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3RDEGREE

Crossover Prog • United States


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"Try keeping a secret in the age of the diode" (from Circuit Court)
ONES & ZEROS: the building blocks of data in our modern world. Our Internet is made of it-our governments in thirst to find out what everyone's doing with it...
"from the quaintest living room to a huge industrial boom we thank it's name
...Let's just hope he's nice" (from The Best & Brightest)
ONES & ZEROS put to the test. Ultra-Artificial Intelligence out of control? Where's the rulebook for countries to play by? Who's going to have the first one? What will they do with it?
"I never thought my chances of contentment would be determined by a transistor" (from This Is The Future)
ONES & ZEROS inside us all. Making us..."better". Who wants to improve? Should we all? Will we be made to?
"How much would you take from your very own children...for more life would you spare any cost?" (from Life At Any Cost) ONES & ZEROS extending life until the decision to join a digital mausoleum...a final "home in the clouds"...

These are various aspects of our future possibly on their way to becoming commonplace. These are the things on the mind of 3RDegree and make up its fifth and first full concept studio album, ONES & ZEROS: vol. 1 - their first for label 10T Records. All songs offer a unique take on the issues and ethics associated with the rapid progress of technology. Ray Kurzweil & others have been discussing futurism and transhumanism since the 1970s but only now are we seeing it impact our daily lives. Spearheaded by 1990's-era members, California guitarist Patrick Kliesch & New Jersey lead vocalist/keyboardist George Dobbs, the rest of the band shortly pitched in different songs - all closely associated with the overall theme. As with previous albums, both fully-fledged and skeletal ideas were created and passed between band members via the Internet and worked on in the flesh soon after.

ONES & ZEROS: vol. 1 continues to embody the musical direction envisioned by band founders Robert James Pashman & Patrick Kliesch in 1990: to create interesting and engaging music that mixes accessible melodies and catchy hooks with the intelligence and complexity of Progressive Rock. Releasing a debut cassette in THE WORLD IN WHICH WE LIVE in 1993 (w/ Pashman on lead vocals), 3RDegree decided to step up their game in 1995, adding a world class lead vocalist in George Dobbs and releasing their first CD (second "album"), 1996's HUMAN INTEREST STORY, which was re-released digitally...
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Ones & Zeroes: Vol. 1Ones & Zeroes: Vol. 1
10T Records 2015
Audio CD$9.72
$6.49 (used)
The Long DivisionThe Long Division
CD Baby 2012
Audio CD$13.83
$7.99 (used)
Hunters Unite (feat. Fluid) - SingleHunters Unite (feat. Fluid) - Single
Starfury Films 2011
Audio CD$8.98
$20.72 (used)
The Long Division by 3rdegree (2012-09-04)The Long Division by 3rdegree (2012-09-04)
CD Baby
Audio CD$38.49
The Long Division by CD Baby (2012-01-01)The Long Division by CD Baby (2012-01-01)
CD Baby (2012-01-01)
Audio CD$52.18
Narrow-CasterNarrow-Caster
CD Baby 2008
Audio CD$10.96
$5.98 (used)
Narrow-Caster by 3rdegree (2008-11-11)Narrow-Caster by 3rdegree (2008-11-11)
CD Baby
Audio CD$35.95
Ones & Zeroes: Vol. 1 by 3RDegree (2015-05-04)Ones & Zeroes: Vol. 1 by 3RDegree (2015-05-04)
10T Records
Audio CD$38.98
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3RDEGREE discography


Ordered by release date | Showing ratings (top albums) | Help Progarchives.com to complete the discography and add albums

3RDEGREE top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.13 | 12 ratings
The World In Which We Live
1993
3.51 | 25 ratings
Human Interest Story
1996
3.73 | 58 ratings
Narrow-Caster
2008
4.04 | 197 ratings
The Long Division
2012
4.16 | 287 ratings
Ones & Zeros: vol. 1
2015

3RDEGREE Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3RDEGREE Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

4.34 | 4 ratings
The Reunion Concerts
2008
4.27 | 5 ratings
Live At ProgDay 2009
2010
0.00 | 0 ratings
Hello World! Live in Europe & America
2016

3RDEGREE Boxset & Compilations (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3RDEGREE Official Singles, EPs, Fan Club & Promo (CD, EP/LP, MC, Digital Media Download)

