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THANK YOU SCIENTIST

Crossover Prog • United States


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Thank You Scientist biography
Founded in 2009 in Montclair, New Jersey, USA

Thank You Scientist is a seven-headed rock ensemble from New Jersey. Their debut record, The Perils of Time Travel, was released in January 2011. The music can be best described as progressive rock mixed with jazz and fusion. Not an uncommon trait especially under the crossover banner.They are from New Jersey and have been playing successful live shows to eager audiences for some time now. The abovementioned EP release consists of five tracks and has been warmly received.

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THANK YOU SCIENTIST top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.97 | 178 ratings
Maps Of Non-Existent Places
2012
4.11 | 236 ratings
Stranger Heads Prevail
2016
3.96 | 247 ratings
Terraformer
2019

THANK YOU SCIENTIST Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

THANK YOU SCIENTIST Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

THANK YOU SCIENTIST Boxset & Compilations (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

THANK YOU SCIENTIST Official Singles, EPs, Fan Club & Promo (CD, EP/LP, MC, Digital Media Download)

3.37 | 47 ratings
The Perils Of Time Travel
2011

THANK YOU SCIENTIST Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Terraformer by THANK YOU SCIENTIST album cover Studio Album, 2019
3.96 | 247 ratings

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Terraformer
Thank You Scientist Crossover Prog

Review by FatherChristmas

5 stars I was thinking about doing a long and thorough review on this album. That was the first sign I hadn't listened to this recently. Well, I just have, and I've realised that if I do what I call a "thorough" review, I'll be here writing it until next Sunday.

This is because Thank You Scientist, being Thank You Scientist, expanded on their older work and made one of the most eclectic and musically varied albums ever. An album so eclectic and musically varied it would take ages to describe and judge properly. An album, nevertheless, that has helped shape new/modern prog. But I'll get on. 

It contains jazz fusion with "Wrinkle" and "Shatner's Lament", it expands on funk with "Son of a Serpent", it adds a bit of metal with "Swarm" and "Terraformer", and classic prog with "Everyday Ghosts" (I say "classic prog"... not really classic, just prog - and odd, experimental prog at that). Thank You Scientist are more imaginative than ever on this album - there's nothing like it.

Or is there? Well, they're certainly not the only band that's "imaginative". Another band whose music I was reviewing recently, Pyramid Theorem, has a similar use of fusing prog, new experimental methods and, in their case, metal. This, of course, does not mean they are similar bands and part of some new sub-genre - in fact, they're nothing like each other, Pyramid Theorem is progressive metal and Thank You Scientist is jazz-experimental-fuelled crossover prog - but this does not alter the fact that when a band of prog metalheads is using similar methods as a band of prog "what on earth is this?"s... something like a new wave of prog is coming, is what I'm driving at.

Anyway, back to this album - nothing like has been seen before this day and age, even though other bands in this day and age are coming close. And, on that note, before I start waffling on and on forever, I reach my conclusion.

It's got normal prog, jazz and funk influences, a hint of metal, a general experimental approach - surely anything you'd ever want in a prog album. Therefore, five stars. Expanding on that, I give my two requirements for a five star album:

1. The songs must all be excellent.

2. It must work brilliantly as an album.

Every song is good - or failing that, excellent. "FXMLDR", in my opinion the best track, meets, I think, the requirements for a classic - an amazing song, I will say no more. As for the second requirement... The tracks couldn't have been arranged better, but after a while it does give you a bit of a headache. That, however, does not prevent it from being a masterpiece, and since PA says a masterpiece must be five stars, I'll let them off there.

So... five stars. I expect to hear even better on their next attempt, though! Maybe six stars!

Next time, I think I'll review something easier - Wish You Were Here, maybe. Or Permanent Waves.

 Stranger Heads Prevail by THANK YOU SCIENTIST album cover Studio Album, 2016
4.11 | 236 ratings

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Stranger Heads Prevail
Thank You Scientist Crossover Prog

Review by ssmarcus

5 stars Thank You Scientist have pushed progressive metal into previously uncharted territory. By forgoing the standard keyboardist accessory piece and swapping in a violinist and several wind instrumentalists, Thank You Scientist bring ska-punk, jazz fusion, and jam band sensibilities to a genre that has been historically resistant to those elements. While the band's first record 'Maps of Non-existent Places' could be considered something of a classic, 'Stranger Heads' brings more varied and experimental song writing to the fore thus resulting in one of the most colorful listening experiences you will ever encounter. Thanks to the success of their most recent 2019 release 'Terraformer', Thank You Scientist is poised to become one of the powerhouse prog acts of the next decade.
 Terraformer by THANK YOU SCIENTIST album cover Studio Album, 2019
3.96 | 247 ratings

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Terraformer
Thank You Scientist Crossover Prog

Review by guiservidoni

5 stars

I've been listening to Terraformer for a couple of months religiously every week, trying to come up with a consistent reason why my inner snob tells me this is a five-star album. This is my attempt of explaining it.

