an engaging topic and, thanks to 3RDegree's smart execution, results in an album that is hard edged and packs a punch.

Speaking of which, brevity is of essence here. At just over 50 minutes, the album clocks in a good deal shorter than certain extravaganzas which may not have seen the light of day but for the CD age. 3RDegree is classified under Crossover Prog, but as far as this specific album goes, the style as well as approach is more evocative of 80s Rush, maybe some of the neo prog of the time too. Genesis influence comes with the territory as well. They do not leap too far out of the basket of known prog influences/elements and as such the music sounds like something made in the 80s but with excellent production and, especially, unobtrusive drums.

That is my one minor complaint with the album - that the music is not as contemporary as the lyrics. But it's not a big deal; there are nice twists and turns in the music that I enjoyed. 3RDegree are able to put together complex tracks that do not involve much, if any, noodling; the songwriting is tight as hell. At the same time, they nicely manage the change-ups between electric distorted guitar riffs and lush acoustic, so that the album never feels like an oppressive wall of sound. In saying that, however, it is also not frightfully dynamic. As I noted earlier, more 80s Rush/neo than 70s Genesis/Yes. The flipside is most of the tracks groove nicely and are both pretty accessible and infectious.

Yes, 3RDegree pull off the trickiest part of a concept album exceedingly well - integrating the music with the lyrical concept. The songs are entertaining to listen to by themselves without one being aware of the concept. And yet if you were clued into the concept, you would observe how subtly the mood shifts from optimism to doubt to even despair as the assurances of a bright digital future get weaker and ring more and more hollow. My favourite would have to be Circuit Court with The Gravity being not far behind; but the songs as such are hard to dislike.

Four stars for a solid, relevant and tightly executed album; knocking off one star only because it doesn't offer something strikingly new 'sonically'. I grant that that is something that has become increasingly difficult in rock but I have to respect the rating system all the same; so four stars it will be.

Review by Raff
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Three years after "The Long Division" ' an album that garnered its fair share of critical praise in a year noted for a slew of high-profile releases ' comes 3RDegree's fifth studio album, an ambitious opus by the title of "Ones & Zeros Volume 1". Recorded as a six-piece, with the involvement of second guitarist Bryan Ziegler (recruited in 2012 to replace Patrick Kliesch, who is currently based in California, in their live shows), the album was written by the band's core members - Kliesch, bassist Robert James Pashman, and vocalist/keyboardist George Dobbs, plus guitarist Eric Pseja.

Although "The Long Division" had an overarching theme (the increasingly polarized world of US politics), it could not be called a true concept album. , "Ones & Zeros Vol. 1", on the other hand, draws on the rich Anglo-American tradition of dystopian fiction in its rather chilling depiction of a future dominated by a Big Brother-like mega-corporation named Valhalla Biotech (a name with intentionally 'otherworldly' implications), which ' under the guise of improving life for humans ' ends up controlling every aspect of our existence. The pervasive presence of this all-encompassing entity is conveyed through jingles, lectures and announcements (provided by a cast of guest actors) that interact with the music, at first unobtrusively, then taking an increasingly larger role.

By tackling such an ambitious project, 3RDegree prove they are not afraid of taking risks, and deliver an album that - while superficially paying homage to one of prog's old chestnuts ' is quite far removed from the traditional prog modes followed by many modern artists. The song format is still at the core of the band's compositional approach, though a couple of songs reach the 8-minute mark, and display a distinctly more complex structure. The inner coherence of the story is reinforced by the use of recurring musical and lyrical themes. With George Dobbs channeling his inner Stevie Wonder, and multilayered vocal harmonies that recall Queen, Steely Dan and The Beatles as much as Yes, the band depict a rather disturbing scenario thinly disguised by their trademark bright melodies and catchy hooks.

