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Matthew Parmenter


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Matthew Parmenter Astray album cover
3.97 | 89 ratings | 8 reviews | 21% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
prog rock music collection

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Studio Album, released in 2004

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Now (9:59)
2. Distracted (7:40)
3. Dirty Mind (9:21)
4. Another Vision (7:08)
5. Some Fear Growing Old (6:57)
6. Between Me and the End (5:56)
7. Modern Times (21:09)

Total Time 68:10

Line-up / Musicians

- Matthew Parmenter / vocals, piano, guitar, drums, saxophone, violin, organ, synthesizers, marimba, theremin, Mellotron, producing & mixing

- Mathew Kennedy / bass

Releases information

Artwork: Paul Dagenais (photo)

CD Strung Out Records ‎- SOR 6804 (2004, US)

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MATTHEW PARMENTER Astray ratings distribution

(89 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(21%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(55%)
Good, but non-essential (18%)
Collectors/fans only (6%)
Poor. Only for completionists (0%)


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

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by loserboy
4 stars Matthew PARMENTER I suppose would be more recognize able in his main role as lead singer in the US Progressive Rock band "DISCIPLINE", but treats us to something new in his first solo release "Astray". As you know from my earlier review I am a big fan of PARMENTER's emotive style, pungent lyrics and vocalizations but I had no idea he could play so competently all these instruments.

PARMENTER plays all piano, guitar, drums, saxophone, violin, organ, synthesizers, marimba, Theremin, and Mellotron parts (an of course vocals). The end result is a deep thought provoking dark musical montage of seven personal songs delivered with PARMENTER's conviction and vocal cinematics. Songs each build and move thru a range of emotions, tempo and mood swings and all kind of end up in that dark and border line angry space. Oh yes I should also mention that album also contains a nice ling epic track "Modern Times".

"Astray" is IMHO a piece of genius and lovers of DISCIPLINE" will need to get their hands on a copy of this album.

Review by Dan Bobrowski
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Many influences abound on Matthew Parmenter's first solo release. The Genesis school of theatrical music, VDGG's pain and anguish (Parmenter occassionally sounds very much like Peter Hammill) and early King Crimson's aural soundscape (heavily mellotronised) and even a glimpse or two of Jon Anderson styled lyric lines (in my head I could hear Anderson singing some of the vocals. Not timbre, mind you, more inflection). All in all, a healthy prog soup.

Except for the bass, all instruments are played by Parmenter. Drums, percussion, vocals, keyboards, violin, sax, guitar... It has such a live feel, it's hard to believe everything is totally overdubbed. Each instrument is played with finesse and the conviction one puts into being adept at only a single instrument. This guy could be a member in any band. Versatility is an understatement.

This album is a grower, each listen (about 15 for me) brings forth new elements and wonders. By the third or fouth listen, I was captured.

Vocally, Parmenter can be a chameleon. He changes styles and tones in an instant. From Hammill's melodrama to Anderson's wispy naivete to Gabriel's storytelling characters. Personally, I would be appreciative if he dropped the Hammill persona. It comes across as almost too imitative, rather than personal. I researched other sites regarding this release and some even credit Hammill as singing on this record. Believe me, Hammill''s name does not appear on the CD sleeve, nor on the MP website. Strange? I'll say. Discipline's last studio release, Unfolded Like Staircase features some Hamillesque vocals as well.

Musically, Astray doesn't get as heavy as the Discipline albums. There are many softer interludes and rarely do the tune reach any climatic cresendoes. The music lilts and flows. It will not lull you, however, it's piques your interest and carries you along. This is what progressive music should do. This is visual art for the mind. It's not always pretty, but it screams to been seen.

High points? The longest track, "Modern Times" has many movements, plenty of mellotron and some King Crimson power chording and eclectic themes. Over twenty minutes of shifting textures, martial beats, apocalyptical lyrics and a stunning guitar solo finale. "Dirty Mind" features wonderfully irreverent lyrcis and a playful piano accompaniment. "All my thoughts turn to dirty thoughts." Wickedly fun. "Distracted" gives me the Jon Anderson image. Too bad YES doesn't get this charged lyrically anymore. "Now" has a heavy Hammill vibe in the lyrics and delivery.

It's a strong disc. There is a lot to absorb and many sights to see and hear within the music. Just like the old Ragu commercials, "Try It, You'll Like IT."