5.00 | 1 ratings
The World In Which We Lived (2011)
2011

3RDEGREE Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Human Interest Story by 3RDEGREE album cover Studio Album, 1996
3.51 | 25 ratings

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Human Interest Story
3RDegree Crossover Prog

Review by FragileKings
Prog Reviewer

3 stars Early in the year, I checked out the Top 100 albums of 2015 and picked out a few to order. One album was "Ones & Zeros" by 3rdegree, a not-so-far-into-the-futuristic story about life extension and what life and being human means. Great album! I posted a review and soon after, I was contacted on Facebook by bass/vocals/keyboards Robert James Pashman. We exchanged messages about the album and other 3rdegree albums, and Robert mentioned that in celebration of the 20th anniversary of the second album "Human Interest Story", the 2013 reissue was available for 20% off in April. After a bit of discussion, I decided to order the album plus the next two that led up to "Ones & Zeros".

"Human Interest Story" is the sophomore effort by the band and it is the album where the line-up became complete with the addition of George Dobbs who took over lead vocal duties. Though I do not know how the band sounded on their debut, Dobbs has a sound to his voice that really suits the style of the music, a bit alternative with a sardonic edge that is used to good effect when required. As many of the lyrics deal with social observations (check out the title track which is about trashy talk shows), Dobbs' cynicism and irony fit the subject matter.

Listening to this album and the others, one of my first impressions was that 3rdegree are similar to Echolyn as they sounded on their "As the World" album of around the same period. But while "As the World" struck me as a very busy album, "Human Interest Story" is geared back a bit, more towards the song and yet still smoothly riding the progressive wave with some very sweet prog approaches to the composition. Actually, the electric guitar is often heavy and could sound a bit metal at times though I find it leans more towards alternative, particularly a band like I Mother Earth (only because I've been listening to them recently). With the acoustic moments of piano and guitar placed cleverly between songs of more bombastic material, I had the impression of a cynical and angry Barenaked Ladies-go-alt-rock in a tempered Echolyn progressive way. Add to that some keyboard moments that are reminiscent of late seventies pop prog like Saga or Supertramp and there's a lot to appreciate in the music here.

Regarding to 2013 reissue, I see that it is 3 songs shorter than the original 1996 release, and on the album I received, the final track is called "Done It Again" and is about an imperious employer. I can enjoy listening to the whole album, but I will point out three tracks that stand out for their own particular reasons. "Black Orchid" is a beautiful acoustic guitar instrumental with flute-like keyboards harkening back to some of the great acoustic instrumentals of the early seventies. "Locked Inside" includes a guest female vocalist (sorry I can't find her name right now), and "Misfortune on Main Street" is an 11-minute mini-epic that plays out very well.

It's tempting to give the album a 4-star rating but I find at times the vocals and backing vocals haven't yet managed to achieve that wonderful sound that they have on later albums. Also, the guitar does tend to stay on the heavy side giving the band a youthful and vigorous sound that is a little rough-edged but not usually associated with progressive rock. They will develop their music more maturely on their future albums, which to my taste are worthy of greater praise.

If you are into the band, this is an album worth having. If you are just getting into them, I would recommend working back by getting a couple of the more recent releases first. Still, an album with a lot of terrific music and song-writing!

 Ones & Zeros: vol. 1 by 3RDEGREE album cover Studio Album, 2015
4.16 | 287 ratings

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Ones & Zeros: vol. 1
3RDegree Crossover Prog

Review by FragileKings
Prog Reviewer

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.

 Ones & Zeros: vol. 1 by 3RDEGREE album cover Studio Album, 2015
4.16 | 287 ratings

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Ones & Zeros: vol. 1
3RDegree Crossover Prog

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 angelosrockorphanage.com

 The Long Division by 3RDEGREE album cover Studio Album, 2012
4.04 | 197 ratings

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The Long Division
3RDegree Crossover Prog

Review by thesmokingman

4 stars When this album came out four years ago in tandem with the 2012 Presidential Election, its relevancy could not be understated. In 2016, it seems that this album is just as poignant as ever -- a testament to both its genius and its resilience, at least from a topical perspective.