This album has been received by critics as a great album, albeit overly technical and lacking some of the emotion present on Maps of Non-Existent Places and, especially, Stranger Heads Prevail. However, here's the thing: Thank You Scientist, at least from my point of view, is by itself an overly technical band from the beginning, seeing the amount of things happening at the same time on any song of theirs (even on interludes), given the amount of members of the band. However, on this album, the duration amplifies that effect.

While listening to any Thank You Scientist album, my brain very easily fades their music into the background because I believe it gets tired of trying to understand all of the things happening at once. If this happens to me while trying effectively to focus, I imagine how easily most people tap out on a casual listening, and that can give the impression of technical wankery. For that, it's a good thing that I persisted on listening to it for quite some time before reviewing it, because this is an album that starts with a bombastic impression (aka Wrinkle), becomes an average album after 2-3 listens, and then starts growing back on you, to the point where you feel like putting it on repeat without feeling the need to pull your hair off anymore. Much like Yes' Tales From Topographic Oceans or any Ayreon's cheesy Opera.

I believe the band knows that this is a hard listen, and therefore interludes and breather songs are more in place than on the two previous records, such as the beginning of Birdwatching and New Moon. As it's noticeable, these breathers become longer as the album advances, as you're probably becoming mentally more tired as it progresses.

If you don't lose faith too quickly on Terraformer, moments like Anchor's bridge, or Terraformer (the song) victory-like character really begin shining through, and the impression of over-technicality begins to fade. This is not easy, and definitely does not take less than 10 listens, I'd say. But, once you're able to really appreciate the work that is done here, you might as well believe this is a five-star masterpiece, topping all previous records.

 Terraformer by THANK YOU SCIENTIST album cover Studio Album, 2019
3.96 | 247 ratings

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Terraformer
Thank You Scientist Crossover Prog

Review by patrickq
Prog Reviewer

3 stars My primary complaint with Thank You Scientist's debut effort, the 29-minute The Perils of Time Travel (2011), was the lackluster material, although I also didn't think much of what I viewed as their conventional, latter-day AOR approach. Terraformer is their third album since then, and things have improved. I'm not a prog-metal fan, and prog-metal fans, for all I know, might not consider Terraformer to be metal, but to me, that's the fairest characterization. Anyway, Thank You Scientist seems to have settled on a more interesting style, and one that's probably more unique. The strengths of The Perils of Time Travel - - the singing, for example, and the overall sound quality - - remain, and the compositions are noticeably better. In particular, the melodies are stronger and the lyrics are cleverer.

But I have a new complaint: at an hour and 24 minutes in duration, Terraformer is way too long. There's a good 35 minutes of material here, but that's the length of just one of the two discs. Maybe I can illustrate my point with "FXMLDR." This eight-minute track isn't simply a two-minute ditty repeated four times. It has distinct movements which benefit from a bit of extra time to develop. But by the 4:22 mark, we've already heard each verse and refrain element at least twice, and the following two minutes are taken by interesting-enough prog jamming that nevertheless conflicts, in my view anyway, with an otherwise accessible song. Since the final two minutes or so is a good encapsulation of the foregoing six - - including the vocal sections - - it seems clear that Thank You Scientist is capable of being concise. Most of the other longer songs on Terraformer strike me as just that - - longer than they need to be.

There are some enjoyable King Crimson references across the album, from the 1970s KC sax/trumpet section on the album-opening "Wrinkle" through the introduction of "Terraformer," the last song on the second disc, which reminds me of Discipline-era Crimson. And is it just me, or does singer Salvatore Marrano do a decent Michael Jackson imitation, especially on "FXMLDR?"

In short: the good news is that Terraformer is a good thirty or forty minutes of neo-prog/prog-metal from an oddly-named New Jersey outfit. The bad news is that the album is more than twice that long.