Not surprisingly for an album dealing with such weighty issues, "Ones & Zeros Vol. 1" may need repeated listens in order to be fully appreciated. In a daring move, 3RDegree have placed the second-longest track ' the almost 8-minute 'The Gravity', a mini-epic packing many twists and turns, and not as readily accessible as 'Apophenia' or 'You're Fooling Yourselves' ' right at the opening at the album. "Ones & Zeros Vol. 1" 's tightly constructed 50 minutes shift between overtly poppy, ear-friendly items such as the sunny 'This Is the Future' or the eminently hummable 'Life', which is reprised in the lushly orchestrated ending, 'More Life', and subtly intricate centerpieces such as the Steely Dan-influenced 'Circuit Court' and the mercurial, multilayered 'Life at Any Cost', driven by Pashman's stellar performance on bass. Pashman also shines in the funky yet ominous 'We Regret to Inform You', in which the energetic, almost anthemic harmony vocals alternate with robotic announcements eventually stating that 'your father has been deleted'. 'What It Means to Be Human' initially promises to be the album's most mainstream-oriented track, but its second half veers into much heavier territory, and the deceptively upbeat tone of 'The Best & Brightest (of the Dimmest Bulbs)' is like a velvet glove hiding Valhalla Biotech's iron fist.

With thought-provoking lyrics (all included in the CD package, wrapped in brightly-coloured, semi-abstract artwork by Russian artist Sasha Kouznetsov) complementing the sophisticated, 21st-century art rock of the music, "Ones & Zeros Vol. 1" will certainly appear in many a 'Best of 2015' list - though some dyed-in-the-wool 'proggers' will still object to the poppy overtones that are such an integral part of the band's sound. It is also 3RDegree's most mature album to date: the band amply deserve kudos for having resisted the all-too-common temptation of releasing a 100-minute behemoth. 3RDegree fans will be glad to know that the release of "Ones & Zeros Volume 2 is planned for 2016".

Originally posted on my blog, "Fire of Unknown Origin", on July 22, 2015.

Review by Windhawk
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars US band 3RDEGREE has been a more or less ongoing feature for a quarter of a century now, initially active in the first half of the '90s and then returning to activity a decade or so back following a spell of hiatus. Since their return they have released three full-length studio albums. "Ones & Zeros Vol. 1", the most recent of those, was released through the US label 10t Records in 2015.

3rDegree excels at the art of creating accessible progressive rock with plenty of intriguing details hovering beneath the surface, and in this case also managing to add a distinct and charming emphasis to the story explored by way of incorporating effects into the compositions that elevate the total experience quite nicely. Perhaps a bit more of a purebred progressive rock-oriented creation this time around when compared to their previous albums. An album worth taking a look at if you tend to enjoy accessible progressive rock, especially if well developed concept and theme albums tend to fascinate you.

Review by Angelo
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
4 stars I missed the live gig of 3RDegree at 't Blok in The Netherlands earlier this year, unfortunately. Would have loved to finally meet Robert James Pashman, who contacted me at ProgArchives in March 2008, asking if his band qualified for inclusion in the site. At the time, the band just released Narrow-Caster, their third album, and the first one since 1995 at the time. Since then, they released two more - The Long Division, which I missed at the time (2012) and this years Ones & Zeros: Vol. I, which is the subject of this review.

First thing I noticed when listening to this album, and refreshing my memories of the initial contact with Robert, is that the common musical interests we had at the time (Rush and Marillion for example) are not the main influence in their music. Instead, many elements from progressive rock since the early 70s till today can be heard on this album, in an original mix defined by 3RDegree. I'll leave it up to the listener to make up his mind about what comes from where. I myself spotted hints of Gabriel era Genesis (wonderful keyboard work on Circuit Court and More Life), as well as bits of Rush (the bass is not at all a copy of Geddy, but has the same impact on the music), vocal arrangements akin to those of Echolyn (and and one track (Life) that has a hint of 70s singer/songwriter material, not unlike the older works of one David Bowie.

The album, by means of advertisements in between the songs, and the very appealing voice of George Dobbs, tells the story of Valhalla Biotech, a company that promises people the way to a longer life by means of technology - the way to 'a longer you, a better you', in the not too distant future. People get biometric clothing, digital glasses, possibly even implants - and if they can't pay their regular fees, these things will be disabled for a certain amount of time (presumably until payment is made). Throughout the album, the flaws of this system, and real failure leading to death of people become apparent. With the digital, bio and gen technology developments of recent years, and the money hunger of modern multi nationals in mind, not a very far fetched scenario. A scenario that 3RDegree manages to capture in lyrics as well as music. The gloom of this future is expressed in the music, that is sometimes uplifting (reflecting Valhalla's commercial voice), to gloomy (The Best and Brightest, about the rat race between countries and companies), and culminating in the right out frightening We Regret to Inform You, which' ever darker and mostly instrumental sections are interleaved by ever more worrying computer voice messages about the status of someone's father in treatment. The closing message leaves the listener with goose bumps: 'We regret to inform you, your father has been.. deleted'.