Thematically, The Long Division is packed full of wound-poking criticism that equally targets both sides of the US political aisle. Sung with fervor and performed with pop-hooky style, it's chock full of poetic narratives that would force even the staunchest demagogue to blush with embarrassment as disingenuity is dragged into the sunlight. The odd thing about this album is for all the common focus that occurs between certain songs, it's not really a concept album. Although I have read that the band never really considered The Long Division to be a concept album, I still feel it wants to be one -- even if it's not completely realized. Either way, the music itself is strong enough that the debate becomes a moot point.

I've always found it amusing when bands can "trick" listeners into singing and bobbing their head in odd times through crafty arrangement and catchy melody and that's one thing that 3rDegree manages to pull off right out of the gate with You're Fooling Yourself. On the other hand, those seeking more straightforward progressive rock nods will find them scattered throughout the album in places like the opening of The Socio-Economic Petri Dish (how's that for a proggy song name!?) and the breakdown of Memetic Pandemic. On a more songwriting oriented note, you'll be hard pressed to get the melodies from songs like Exit Strategy, Incoherent Ramblings and Televised out of your head. And after all that's done, the album wraps up with the decidedly Queen-y Nihilist's Love Song that drives the final "does any of this really matter?" stake into the political commentary.

Aside from a slight lack of cohesion (whether it was planned or accidental) and varying moments of disparity in production value, this album is a solid cover to cover listen that really captures much of the varying nuance that makes 3rDegree so inimitable.

 Ones & Zeros: vol. 1 by 3RDEGREE album cover Studio Album, 2015
4.16 | 287 ratings

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Ones & Zeros: vol. 1
3RDegree Crossover Prog

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.

 Ones & Zeros: vol. 1 by 3RDEGREE album cover Studio Album, 2015
4.16 | 287 ratings

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Ones & Zeros: vol. 1
3RDegree Crossover Prog

Review by Raff
Special Collaborator RIO/Avant/Zeuhl Team

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.

 The Long Division by 3RDEGREE album cover Studio Album, 2012
4.04 | 197 ratings

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The Long Division
3RDegree Crossover Prog

Review by Raff
Special Collaborator RIO/Avant/Zeuhl Team

4 stars As I pointed out in my review of "Narrow-Caster", 3RDegree are one of those bands that are bound to divide opinions within the prog community. While critics have generally greeted their albums with words of praise, the public's response has not always been equally enthusiastic. Though the band members proudly state their allegiance to the progressive rock camp, their sound - in true art-rock tradition - contains enough "mainstream" elements to make purists frown, eliciting doubts as to its actual prog quotient. George Dobbs' extraordinary vocals (clearly more influenced by Stevie Wonder than Jon Anderson or Peter Gabriel) are also a sore point with those fans who find it hard to break away from the Seventies mould. The band's frequent reliance on the conventional song form is another source of controversy for those who forget that, in fact, even in its heyday prog never completely rejected traditional song modes, though often rendering them almost unrecognizable.

Compared to "Narrow-Caster", "The Long Division" ups the ante in terms of complexity, while retaining its accessible, deceptively upbeat flavour. Though there are no epics in the conventional prog sense, the album is intended as a sort of loose concept that, while firmly rooted in the peculiar atmosphere of a US presidential election year, can also resonate with citizens of most Western countries, especially in the current global situation. The clean, geometric lines of the striking cover artwork contrast sharply with the stereotypically fanciful prog aesthetics, its bright blue and red hues identifying the two main US political parties, separated by an apparently unbridgeable gap.

From a musical point of view, the main ingredients that made "Narrow-Caster" such as successful example of modern crossover prog do not disguise the intricacy of the instrumental fabric and the frequent changes in tempo and mood. George Dobbs' authoritative voice is assisted by gorgeous, layered vocal harmonies reminiscent of early Yes (or even The Beatles) that complement the lush instrumental interplay. The double-guitar configuration, with new boy Eric Pseja flanking founding member Patrick Kliesch, has undeniably beefed up the sound, though as a whole "The Long Division" comes across as a smoother-sounding effort, less reliant on high-powered riffs and more focused on Dobbs' keyboards.