 Terraformer by THANK YOU SCIENTIST album cover Studio Album, 2019
3.96 | 247 ratings

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Terraformer
Thank You Scientist Crossover Prog

Review by rooteen

5 stars I'd like to preface this review by saying that this is more of a fusion band/album than crossover, but there are so many genres that make an appearance that it's hard to call this album just fusion. If you've ever wanted to hear an album that has so many genres represented, this is where you should start

This septet (comprised of bass, drums, guitar, viola, sax, trumpet, and vocals) is fresh and bends the definition of genres like I've never heard. Seriously, give this album (or either of their other two masterful albums) and tell me that you can't hear a million genres, such as folk, flamenco, jazz, Eastern music, or just prog. This album is more balanced than their previous releases, giving more room to breathe between the sheer bombast presented by many of the tracks. (Think of this as "Frances the Mute" (The Mars Volta) and "Stranger Heads Prevail" as "Deloused in the Comatorium".) My only complaint with this album is that it is a bit on the long side, but if you have 84 minutes to sit down and listen to music, you won't regret listening to this.

 Terraformer by THANK YOU SCIENTIST album cover Studio Album, 2019
3.96 | 247 ratings

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Terraformer
Thank You Scientist Crossover Prog

Review by Kempokid
Collaborator Prog Metal Team

5 stars The new Thank You Scientist album is something that I've been looking forward to ever since it had first been announced, as along with The Tea Club and The Dear Hunter, have consistently released some of my absolute favourite modern prog. Of these, Thank You Scientist is the one that still had not quite made an album in which I could call incredible, but still displayed a lot of potential. With an intriguing core sound that fuses the frenetic, technically amazing prog style of The Mars Volta with pop sensibilities and a lot of jazzier elements, I already loved how the band sounded, especially when factoring in how tightly played everything is despite the 7 member lineup. Their debut album showed off the incredible talent that the band had, but missed the mark with some of the songs sounding too clinical and having no sense of restraint, while their followup refined the songwriting immensely, but left the album containing some extremely dull tracks that didn't really go anywhere special, this album, Terraformer, manages to take the best elements of the previous 2 albums, filling each song with countless catchy hooks and riffs, while also incorporating far more of the technical elements that made their debut such a compelling listen. To top everything off, Thank You Scientist has further refined their songwriting to create a set of much more subtle, nuanced songs, still filled with immense bombast and energy, but now everything sounds that bit more refined in execution.

Wrinkle immediately sets the stage with a layered, amazingly beautiful passage that evokes the calm math rock sound of bands such as Toe and Clever Girl, already proving the interplay between the variou elements of the band, before the real meat of the album comes in with FXMLDR. What immediately comes to attention is how much higher in the mix the bass is, being able to actually hear it now in more than just a few isolated sections. The steady groove that the chorus contains as it effortlessly shifts through countless melodies, consistently returning to this hook already shows the grasp on both the technical and catchy side of the band's core sound that is now possessed in even greater quantity. Swarm changes up the pace with a more rock oriented track with hyperactive riffs and a greater energy, especially during the soaring, powerful chorus, not only displaying some emotional impact, but Salvatore Marrano's great vocals, singing in a similar register to The Mars Volta's Cedric Bixler-Zavala, but instead of abrasively screaming, the vocals are really pleasant and melodious. Son of A Serpent is one of the groovier songs on the album, and is great at switching between fun and upbeat, and much more slow and pleasant sounding passages, complimented beautifully with the brass instrumentation, further being able to hit the balance between playful and impactful. This is also the first great example on the album of much more effective use of solos, acting as more than just padding to a song, but actively heightening the intended effect of it, creating a much more climatic tone to an already nuanced and dramatic song.

Birdwatching is a short, pleasant song that has a really smooth bass riff and a surprising breakcore element to it, nothing too much to say, but it's definitely a great song. Everyday Ghosts, despite being the longest song here, is also one of with some of most focus on vocals, keeping a steady pace for the first 5 minutes before breaking down into a wonderfully funky instrumental section and another solo that just heightens the fun to be had immensely. It isn't the best song on the album by any means, as it does lack some of the energy and catchiness that the best do have, but it definitely makes apt use of its entire length. Chromology is the obligatory instrumental track of the album, and follows a very similar structure to the ones from previous albums, essentially providing a platform for each band member to put their immense talent on full display. This is my favourite of them, despite Rube Goldberg Variations being great as well, mostly because not only does this one go through a multitude of different, awesome riffs, but also feels more fully realised and diverse, shifting between styles perfectly and never feeling as if it's going on for too long. Furthermore, despite the fact that this is an exercisein technicality, it still maintains the more important aspect of music at the same time, sounding interesting enough to actually want to bother listening all the way through, the insanely quick solos being balanced by driving bass grooves and tightly composed orchestral arrangements.

