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Ovrfwrd - Beyond the Visible Light CD (album) cover




Heavy Prog

3.66 | 27 ratings

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3 stars The debut album by the Minneapolis band Ovrfwrd might not have been so impressive had the session gone as planned. But the 11th-hour loss of their vocalist (a literal loss: he never showed up at the recording studio) was a blessing in disguise to the embryonic group, suddenly reconfigured as a much stronger instrumental quartet.

Bands like Ovrfwrd express the higher ideals of Progressive Rock by honoring the adventurous spirit of the early 1970s, but in a modern vernacular more genuinely progressive than Prog. This is a group that insists on playing music requiring more than three working brain cells (to perform, and appreciate), at the same time making it sound entirely unforced.

First albums by new bands aren't supposed to be this adept. The oddly-titled "Can We Keep the Elephant?" is an assertive curtain-raiser, but the music really begins to gel in "Stones of Temperance", smoothly juxtaposing lovely unplugged moments against harder amplified sounds, in a heavy yet melodic workout highlighting the natural interplay between all four players.

The even more cinematic "Raviji", at eleven-plus minutes the album's longest track, is an obvious highlight, demonstrating the forceful energy of the quartet with enough variation in mood and emotion to fill several different songs (on several different albums). Ditto "The Man With No Shoes", and especially the slow but dramatic jam in its second half, achieving a sense of dramatic nuance most proggers yearn for but rarely attain.

The album was recorded more or less live in the studio, with discreet overdubs: a great way to maintain the essential energy and rapport of a genuine band. The songwriting is perhaps not as spontaneous as it would later become. Instead, this debut effort was all about the new ensemble asking, "Who are we? Where are we going with this?" (quoting ace drummer Rikki Davenport in a recent video interview). The answer was an exhilarating process of discovery, for the group and for listeners, before the epiphany of the "Fantasy Absent Reason" album, released a year later.

Their name may resemble a failed Scrabble hand: never a decent vowel when you need one. But Ovrfwrd succeeded in making a strong first impression, with better to come.

Neu!mann | 3/5 |


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