In summary - I love the (scary) story line, the bass and drums, the keyboards (with three keyboard players on board they'd better be good), the guitar leads and the vocal arrangements. Not much to dislike there, unless you are not into (progressive) rock at all, or if you don't like occasional folk like acoustic guitar and vocal arrangements. Highly recommended.

Also published on my blog

Review by FragileKings
4 stars Ones & Zeros is a futuristic concept album by 3Rdegree. It's about a company named Valhalla Biotech and its development of a life extension process. The process isn't exactly clear as one point mentions that there's "an elixir station near you".

"There's no reason to delay a once inevitable expiration date."

Later on, a computer voice announces that the client might feel something akin to sleep, which is a result of the process where layers of the old brain are peeled, 3 dimensionally scanned, and then discarded.

The first song (but not first track), "The Gravity" mentions the Singularity concept, which as I understand it is when humans and technology integrate to make us first enhanced and ultimately transhuman. The song states that our bodies are just hotels for the mind. There's a math joke in there too: my thoughts are all just ones and zeros and I'm already primed.

Arguments against such a possible future are addressed in "This is the Future": "Every gadget's an extension of my motives and my ego and now that I have totally invested I'd be a fool to not upgrade." The person in the lyrics says that his credit card is built into his brain. Many today might scoff at the notion of giving up at least a portion of our biological selves to computers and machines; however, some say the Singularity is already here as we are already thoroughly dependent upon gadgets both internal and external. It's easy for us to progress to the point where we become entirely dependent on technology because we have been heading that way for a long time.

The music is a wonderful mix of progressive pop, progressive rock, and a great use of vocal arrangements plus some light jazzy bits. This is my first 3Rdegree album and the easiest comparison I can make is to Moon Safari. Though 3Rdegree have been around for quite some time (first album 1993 but I believe they disbanded and reformed around 2008), I only just found out about them while looking at the PA Top 100 Albums of 2015.

The story develops toward the darker side. In "Life at Any Cost", we hear a report about 139-year-old Roland Everlong, a leading proponent of Valhalla Biotech's life extension program, witnessing his son's death by old age. In "We Regret to Inform You" the cold non-human side manifests itself as the client receives a courtesy call from Valhalla Biotech, stating in an unsympathetic computerized voice, "Your economy level family sentience transferral process has crashed due to anomalous delta wave activity. At this point we regret to inform you that your father has been fragmented." The poor father's defragmentation process encounters a polymorphic virus and he's put into stasis quarantine. Finally, a third call announces, "Your scheduled sentience transfer was unsuccessful. Your father slipped his allocation matrix. We regret to inform you that your father has been deleted." The track concludes with the wonderfully ironic corporate catch phrase, "Valhalla Biotech and You: A Singular Relationship".

As you can probably gather from my review so far, the story has caught my imagination, especially since a few years ago I read a book by Ray Kurzweil called " The Singularity is Near". But the music is also terrific with a good variety. I'll admit that I probably wouldn't have been hooked on the music alone after a cursory listen. But now having listened to the album a few times, I can appreciate the music as much as the story and the concerns for the future presented in the lyrics and story.

Review by AtomicCrimsonRush
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars 3rdegree's follow-up to the 2012 album The Long Division, is Ones + Zeros volume one. This concept album centres around the concept of transhumanism where ageing is no longer a disease at the Valhalla biotech. One can imagine the type of music that can be experienced on such a conceptual album, but it constantly draws the listener in with a powerful storyline that borders on reality but is set in the not too distant future. There are some incredible moments on this such as the tracks "we regret to inform you", "circuit court", "life", "the best and brightest" and "more life". The high strangeness can be likened to Frank Zappa meets Caravan as occasionally the weirdness really overshadows the music. Throughout there are some sensational keyboard workouts from George Dobbs also adept on lead vocals. Bryan Zeigler and Patrick Kliesch are sensational on electric and acoustic guitars, and there are some moments of retro synth programming. The music is upbeat in tempo and occasionally enhanced by sound affects and dialogue that punctuate a very strong storyline. By the end of the album the listener knows they have experienced something produced with passion and with a lot of soul put into it. 3rdegree are an adventurous band and their music is compelling and quirky. This is definitely an album worth listening to and is jam packed with innovative music and surprises. Discover it for yourselves and enjoy the 3rdegree experience.
Review by kev rowland
5 stars When I first came across 3rDegree some years ago, I said that they reminded me a great deal of the long-lost City Boy, and it was interesting to hear how much of an impact they had had on the band. However, Robert James Pashman (bass, keyboards, backing vocals ? and who is also responsible for getting me drinking Trappist-style beers) later informed me that none of them had heard of the band, and it was only after reading reviews mentioning them as an influence that they sought them out! Having given maximum marks to their previous three albums (I've only noticed that although I have their 1993 debut I've never reviewed it, must amend that at some point), I was looking forward to hearing this 2015 release. But, it arrived while I was working on my book, so ended up in the never-ending backlog. However, with the arrival in 2018 of the second part of the concept, it allows me to review them back to back (and thankfully the guys have been very understanding).