Geronimo is one of the most conventional tracks on the album, sounding far more like an energetic alternative rock song than prog. Despite this, it's also one of my favourite songs on the album, taking the emotional vocal performance and instrumentation of Swarm, but then heightened even more, with a slow buildup to the thunderously powerful chorus, each time after this initial appearance containing more elements, the final time then stripping back a number of them and presenting it in a very interesting way that utilises some mild djent elements with heavy use of staccato all across the board. The interplay between guitars and trumpets on Life Of Vermin is something that really stood out to me here, many heavier, louder riffs being complkmented by the high pitched squeals of the trumpet. This song also easily has my favourite moment on the album, that absolutely mind blowing trumpet solo that comes in out of seemingly nowhere and blows everything out of the water, paving the way for some of the most complex, insane soloing that the band has released up to this point, which is saying a lot considering moments like the violin solo in The Amateur Arsonist's Handbook. This instrumental section alone makes this one of my favourites by the band, with the other elements simply adding to this, such as the defeated tone of Salavtore in the chorus, and the gradually speeding up riff in the outro, each element coming together to further push the song into near perfection, serving as my favourite song of 2019 at this point in time.

The album just keeps giving with its final 3 tracks, Anchor being another clear highlight. While a less smoothly progressing song than Life Of Vermin, instead having a tendency to use much more sudden transitions, especially from between the softly sung, atmospheric verses and the much louder, more hard hitting chorus. There's a much darker tone to this song as well, despite the extremely clean sound that everything has, sounding like a continuation of Life Of Vermin in terms of tone. Once again, a guitar solo is what ties everything together, being a much rougher sounding instrumental section than any other on this album so far. New Moon, despite being merely 2 minutes long, is another clear highlight in this albums packed with highlights, having a strong oriental tinge to it and some of the most beautiful orchestration I've heard in the entire genre, no exaggeration. This transitions into the title track and closer. The riffs are easily at their most unconventional here, some are fast and distorted, while others are much sludgier, notes droning on for longer than one would expect, but never to the point in which it gets in the way of my enjoyment, instead providing unique characteristics to the song, which is an impressive feat to do this far in the album when it's been donw consistently. While this is one of the songs I've dissected the least, I do know that a big part of the reason is how much the hook blows everything else out of the water, being one of the catchiest in the band's discography, and leaving an amazing final impression on me, even more than the album already does.

To be honest, upon first listen, I was mildly disappointed, I could see the evolution in sound that the band had undertaken, using the best elements of their previous 2 albums and refining them to become greater than the sum of its parts, but I also felt that they had sacrificed music enjoyability to do so. This album was definitely a massive grower however, less sections were as immediately accessible and instead took time to deconstruct and analyse each layer of them, only then revealing the true greatness of what is presented. This is undoubtedly an album that requires at least a couple of active listens before the entirety of it becomes enjoyable, especially given its sizeable length. This is easily my favourite Thank You Scientist album, and it isn't just by a small margin. While it can occasionally feature a couple of slightly unmemorable passages of music, the vast majority of this is absolutely incredible. I'm really looking forward to seeing where the band will go now that they've more or less perfected their current sound, and this is shaping up to me my album of the year.

Best songs: Swarm, Geronimo, Life Of Vermin, Anchor, New Moon

Weakest songs: Everyday Ghosts (If I had to choose)

Verdict: Thank You Scientist's best album so far, a more subtle, nuanced effort than previous albums, yet still keeping their core style of The Mars Volta fused with pop fused with jazz and funk. This album definitely takes a few listens to get into and I could easily see people who hate the more excessive side of prog rock to find this a chore to get through, but I personally love this album.

 The Perils Of Time Travel by THANK YOU SCIENTIST album cover Singles/EPs/Fan Club/Promo, 2011
3.37 | 47 ratings

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The Perils Of Time Travel
Thank You Scientist Crossover Prog

Review by patrickq
Prog Reviewer

2 stars Prog Archives lists The Perils of Time Travel as "Crossover Prog," but if I had to assign an actual prog subgenre to this half-hour project, I'd be tempted to go with neo-prog or progressive metal. But insofar as "neo-prog" is more of an approach taken by an artist than a musical style of a song or album, Thank You Scientist probably isn't neo-prog because there's no apparent debt to first-generation prog-rock groups - - and yet they integrate metal in the same way that neo-prog groups like IQ do. There are also hints of post rock la Ulver among the five songs here - - does that make it "eclectic prog"?

It's hard to assign this album* to a progressive-rock subgenre because The Perils of Time Travel isn't a progressive-rock album in the first place (which means The Perils of Time Travel is probably best classified as "crossover prog," if it's to be listed on Prog Archives at all). Ultimately it's modern AOR, or maybe heavy AAA, a little like Coldplay or 1990s Radiohead. When its lyrics are at their most platitudinous ("come on baby, say you're mine," "gonna take a miracle to get back on my feet," "there's something about the way you move," etc.) it almost sounds like a metal Matchbox Twenty. There are occasional sullen, post-grunge moments, but they get resolved before long. There are also progressive elements, though not many.

