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Ovrfwrd - Beyond the Visible Light CD (album) cover




Heavy Prog

3.66 | 27 ratings

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4 stars I was totally bowled over by Ovrfwrd's sophomore release 'Fantasy Absent Reason', so it would be only normal to go about reviewing the debut album from the talented Minnesotans. The drop-dead gorgeous album arrived in the mail and 'Beyond the Visible Light' immediately hit the audio player and I could not help to crank it up. The instrumental package they provide has four motivated and talented pieces that seem to this reviewer (as well as some of my colleagues) to be quite a revelation. Guitarist Mark Ilaug hails from the Alex Lifeson school of 6 string pyrotechnics, mastering the dizzying sonic nose dives as well as the slick and nuanced flicks of the wrist. Using a basic arsenal of keyboards from piano, organ, synths and the occasional harpsichord, Chris Malmgren doesn't just color in the backdrop with symphonics, he actually enjoys dueling with his axeman in dishing out fleeting bursts of ivory magic. My attention always is focused on the basso profundo and Kyle Lund sweeps his booming instrument very near the carpet laid down by the two soloists whilst paying studious attention to the dazzling adventures laid down by drummer Rikki Davenport, who simply sparkles once again, a deft combination of tenacious rhythmic drive and pugnacious finesse. As a rule, I am generally very touchy when it comes to overt technical displays, ever since I had the misfortune of witnessing a rather grotesque display from Stanley Clarke with Return to Forever in concert in 1974, opening for Dutch masters Focus. There was no booing but not exactly the rapturous applause he was expecting (and visibly demanding). Anyways, note flurries are not my kind of fun as context and mood are even more crucial to the humility of the artist's knowledge and technical skill. These gents have those qualities in spades, as both fury and restraint are well represented, in equal doses and at opportune times.

'Can We Keep the Elephants?' is the first installment and as such serves to prepare the stage and explain what these musicians are all about, and as such they succeed in spades. They waste little time in splashing their abilities, whether experiencing the rolling organ forays, the sprouting guitar explosions, the zooming bass barrage and the insane drum poly-rhythms. These musicians are at the top of their game, inspired and imaginative as the calm section enters out of nowhere, delicate details, tempered urges and passionate exaltation rule the roost. The guitar parts, whether riffing or soloing are simply sublime and the ornate beauty of the melody induces a feeling of comfortable acquiescence, caressed by the soothing keyboard runs. Sure, let's keep the elephants and order a case of peanuts, while we are at it!

The unflinching 'Stones of Temperance' is a collision of mammoth proportions between harsh guitar phrasings and some of the most brilliant piano playing ever, aided and abeted by dense and intense rhythmic explosions from the squid-like Davenport, a man who could perhaps give Neal Peart and Gavin Harrison a run for the money. This is my favorite track here, a delicate and mind-massaging exploration that is the quintessence of instrumental progressive music, uniting spirit, mood and melody in a dreamy package of deliverance. Wow!

The longest piece here, 'Ravji' is even more out there, slightly experimental and possessing a tinge of ethnic/world music but in a harder style, gradually going tornado (as Bill Bruford would say) and flinging this 11 minute affair into the stratosphere. Like some molten lava flow, it barrels ahead, slowly and deliberately but hard-edged and nervy. Ilaug does a clear cut Lifeson moment 3 minutes in, which will drop your jaw to the floor. The ensuing solo is both thunder and lightning as the whole crew follow in the furrow. Then, suddenly out of the blue (the cover art is a stunning azure image), Malmgren's piano enters the fray, Ilaug handling an acoustic guitar and the whole thing just explodes into a metallic frenzy full of verve and audacity, blitzing along like some sleek turbo-charged road racer, free of any traffic. You can even hear the guitar engine rumble and tremble from the vrooming finger work (Hey, Jimi). Edging towards the checkered flag, the pace moves towards a jazzier cruise control and then, a solemn piano evaporates into the horizon. Damn!

'The Man With No Shoes' is not a reference to George Bush in Baghdad (giggles) but rather another exercise in contrasts, obliqueness and even dissonance where the true measure of their collective muse can coalesce into one big bold statement. I love the way they take their time to set the mood before the guitar 'sub-machine guns' it way forward (a hint of the great Jan Akkerman on 'Hocus Pocus') and instills this sense of despair and agony. Once again, Davenport dazzles with seemingly effortless technique, full of supporting feeling and dexterity, at one point doing that slick Brufordian counterpoint tick-tock, as Lund scours the low end like some rabid sturgeon on the sea floor. It felt like being transported back to parts of Starless and Bible Black, only for a few minutes. Malmgren then tosses in some e-piano (my new found love) and simply sprinkles droplets of echoing sound all over the score as Ilaug does another excited and exciting solo, drenched in vintage psychedelia. Back to the preceding themes for a quick curtsy and they are done, convincingly! This is absolutely stunning instrumental prog of the finest caliber.

The debut Overfwd album ends with 'Darkest Star', a sonic duet of clanging guitar and sweeping synth, allied with some deft cymbal work and solemn pace. Contemplative and breezy, the staggeringly gorgeous piano takes over the lead role once again, with ornate twinkles that emote deeply and resonate profoundly, gradually increasing in ardor. Soon, the guitar begins its upward soaring vortex of ecstasy and we can only applaud the steadfast piano restraint, like some leash holding back an exited canine. The frenzied pace carries on, barreling down the cosmic highway like some insane asteroid looking for a moon to crash into. As this jewel fades into silence, I feel spent, empty and deliriously content.

OVRFWD is definitely my new darling, long may they flourish and prosper! Thank you for giving me the opportunity to discover, listen and enjoy your amazing craft. They are currently touring, so make sure you catch them live, they are surely a blast in concert.

4.5 evident luminosities

tszirmay | 4/5 |


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