Review by slipperman
4 stars It's a shame Discipline dissolved before they were able to build a larger discography. Only two albums, with the second, 'Unfolded Like Staircase', among the best U.S. prog records ever. Discipline was largely great thanks to the talent of leader and songwriter Matthew Parmenter, and 'Astray' is a most welcome addition to the man's slowly growing songbook.

Lots of people compared Discipline's second album, and Parmenter's vocal delivery, to Van Der Graaf Generator and Peter Hammill. In terms of pure emotional bloodletting, I hear the comparison, but in terms of sound and tone, I really don't think they have much in common. But 'Astray' indeed comes close to the Hammill solo aesthetic, and at times is a great companion to the great man's most difficult '70s solo work.

Besides the bass work of Discipline's Mathew Kennedy, Parmenter lays down all instruments, in addition to his warm and confident vocals. As a drummer and a guitarist, he is adequate, but not a virtuoso. His keyboard, sax and violin work are his strong points, so you get an album that sounds quite band-like. This isn't a sparse, simplistic singer-songwriter affair.

High points are "Distracted", with an infectious foreboding sway, the lyrically interesting "Dirty Mind" (paired with music that gives the subject matter a contemplative, haunting edge), and "Now", which mirrors the deep and dark introspection of latter-day Hammill. All songs are textured and written with plenty of depth. Much of the mood is melancholic beauty incarnate (see "Between Me And The End"), and just about all of it is rewarding, unfailing in its attempts to emotionally move the intent listener. The only problem is that some of the songs seem to stray beyond their natural end, wandering for several minutes in an instrumental limbo (or a too- repetitive chorus). To be sure, Parmenter and Kennedy have enough musical talent between them, but these songs are primarily centered on Parmenter's poetry and his captivating vocal delivery and should probably stay that way. "Now", "Another Vision" (an otherwise great song) and the overlong "Modern Times" suffer from this over-long syndrome. I'm usually first in line for a 20-minute epic, and though "Modern Times" has its share of beautiful and challenging moments, it suffers from some of the superfluous wandering heard elsewhere on the album. Overall, though, the songwriting and performances are of a high standard, enough that this can be easily recommended to all fans of Discipline and Peter Hammill's best solo work. (oh yeah, big P.S. here: I do NOT see this as having anything to do with Neo-Prog, as it is categorized on this site.)

Review by Prog-jester
5 stars I guess I'm going to rate EVERY Parmenter-related stuff with 5 stars! This guy has talent and charisma! He's THE MOST UNDERRATED PROG COMPOSER of our time! Just listen to his works with DISCIPLINE (or here) to confirm this!

Again bearing his Hammil/Gabriel appreciation, luckily Matthew didn't copy their solo styles (sometimes quite different from both VDGG/GENESIS styles). As usual, he DOESN'T write symphonies or simple songs burdened with long and pointless instrumental spots - he just writes PROGRESSIVE SONGS. And it's worthy of 20 minutes, the songs will be 20 minutes long. And if it requires complexity and changing themes, it'll have them all. Sometimes it seems that Matthew just takes our sacred dreams of "having A Perfect Prog Album in your collection" and makes them come true! Give a listen to opening "Now" - it's the best song VDGG never did! Experience the closing epic "Modern Times" in best DISCIPLINE traditions...wait, I said "DISCIPLINE traditions"? I must be wrong - this is simply Matthew Parmenter, a man-orchestra who doesn't sound like your typical faceless one-man bands failing to keep your ear attentive...

Bravo, mr. Parmenter, you're flawless as usual. DISCIPLINE lovers, it's a Must! Progheads - it's worth of buying! Extremely recommended!

Review by Mellotron Storm
3 stars I guess the bottom line is that this album isn't catching on with me. And when I say that I mean musically because when it comes to Matthew's lyrics there are few who are as talented. I actually enjoy just reading his words more than listening to the music which is probably a first for me. He would make his musical hero Peter Hammill proud with the way he writes a song that's for sure. And that is the biggest compliment I could possibly give him. Matthew does it all here except play bass which he employed his former DISCIPLINE band mate Mathew Kennedy for. Rather dark music here without a lot of dynamics. Mostly vocals and piano, and we get mellotron on 4 of the 7 tracks.