There are plenty of non-progressive albums which are nonetheless great works of art. The Perils of Time Travel is not one of these, although by no means is it a poor album. The sound quality is very good; in particular, the songs are mixed so nicely that I hardly noticed the mixing at all. The instrumental performances are fine, and the singer also does his job well.

My criticism is with the material: with the songs themselves. To me the compositions and arrangements are generic and unmemorable. This being the first Thank You Scientist album I've heard, I'll withhold any judgement about the band itself, especially since there are some creative ideas here and there. It's also true that while this is the group's first release, its members refer to it as an EP, and thus specifically don't consider it to be their debut album - - so maybe these songs were cast-offs. Or something.

The long and short of it is that The Perils of Time Travel is a set of unexceptional songs, but with hints that better material is to come.

====

*Since it's more than 25 minutes long and contains more than five songs, The Perils of Time Travel fits the generally-accepted definition of an LP.

 Terraformer by THANK YOU SCIENTIST album cover Studio Album, 2019
3.96 | 247 ratings

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Terraformer
Thank You Scientist Crossover Prog

Review by BrufordFreak
Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

4 stars How is this not the runaway Best Progressive Rock Album of 2019? My theory is that it's because the machine gun approach to instrument playing numbs the listener's brain into a state of cowering apathy.

1. "Wrinkle" (2:32) What an opener! So positive and upbeat! Reminds me of something from a MONOBODY or TREE TOPS album. (4.75/5)

2. "FXMLDR" (7:56) incredibly catchy melodies within a very complex, fast moving jazz tune. Reminds me of 3RDEGREE or MOTH VELLUM or very early RUSH ("Fly by Night")--or how bout if early RUSH and early KANSAS had merged! The very complex instrumental performances are so clean and tight! (14.5/15)

3. "Swarm" (6:25) Though the horns are smooth and melodic, this is the first song whose metal qualities make it a little grating to these ears. The chord, horn, and vocal melody lines are quite pleasant, it's just the pace and rapid-fire notes from drums, bass, rhythm guitar, and violin--excellently performed but just a bit overwhelming for my sensitive nervous system to accommodate--that is, until the smooth section in the fifth minute. Still, I cannot deny the amazingness of this song. (9/10)

4. "Son of a Serpent" (8:06) led by the stunning vocals of JOHANNES LULEY- and JOFF WILKS-sound-a-like Salvatore Marrano there is a fresh creativity to this song that is in its ability to bridge heavy and metal prog sounds and pacing (machine gun bass drumming, djenty fast-changing guitar chord sequences, chunky virtuosic bass) and (14/15)

5. "Birdwatching" (3:41) very soft and scaled down in comparison to other songs. The vocal is central and delicate though very strong. I love the bass chords, the simpler yet insistent drums and the spacey keys. (8.75/10)

6. "Everyday Ghosts" (10:03) opens with some more sensitive though intricate instrumental displays, morphing into a bit of a Spanish sound as the horns come together, but then things turn a different direction to establish another quirky, spasmodic drive through some MOTH VELLUM-like territory (though always a little harsher and with more fast-paced charts from each of the instruments in the weave). Were it not for the fast technical speed of the instruments this might even be a kind of Journey-like classic rock song. As it is, it sounds a lot like a song from contemporaries FREDDEGREDDE or PERFECT BEINGS. (17/20)

7. "Chromology" (9:49) such virtuosic performances throughout the length of this frenetically paced frenzy of crazy weaves. Every single instrument in this ten-minute instrumental is on such a wild and yet tightly scripted contribution to the overall fabric, yet beautiful melodies are flying at us in the form of both single lines as well as those shaped by the amazing chord sequences. Despite all of these amazing displays, both individually and collectively, Cody McCorry's bass play steals this one! (And I am amazed by the way he is recorded so cleanly, so "visibly," so perfectly in the mix!) Definitely a "big band jazz" feel to this one. (18/20)

8. "Geronimo" (6:15) again JOHANNES LULEY comes to mind in this more sensitive song. A little sappy. More like a BIG BAD WOLF pop-jazz song. (8.25/10)

9. "Life of Vermin" (8:11) a trend here: the quality of the songs remain high the ability to suck me in and keep my attention seem to be diminishing as I move down the album's song list (except for "Chromology"). This one is creating the same effect on me that Rush albums do: can't keep me interested, inaccessible. It's a good song with excellent performances, just not a great song, not a fresh or refreshing arrangement. My theory is that my increasing boredom and inattentiveness is the result of the Franz Josef effect: "Too many notes!" My brain has become numb from being pulverized by too many notes! (12/15)