The 10 songs on "The Long Division" are arranged in a pattern that alternates uptempo numbers with more laid-back ones. "You're Fooling Yourselves" ? a fitting introduction to the musical and lyrical themes of the album, mixed by Echolyn's Brett Kull ? showcases the band's trademark blend of catchy hooks and subtle complexity, with intriguing vocal textures and sleek guitar solos ranging from meditative to energetic. The mellotron-infused "Exit Strategy", with its airy, orchestral feel, is dominated by vocals, though Robert James Pashman's strong bass lines (well complemented by new drummer Aaron Nobel) emerge prominently. The bass is also the undisputed protagonist of the funky, exhilarating "The Socio-Economic Petri Dish" - sounding like Yes probably would if they had been founded in the 21st century, and displaying the band's collective talent in both the instrumental and vocal department. "Incoherent Ramblings" (the longest track on the album at almost 8 minutes) is an extremely well-constructed piece, bringing together the mellow, atmospheric component of 3RDegree's inspiration and the sense of urgency often lurking even in the more relaxed numbers; while the brisk "The Ones to Follow" offers another vocal showcase for Dobbs and an almost infectious chorus.

The second half of the album opens with the hauntingly romantic, piano-led "A Work of Art", the only song dating back from the early incarnation of the band, enhanced by sax, flute and mellotron and featuring an unusually subdued vocal performance by Dobbs. Things pick up with the slashing riffs and hard rock vibe of the Rush-influenced "Televised", driven by Pashman's fat, groovy bass line and Nobel's muscular yet intricate drumming, the heaviness softened by the Beatlesian flavour of the harmony vocals. The short, gentle instrumental "The Millions of Last Moments" prepares the listener to the album's grand finale ? the melodic-with-a-bite, sinuous "Memetic Pandemic", which allows Dobbs to shine on piano and organ as well as in the singing department, and the catchy "A Nihilist's Love Song", based on a chiming acoustic guitar line reinforced by piano and layers of vocal harmonies.

With "The Long Division", 3RDegree prove that they have reached their full maturity as a band, delivering an intelligent, well-rounded example of modern progressive rock. Avoiding the bloated excesses of many retro-oriented bands, "The Long Division" is a complete package of classy music, top-notch vocals and thought-provoking lyrics ? recommended to anyone but incurable prog purists.

Originally published on my blog, "Fire of Unknown Origin", on August 1, 2012

 Ones & Zeros: vol. 1 by 3RDEGREE album cover Studio Album, 2015
4.16 | 287 ratings

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Ones & Zeros: vol. 1
3RDegree Crossover Prog

Review by Progrussia

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, and the more compact and slightly heavier earlier releases. Its also a story-driven concept album, so, yes, there are going to be vocal samples inserted into the middle of songs. 3rd Degree's sound is melody-based and eclectic, while eschewing the extremes, but could be described as being between jazzy pop and heavy prog. On this album, I like the longer songs, because they both allow to build an enjoyable melodic theme while still throwing in a couple of surprises. But the shorter songs are also often twist-and-turny, so I guess you could call it their most ambitious work to date.
 Narrow-Caster by 3RDEGREE album cover Studio Album, 2008
3.73 | 58 ratings

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Narrow-Caster
3RDegree Crossover Prog

Review by Raff
Special Collaborator RIO/Avant/Zeuhl Team

4 stars '3RDegree ' Defiling perfectly good songs with prog since 1990'

The definition of 'narrow-caster' (as opposed to a broadcaster) - 'one who transmits a TV programme ['] or otherwise disseminate information, to a comparatively small audience defined by special interest or geographical location' ' seems to be a perfect fit for anyone engaged in the production of progressive rock. In spite of the genre's relative popularity these days, both the musicians and those who (like myself and many others) support it through our writings are perfectly aware that prog is not likely to become the next mainstream sensation, and its appeal will remain limited to a niche audience.

Released in the first half of 2008, "Narrow-Caster" mostly comprises material that had been conceived prior to 3RDegree's demise in 1997 (due to lack of response from their intended audience), but completely rearranged for the occasion , taking advantage of modern technology to allow guitarist and founding member Patrick Kliesch (who currently lives in Los Angeles) to participate in the writing and recording process.

The reactions of the 'prog community' to the album have been somewhat mixed, as illustrated by the reviews published since its release. Although 3RDegree have always proclaimed their love of progressive rock (as stated by the quote I used as a heading, which is proudly emblazoned on the band's official T-shirt), the influences they list on their promotional material point to a very eclectic bunch of artists ' with the likes of Rush, Level 42, Genesis and Stevie Wonder mentioned in the same breath. In fact, labelling 3RDegree as a 'conventional' prog band would do them a serious disservice: they should rather be counted among the rightful heirs of legendary genre-bending outfits such as 10cc, Supertramp, Roxy Music and Queen. These bands and others, pioneers of the much-debated genre called Art Rock, are seen by some as little more than marginally related to prog, by others as no less progressive than icons such as Yes or Genesis.