What we have here is a science fiction concept album, set in the fairly near future, where it is possible to live forever, or be enhanced in some ways. It is the mix between the human and the machine, the analogue and the digital, that makes the story what it is. Although all the lyrics are contained in the digipak, it is easy to understand the storyline without them due to the wonderfully clear vocals of singer George Dobbs, and the fact that they allow the story to tell itself. No need for complex analogies, let's get to it: my only complaint is that I found it quite distracting while driving, as I would rather listen to what was going on instead of paying attention to the road. We may not have many drivers down here, but our roads aren't exactly straight and wide.

Musically we are firmly back in the realms of City Boy, with an additional UK band that may surprise many, 10 CC. It took me ages to work out what the harmonies and key changes reminded me of, and then I realised it was like listening to parts of 'Deceptive Bends'. Added to this surreal pop/rock/prog mix they have added plenty of Utopia for good measure, and come up with something that is instantly 3rDegree, instantly accessible, and guaranteed to make the listener sit there with a massive smile on their face. The one song I found most interesting was "We Regret To Inform You", which includes the robotic voice of Valhalla Biotech explaining that there has been a slight issue with the recent procedure on the protagonist's father. I can't say any more than that without giving away the plot, but coming from an IT background this song really did appeal to my inner geek, and it works incredibly well. Add to that some beautifully phased and treated rock guitar and it is a total delight.

3rDegree probably isn't a name that too many people recognise from the progressive scene, but as I write this, this album is rated as being #6 on the charts for 2015 releases on ProgArchives. Looking at what is above it, all I can say is that it is in the wrong position, as it should be #1. Absolutely essential, crossover progressive rock doesn't get any better than this.

Latest members reviews

4 stars As I've always said, 3rd Degree is a band I'd like to see in a bar, because their music, like a bar room, can be both cozy and edgy, breezy and angry. If you are familiar with their previous work, sonically this is in between the expansiveness of its breakthrough predecessor, The Long Division, ... (read more)

Report this review (#1499392) | Posted by Progrussia | Monday, December 14, 2015 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Ones & Zeros: Vol. 1 is the fifth studio album by the New Jersey based 3RDegree. This release served as my introduction to the band after I heard The Best & Brightest on The Gagliarchives radio show. Ones & Zeros: Vol. 1 is a concept album that focuses on the problematic nature of unchecked techno ... (read more)

Report this review (#1464442) | Posted by Dreamcow | Thursday, September 17, 2015 | Review Permanlink

5 stars This is New Jersey-based band 3RDegree's fifth album, and each of their albums outdoes the previous effort. As it stands, Ones & Zeros: Vol.1 is their crowning achievement to date. On their last album, 2012's The Long Division, 3RDegree created a pseudo-concept album with political themes runni ... (read more)

Report this review (#1456698) | Posted by Subterranean Android | Wednesday, August 26, 2015 | Review Permanlink

4 stars I heard about this album from a friend of a friend of a friend. These guys are not well known but this album is outstanding. I pretty much liked every song on the album but a couple stand outs are "Hello World", "This is the Future" , and "The Best and the Brightest" I really enjoyed it and look ... (read more)

Report this review (#1455368) | Posted by LJK | Saturday, August 22, 2015 | Review Permanlink

5 stars This first appeared on and has been edited slightly. Whilst 3rdegree may have passed under the radar for a few of you, then thankfully things started to change for them three years or so back with the release of their 4th album, The Long Division. The band was formed by Rober ... (read more)