10. "Shatner's Lament" (1:13) a kind of horn-led jazzy Broadway interlude. (4.25/5)

11. "Anchor" (9:56) this sounds like a great song from a KLONE, VOLA, or even PLINI album. (17.5/20)

12. "New Moon" (2:01) floating, lilting on an old wind up clock, Sebastian sings about the effects of the new moon. (4.25/5)

13. "Terraformer" (8:07) is a song in which the horns are doubling up on notes within the chords being played by the rest of the rhythm section, thus, the song has a much more tech-metal feel to it than some of the others. The vocals here sound as if they come straight out of one of AC-DC's classic albums. Awesome guitar solo in the seventh minute. The band tightens up for the final minute into more of a classic rock spectrum--at least until that final instrumental 20 seconds. (13.125/15)

Total Time 82:15

4.5 stars; a near-masterpiece and an excellent addition to any prog lover's music collection. I think the lesson I've learned thanks to this album is that no matter how excellent are the musicians and how clever and technical the song constructs, a brain can only take so much of being constantly peppered by such an onslaught of notes.

 Terraformer by THANK YOU SCIENTIST album cover Studio Album, 2019
3.96 | 247 ratings

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Terraformer
Thank You Scientist Crossover Prog

Review by TCat
Special Collaborator Eclectic / Prog Metal / Heavy Prog Team

5 stars Thank You Scientist is a 7 member Crossover Prog band from New Jersey founded in 2009. They have released an EP and 3 full length albums during their time together. "Terraformer" is the 3rd full length album and was released in June of 2019. The line up consists of Salvatore Marrano on vocals, Tom Monda on guitars, Ben Karas on violin, Joe Gullace on trumpet, Sam Greenfield on sax, Cody McCorry on bass and Joe Fadem on drums. Though the line up has changed through the years, the core duo of Marrano and Monda has been constant, and the members have always been at least 7. Two of the current members were also present on the previous album; both Cody McCorry and Ben Karas. This album has 13 tracks and a long run time of over 82 minutes. Seven of those tracks are over the 7 minute mark.

"Wrinkle" starts things off as an introductory track. Nice chiming guitars and a fast and progressive sax/violin duo, both instruments playing impressively together note for note as in some Zappa works, definitely give an impressive beginning to everything. "FXMLDR" continues with the heavy prog sound, then the vocals start up. Salvatore's vocals are in a higher register that sounds like a cross between Michael Jackson, Scritti Politti's Green Gartside and The Mars Volta's Cedric Bixler- Zavala (maybe even some Claudio Sanchez from Coheed and Cambria thrown in). The music is complex, and on this album, very jazzy sounding, with heavy edges around the music. The sax solo in this one is amazing. "Swarm" continues with a fast paced progressive sound, again complex, this time throwing the melodic trumpet in there to anchor the otherwise complexity of the music. There are sudden bouts of dissonance put in there to keep things interesting. The interplay between the guitar and sax during one of the longer instrumental breaks is awesome and, as much of the music here, technically difficult.

The overall sound is softened a bit more for "Son of a Serpent" with more emphasis on the brass, but also sudden bursts of guitar energy come along at times. The violin gets to shine in some complex passages too. Even with a softer sound, the music continues to be full of tricky meters, constant tempo and timing changes. There is still time for an exciting guitar solo that gets you floating along at first and then suddenly sweeps you away on heaviness before returning to the more brass and violin led sound. Layered vocal chorus is a nice touch towards the end. "Birdwatching" gives you a 3 minute break from the epic tracks. The feeling of this one is smoother, with nice soft vocals and a certain lushness to the synths and supporting instruments. Later, the percussion and effects get a bit crazier.

After a smooth beginning, the song suddenly veers off into Kayo Dot territory with heavy guitars and synths with sax, violin and trumpet swirling around in a improvised fashion, then the violin leads the charge as it takes on a catchy feel and capturing the other instruments into the whirlwind of sound, and then the vocals start up and the band's unique jazzy complexity continues. As is the case with most complex music like this, it is impossible to describe the many changes in the music, but what is great about this album is that the complexities aren't buried into layers of heavy music as was the case with some of The Mars Volta's more complex albums, but it is all out there where you can hear it. This track is followed by another epic track called "Chromology". This one is instrumental, and again driven more by the brass and sound very much like a Steely Dan style track, but Steely Dan on Steroids, with some of the vintage sound of Chicago thrown in, I'm talking about the good earlier Chicago, not the commercial "poor excuse for a band" Chicago. There is even a big band section in there, just before the guitar takes us back to the present. Then there is that screaming violin that kicks in during the last few minutes, Wow! Excellent track! My favorite of the album. You know the track from Rush "La Villa Strangiato"? Think along those lines, except the lead instruments are the brass and violin. Love it!