For today's standards, "Narrow-Caster" is a short album, with no track longer than 5-odd minutes. Chock-full of hooks and melodies that would be the envy of many bigger-name bands, it is one of those independent releases that manage to sound like a million dollars. While the label-happy brigade might frown and turn up their noses, at the beginning of the 21st century, with progressive rock in all its manifestations enjoying an almost unexpected Renaissance, an increasing number of outfits have rediscovered the importance of a well-crafted song as opposed to sprawling, patchy and often terminally boring epics. 3RDegree are part of a solid, though not too large, contingent of bands who do not believe that 'pop' is always a bad word, and who deliver consistently intelligent, classy music without the need to release a whopping 80 minutes of it.

While all the members of 3RDegree are gifted musicians, creating rich sonic textures without anyone seeking to outdo the other, the band's real ace in the hole is George Dobbs' absolutely stunning voice (which, I am happy to say, sounds every bit as good live as it does on CD). Though I have seen it compared to the likes of Michael Jackson, in my view the closest comparison are Glenn Hughes (of Trapeze, Deep Purple and, more recently, Black Country Communion fame), and of course Stevie Wonder. George's versatile, soul-infused tenor can shift from soothing to aggressive in the space of a single song, stamping his unique imprint on the band's music without overwhelming it. 3RDegree's love of classic prog acts such as Yes and Gentle Giant (as well as The Beatles and the label-defying King's X) shines through the superb vocal harmonies that grace most of the songs.

The album kicks off in high gear with 'Apophenia', an intriguing mid-tempo with echoes of Rush in the guitar parts that immediately introduces the listener to 3RDegree's heady blend of aggressive, catchy and atmospheric elements. Dobbs delivers the thought-provoking lyrics, belying the apparently carefree tone of the music (something perfected by the likes of Steely Dan and Supertramp, to name but two) in impassioned yet perfectly controlled fashion. The Steely Dan comparisons rear their head in the splendid 'It Works', my favourite number on the album, with excellent guitar and keyboard work bolstered by Pashman's nimble bass lines, and one of Dobbs' finest moments together with the energetic 'Free for All' - where a deceptively blissful chorus is offset by the spiky, riff-heavy electricity of the verse.

While the title-track and the smooth, jazz- and soul-tinged 'Scenery' showcase 3RDegree's more accessible side, with plenty of catchy vocal harmonies and laid-back melodies, the short but punchy 'The Proverbial Banana Peel' sees the band experiment with both electronics and metal-like power chords The nicely-paced 'Cautionary Tale' delivers a biting indictment of religious fanaticism through almost seductive vocals and an atmospheric guitar solo, and 'Live With This Forever' marries a great hook, supported by Dobbs' stellar performance both on vocals and keyboards, with some harder-edged guitar work. 'Young Once' and 'The Last Gasp', on the other hand, are probably the two songs where the constantly lurking progressive component of 3RDegree's sound emerges most clearly: the former, a wistful number in the Steely Dan vein, unexpectedly features a lovely, ambient-like bridge; while the latter closes the album in style with a brilliant combination of dreamy vocals, Rush-like guitar riffs and a majestic, orchestra-backed, bass- and keyboards-led coda that brings Yes to mind.

If you are looking for music that successfully combines accessibility, great musicianship and stunning vocals, look no further than "Narrow-Caster", definitely one of the best releases of the first decade of the 21st century. In a perfect world, these guys would be stars, since it takes a whole lot of skill and dedication to write music of this kind, at the same time approachable and sophisticated. Modern Art Rock does not get much better than this.

Originally published on my blog, Fire of Unknown Origin, on March 25, 2011.

 Ones & Zeros: vol. 1 by 3RDEGREE album cover Studio Album, 2015
4.16 | 287 ratings

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Ones & Zeros: vol. 1
3RDegree Crossover Prog

Review by rogerthat
Collaborator Crossover Team

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.

Thanks to micky for the artist addition. and to Raff for the last updates

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