"Now" opens with vocals and piano. It gets fuller then settles. These contrasts continue. Sax 2 1/2 minutes in. Mellotron 5 1/2 minutes in and really the last 4 1/2 minutes of this song are the best on the album for me. Organ after 7 1/2 minutes. Great lyrics on this one. "Distracted" is led by drums and vocals and is mid-paced. Mellotron 4 1/2 minutes in. It settles late. "Dirty Mind" is fairly mellow with vocals, piano and drums standing out. It's fuller 1 1/2 minutes in but that changes. Again excellent lyrics here. "Another Vision" features laid back guitar and vocals. Organ 4 1/2 minutes in when the vocals stop. The lyrics are so well done. ,

"Some Fear Growing Old" is really the first catchy tune although it's fairly slow paced. Strummed guitar and the violin comes and goes. "Between Me And The End" is a little too depressing really. My least favourite track. Sombre with piano and reserved vocals for the most part. "Modern Times" is the over 21 minute closer. This sounds better right away as we get a full sound with mellotron. It settles a minute in with almost spoken vocals and piano. It picks up some and we get some guitar before 5 1/2 minutes. It turns aggressive. Mellotron before 7 minutes. It settles after 8 minutes then picks up again after 11 minutes. These contrasts continue.

I wish Matthew's vocals were a little stronger. Good release that impresses lyrically but not so much musically.

Review by avestin
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Have you ever felt your life has been going off-course? Do you feel that despite your efforts and wishes you have come short of achieving your goals, out of tune with your life? The seven songs in this album by Matthew Parmenter present each a story of such a case; seven tales of being and feeling Astray.

After being completely captivated by Unfolded Like Staircase, the album by Parmenter's band, Discipline, I decided to get his solo output. I thought it would somewhat simpler, less dense and layered than Discipline, but what I hear here, while not as complex and intricate as Discipline's material, is nonetheless, as rewarding, rich sounding and well done. Matthew Parmenter sings and plays all the instruments (and there are a lot of those accounting for the rich layering) aside from the bass, played by Mathew Kennedy.

In fact, Astray has quickly risen to be a personal favourite of mine. Each of the seven songs has a simple basic theme to it, which is then expanded into a wide musical landscape depicting a story and emotions. The way Matthew sings the lyrics merges perfectly with the melody. The pathos in his voice in convincing as if the story told is his own. The melodies start out in a simple yet charming way, often with the use of the piano, and are then built upon with additional layers of instrumentation, though not excessively, and building up to emotional climaxes.

There is a verse-chorus-verse basis but it is played around with, to not sound straightforward, so as to not be dull. The result is an album that manages to sound personal, beautiful and simple and yet be elaborate and varied. The opening song, Now, is the best example of a relatively simple tune that is developed further and built upon with more layers; it ends up in an lush sounding instrumental segment where the main theme is initially played on piano and then joined by the drums, bass, guitar and mellotron.

This delicate balance is well maintained throughout the album, even in the closing 21 minutes song, Modern Times, which may be the most Discipline-like song here in scope and to a lesser extent, in writing style. A superb song, it runs the gamut from the simple piano lead section to full-blown progressive rock epic with rich instrumentation and magical instrumental segments.

The most simplistic structured song is Just Another Vision, but it as well, along with its lyrics, is a beautiful song, which doesn't change its pace and in which the chorus and verse have the same melody. The organ here adds a richness that lifts the whole song up a notch and along with the vocals have a hypnotic effect. The same mood is continued in Some Fear Growing Old, which again, doesn't show much diversity in terms of composition, but more so in terms of instrumentation, where, for instance, the violin makes an appearance. The level of intimacy is deepened with the beautiful and highly emotional song, Between Me and the End, where Matthew accompanies himself on a piano (except for two moments where more vocals and a saxophone join in), singing about his loneliness, a sensation of being lost, astray and of not much to live for, feeling near the end.

To continue this, there are, not surprisingly, similarities in sound to Discipline, particularly when it comes to the powerful sound of the keyboards which are a dominant part of Unfolded Like Staircase and the same is true here (organ, mellotron, synthesizers, piano),. Matthew uses these to create a melancholic and gripping atmosphere, with long brushes to accompany his singing; he then uses them to draw a more precise and detailed picture as they come to the front and lead the composition. The additional instruments play a significant role as well, contributing distinct parts and ornamentations; such an example is the marimba in Distracted.

On a different note, I take my hat off to Matthew for the making this album sounding so well and tight, especially condering he played all instruments except the bass, and managed the engineering and mixing roles.