"Geronimo" takes us back down to Earth, with a more laid-back sound. After the first verse, there is a nice short trumpet solo. The song continues with a more lyric-laden structure, but the overall sound is a bit more accessible and melodic, yet still interesting enough to make you keep listening, because, you never know when a heavy guitar will come in there and take you somewhere else before landing you back on your feet again. "Life of Vermin" continues in the same style as the previous track, but tends towards a tension building atmosphere. Brass and violin are strong again, but the guitar has more of a larger role in this one. There is a reprieve from the building tension towards the middle as things mellow out a bit, then a raucous trumpet solo comes in building it all back up again, followed by violin and then heavy guitar. It all eventually comes to a swirling and climactic end.

There is a short, jazzy track that follows, "Shatner's Lament" which features a muted trumpet backed up by brushed percussion and what sounds like a bass clarinet. It's a nice break from the complexity. "Anchor" is another epic 10 minute track which starts off softly with guitar and violin supporting the vocals. Things get more intense as it continues, but everything stays somewhat controlled. More heaviness and emotion comes in later as it continues to build, playing off of a riff from the guitar and violin. The tempo increases, and the instrumental section gets more complex, then it suddenly breaks into a great guitar/violin solo section as the backing instruments take on a symphonic atmosphere and builds to a excellent climax before breaking down into the vocals again. Things build again rather quickly a few more times generating more emotional passages. Another major highlight track on this album that is full of highlights.

Another short intermediate track follows with "New Moon". It is a softer track with vocals and an atmospheric guitar that sounds almost like a slide guitar and some nice symphonic sounding synths. A lovely little tidbit. This is followed by the title track "Terraformer", the last track on this album. The previous track flows into it and it suddenly gets heavy with complex guitar and violin riffage going on. This track is a bit heavier than the previous tracks, relying more on the interplay between the violin and guitar, but with rapid fire guitar notes and fast, tech style drumming at times, but it is still just as great.

An album of this length might be tough for many listeners, especially with the complexity of the music. But, as is the case with most of the best progressive albums, with repeated listenings and as you grow more familiar with the songs, things get better and it no longer seems like so much of an assault on your senses. Even with the lighter, jazzier sound on this album, it can seem like too much on the first few listens. But time and practice will increase your love and appreciation for this amazing album. No doubt that this is a front runner for one of the best prog albums of the year. The music is complex, yes, the album is also very long, and usually that combination can result in exhausting a listener's head, but this album is put together quite well with the track sequence working for it when you first hear it, and later, as your familiarity with the music grows, it doesn't come across as so much of a sonic assault. This album has a lot of balance for being such a complex monster, but it is a friendly monster and it does a great job of delivering it's complexities by giving you time to catch up, yet not ever getting boring either. Every track on here is great, nothing feels like filler at all, but it definitely shows off the abilities of the musicians involved. The fact that there is a more jazz style involved here, with pretty much all of the instruments getting a fair amount of play time, the music is easier to wrap your head around the complexities and keeps you wanting to come back to the album for more. This is definitely a five star album that needs to get more attention as I consider it one of the best so far this year.

 Terraformer by THANK YOU SCIENTIST album cover Studio Album, 2019
3.96 | 247 ratings

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Terraformer
Thank You Scientist Crossover Prog

Review by tempest_77

5 stars Terraformer is an amazing new album from the New Jersey septet. While not, in my opinion, as strong as their 2016 effort Stranger Heads Prevail, the album is still an incredible work, showing off some of the band's most complex arrangements.

"Wrinkle" is an excellent, relatively mellow (for Thank You Scientist) instrumental album opener, which segues into...

"Fxmldr" has some great riffs, but is notably a less heavy track than most of the stuff off of the last two albums (not that this is a bad thing). The chorus is almost pop-punk in its nature, which actually serves as a nice contrast to the more complex verses and the usual extensive bridge section. There's even a nice saxophone solo in the middle of the bridge. Not quite as intense of a second song as past albums have had, but seeing as Terraformer is a double album, this choice makes sense so as to not start with an energy that would then be difficult to maintain. The song ends very strong with Marrano screaming out a high note at the end of the last chorus, and then ending somewhat abruptly after the outro.

"Swarm" finally gives us the release of the energy that's been building, a heavier song than the previous one. Some great guitar and sax interplay here, as well as some very crazy riffing. The song very much harkens back to Stranger Heads Prevail, with a more complex arrangement than "Fxmldr"; however, it still has some more mellow moments that weren't often present on their previous albums. There's an excellent guitar solo in counterpoint with the saxophones, which has a very cool effect overlapping effect.