Report this review (#1455002) | Posted by AmericanProg | Thursday, August 20, 2015 | Review Permanlink

2 stars Normally, I don't write many reviews and I never wrote a bad (in terms of rating) review about an album. But this one here just sounds in my ears like it deserves it. I usually like concept albums, but I dislike noises and voices to create atmosphere. It doesn't work for me and in this case it r ... (read more)

Report this review (#1454638) | Posted by Mind_Drive | Wednesday, August 19, 2015 | Review Permanlink

5 stars A lot has been said in previous reviews of this brand new album about the concept and merit of the music among other things. I'd rather point out how deceptive the music of 3RDegree is-especially on this new disk Ones & Zeros: vol. 1. Knowing Prog as a sub-genre of rock as intimately as we do at PA, ... (read more)

Report this review (#1454583) | Posted by Buddahfurious15 | Wednesday, August 19, 2015 | Review Permanlink

4 stars Since roaring back to life with 2008's Narrow-Caster, 3rDegree has gone from strength to strength. Their 2012 effort, The Long Division, is one of my favorite albums. Does Ones and Zeroes: Volume 1 measure up and keep pushing the band forward? It's too early to tell, but it keeps revealing great ... (read more)

Report this review (#1453694) | Posted by RaelWV | Sunday, August 16, 2015 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Once again, I can thank PA for introducing me to what is fast becoming one of my favorite bands. I was introduced to them after getting a copy of their previous album, The Long Division, and immediately knew I was in for something special, and I was right. So I didn't hesitate in obtaining a copy of ... (read more)

Report this review (#1448026) | Posted by Awakened Stranger | Saturday, August 1, 2015 | Review Permanlink

5 stars I thought this was a wonderful concept album! The music is challenging but yet highly melodic, and the lyrics are intelligent with a dash of sarcasm thrown in for good measure. There are Beatle-esque harmonies sprinkled in throughout the album - honestly some of the best I've heard from the ... (read more)

Report this review (#1446555) | Posted by Troll2 | Tuesday, July 28, 2015 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Our emotions are really just a series of ones and zeros" sings the ensemble of 3rdegree singers in the ambitious track "What It Means To Be Human" a song wondering just that alongside its Cocteau Twins-like wall of guitars. Leading up to it, you hear the voice of Valhalla Biotech's representativ ... (read more)

Report this review (#1445275) | Posted by Schoeylove1 | Sunday, July 26, 2015 | Review Permanlink

5 stars At first you think all the things you like 3RDegree for (irreverence toward prog conventions like concept albums, science fiction themes, overblown pretentiousness) are out the window and the band has joined the fray in pro's well charted waters but then you realize they've bent things their w ... (read more)

Report this review (#1444861) | Posted by Lunatic84 | Saturday, July 25, 2015 | Review Permanlink

5 stars The first time I heard Ones and Zeros by 3rDegree, I liked it. I was in my car. I thought it was good, and despite the distractions of being on the road I even found myself recalling good musical hooks and hummable melodies. However, it wasn't until I actually put on a good pair of headphones and ... (read more)

Report this review (#1443544) | Posted by thesmokingman | Wednesday, July 22, 2015 | Review Permanlink

5 stars 3RDegree's previous release, The Long Division, was a risky but deeply rewarding endeavor that found them celebrating the diverse range of political belief within the band. Now, with the first volume of Ones & Zeros, this adventurous sextet takes several bold steps further to explore transhumanism ... (read more)

Report this review (#1443358) | Posted by Jay_K | Wednesday, July 22, 2015 | Review Permanlink

5 stars I never found Forrest Gump's mother's words about a box of chocolates to be true in relation to 3RDegree. "I always know what I'm going to get" to a great degree (no pun intended) with them-a reverence to Prog's past while exploring new avenues, a reliance on hook-laden music first followed by ... (read more)

Report this review (#1442185) | Posted by duclos | Saturday, July 18, 2015 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Concept albums have typically been a mixed blessing for me as a listener. While I usually applaud the effort and ambition it takes to even attempt to write one, I always listen with the trepidation one bears on a first date, wondering exactly how many minutes will elapse before the whole thing ... (read more)

Report this review (#1442019) | Posted by Greg Jones | Saturday, July 18, 2015 | Review Permanlink

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