I hope I got my enthusiasm of and love for this album through this review. It is a beautiful and striking intimate album, and for me serves as much a way to connect to personal pain as it is to serve as a cleansing experience.

Review by Warthur
4 stars Matthew Parmenter's first solo album comes across as a means of continuing Discipline by other means - the compositional approach is very similar to that of Discipline (the shorter songs being reminiscent of Push and Profit, whilst the closing epic Modern Times is more like the material on Unfolded Like Staircase), Discipline's Matthew Kennedy guests on bass guitar, and once again the music occupies a dark hinterland between neo-prog and symphonic prog. Frankly, that's 100% fine by me. The brilliant compositions and songs on this album only underline how important Parmenter's skills as a multi-instrumentalist, composer, and frontman were to Discipline, and continue that band's spirit and experiments admirably.
Review by BrufordFreak
COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Genius composer/frontman of the American band DISCIPLINE, Matthew Parmenter produces a solo album that once again illustrates just how much Discipline is a mere extension of his ideas, his theatric sensibilities, his talents. In this reviewer's humble opinion, Matthew's talents and vocals far surpass the man to whom he is constantly compared (and who may very well have been an inspiration and model for Matthew): Peter HAMMILL. This album has a very deeply emotional feel to it--partly due to Matthew's vocal delivery style but also due to the very well-matched music. The album credits list friend and fellow DISIPLINE band member and bass player Matthew Kennedy as the only other musician collaborating with Parmenter. The rest of the layers of instrumentation belong to the multi-instrument-wielding composer.

1. Now (9:59) opens with a very catchy vocal hook and proceeds form there into some very interesting and engaging sound and structural territories--including some nice early-KING CRIMSON in the fifth through ninth minutes (with some truly awesome drumming during that same stretch!) One of my two favorites from this album. (10/10)

2. Distracted (7:40) is a nice song that is, unfortunately, very poorly engineered/mastered and could have been, in my opinion, much polished. As is, it sounds like a demo. A good demo, but a demo. So much potential here! (8/10)

3. Dirty Mind (9:21) trampses and builds like a classic DISCIPLINE song INow you see who the real composer of their songs was?!) but, like most DISCIPLINE epics, fails to keep me engaged and/or interested through to the end. (8/10)

4. Another Vision (7:08) almost feels like a song from Americana. It seems to drag on forever. Not being a lyrics-driven music listener, this proves to be far too tedious for my personal enjoyment. (7/10)

5. Some Fear Growing Old (6:57) opens with an Americana-like strummed acoustic guitar chord sequence that is joined by standard slow rock bass and drums while Matthew's voice (again very poorly recorded and mixed) sings a sorrowful dirge. The mid-song violin play, as simple as it is, is one of the song's highlights. The other is the layered vocal harmonies towards the end. (7/10)

6. Between Me and the End (5:56) is a stark, piano-only accompanied vocal, perhaps the most powerful and emotional song on the album. (10/10)

7. Modern Times (21:09) opens a little bombastically but then quickly calms down to a guitar, bass, drum and piano combo supporting Matthew's (rather poorly recorded) vocals. IN the fifth minute the song starts to sound like a sparsely instrumented KARDA ESTRA song--just before the electric guitars and heavier bass and drum play begin. I don't really like that the lead electric guitar soloing in front pushes Matthew's voice (further) into the background. The instrumental section beginning in the seventh minute sounds a little like KING CRIMSON 101--simple--though the drums get a little looser and more free-flowing by its end. At 8:15 the music shifts a little into a more bouncy, upbeat section to support one of Matthew's other theatric voices. But then, in true symphonic form, at 9:20 the music drops out leaving nothing but a droning organ and Matthew's demonic voice. Menacing singing, menacing words, and menacing music to support it. At 11:15 a melodic though still heavy section begins, with some pretty guitar soloing. The themes from this section spiral forward for a while--even through a vocal section or two--until at 16:25 there is a bridge to a shift into a more discordant though driving tempoed instrumental section--with kind of an "Apocalypse in 9/8" feel to it. Some nice guitar, bass and organ work here. Unfortunately, the build to climax in the twentieth minute falls flat--and, sadly, we never hear from Matthew's voice again. (9/10)

My gut feeling is that Matthew's choice to do so much of this album alone--including the recording, engineering, and mastering--led this to be an inferior representation of his genius. Matthew is not a sound engineer. He needs input/criticism from others in order to polish and bring his ideas to full fruition.

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