"Son of a Serpent" has a more laid back, fusion-y (and sometimes funky vibe) than "Swarm", bringing the intensity down a little bit, though there is still plenty of energy in the choruses and the bridge section. Of course, the guitar work is impeccable as usual, which is constant across the whole album; Monda is stronger than ever with his riffs and solos. On this song in particular, he has a nice groovy fusion solo which builds in energy throughout. There's a lovely mellow vocal section after the solo before the song erupts with energy in a sort of anthemic outro.

"Birdwatching" is a rather short and much more mellow drum and bass style track that builds in intensity towards the end. It serves very well as a sort of palate cleanser for the listener. If there's one thing that Terraformer does better than Stranger Heads Prevail, it's giving the listener a break. Stranger Heads Prevail was all killer, no filler, and while these shorter tracks aren't filler material, they serve as a brief pause from the band's usual intensity.

"Everyday Ghosts" is one of the album's longer, 10 minute tracks, and it navigates through a variety of styles. It starts rather mellow, coming off the previous track, before breaking into a funky drum beat. There is a brief atmospheric pre-chorus which quickly builds into a groovy chorus. The second chorus builds to a peak before beginning another section of the song, marked by an excellent guitar riff and as usual, some excellent drum work from Fadem. This is followed by a brief, complex instrumental section which heads into a guitar solo. The guitar solo on this song is absolutely excellent as it goes from virtuosic to more melodic and back again. All in all, the song is marked by incredible guitar work and the band's usual complex arrangements.

"Chromology" is another 10 minute song, this time an instrumental one. The song is very jazzy, and aside from the usual complex arrangements and guitar work, is marked by its excellent synthesizer work, though I'm not sure by whom. There are some great moments in this song, and it maintains the energy of the album while showcasing the band's jazzier side. It also shows their experimental side, both in the arrangements and in the wah-sax solo. There is another excellent guitar solo, as well as a rare bass solo which gives McCorry to show off his skills at the forefront. Being an instrumental, it gives the band lots of chances to show off its chops, including a violin solo from Karas.

"Geronimo" is a more mellow song, with a bit of a simpler arrangement, giving the listener a nice break. However, it has a tension throughout it that allows it to maintain the energy of the album; it feels as though it could release the energy at any moment, but hangs on to it until the bridge section gives us a little bit of a release. However, there is still something left to be desired, which carries over into...

"Life of Vermin" starts off with a groovy vibe, still holding onto the tension from "Geronimo". It finally releases the energy in the epic chorus. The song continues to alternate between its groovy, mellower sections and its more intense, heavier sections, taking the listener on a bit of an adventure throughout the song. I never thought I would hear a "heavy" trumpet solo, but this song just proves me wrong. The song continues to build energy until the very end, at which point the listener is ready for another break, which we get in the form of...

"Shatner's Lament" is another brief song, cleansing the listener's auditory palate. It's a very jazzy tune with an excellent muted trumpet line in counterpoint with the saxophone, along with some great string arrangements. It is very brief however, and leads us into...

"Anchor" is the third 10 minute song on this album, and it starts off rather mellow with some very dramatic instrumentation, particularly in the drumming. There is some great acoustic guitar on this track, which plays nicely with the string arrangements. Finally, the song breaks out into a groove just before the first pre-chorus and chorus. The first half of this song has an amazing tension, as it builds energy without releasing it. We finally get the release as the energy erupts at the bridge of the song. We get an incredible wah solo from Monda, before the song reaches a peak and comes down as the vocal bridge comes in before releasing the energy again. The last chorus is more intense than the previous ones, and brings us to...

"New Moon" is the last shorter track on the album. A bit exotic sounding with some cool string arrangements, it's nothing special, but it gives the listener a break before...

"Terraformer" is the last song on the album, and it's one of the heaviest, almost sounding like Scale the Summit at the beginning of the track. The song has some great vocals from Marrano, and the chorus is on the catchy side just like "Fxmldr". Despite being one of the catchier songs on the album, the arrangements are still very complex. It's nice to have such an intense song closing off the album; we've traversed the band's dynamic range throughout the album, but end on a high note.

All in all, Terraformer shows off the jazzy side of the band more than their previous releases, and while its length detracts from its value a little bit, it does a great job of giving the listener dynamic breaks throughout the album. Not as strong as Stranger Heads Prevail, but still an excellent album and well worth the listen. 4.8/5 stars.

Thanks to chris s for the artist addition. and to Quinino for the last updates

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