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The Aristocrats - You Know What...? CD (album) cover


The Aristocrats


Heavy Prog

3.81 | 63 ratings

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Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
4 stars "The Aristocrats" is a Heavy Prog, powerhouse trio made up of guitarist Guthrie Govan, basist Bryan Beller, and drummer Marco Minnemann, who have had musical influences in quite a variety of genres from death metal to jazz. Since their formation, they have released 4 full length albums. Their fourth album, released in June of 2019, is called "You Know What??" The album features all 3 of the original members. The album is made up of 9 tracks, each one of the band members writing 3 of the tracks, which is typically the way they create music. The overall run-time is just short of an hour. The music is also all instrumental, yet still full of musical humor that a Zappaphile could appreciate.

The humor is evident right in the title of the first track "D-Grade F*ck Movie Jam", a 6 minute opener that starts right off with all the stops open and heavy with a funky guitar with plenty of "wah" effects and quirky rhythm. All three players are up front and personal with their instruments, playing at full bore. The music follows a melody played by the guitar with a lot of embellishment and variation, something a heavy-metal guitar god would be proud of. There is still plenty of room for everyone to shine here however, even with the guitar overpowering the others as the bass lines are amazing and so it the dynamic drumming. "Spanish Eddie" starts with a Spanish style riff playing in the guitar, but as the music settles in, it gets somewhat quirkier, but staying at a moderate pace. The Spanish flair continues even through the more progressive passages as they use the style to create a wild rhythm in which the drums can stand out. It mellows out towards the middle of the track, becoming almost jazz-like for a while. After this section concludes, the Spanish feeling comes right back and the original heaviness returns. This track is an amazing show case for everyone with an amazing sound with that Spanish vibe going for it.

"When We All Come Together" takes on a fast paced guitar finger picking heavy rock/country vibe that will make you feel like you are in the middle of a cowboy movie on steroids. Stomp your feet and yell "Yee-haw", by the end of this one you will feel like doing a drug enhanced line dance. And, holy cow grandma, listen to that high speed base. Love it! After 3 minutes, there is a sudden change of direction as it turns more progressive and leaning towards jazz fusion again. As it reaches 5 minutes, we return to the barn burning music complete with hand claps and I believe I detect a banjo in there too. At the end, the barn burns to the ground with a chaotic, noisy ending. "All Said and Done' gives you a bit of a breather because you'll need to catch your breath after that previous track. A nice melody is established by the guitar and elaborated on until the band kicks in. The tempo is moderate but with a walking lilt to it and the track remains a lot saner than the preceding tracks, but it's still very nice even with its increased accessibility. Cool bass solo too!

"Terrible Lizard" will make the metal heads happy, but will keep those that love a challenge interested too. The loud solidness returns with a vengeance now, evoking the heavy anger that is also prevalent in some of King Crimson's loud metallic solos with some challenging progressive riffs and rhythmic craziness, going places most guitar gods don't want to go. The progressiveness goes up even a notch further with "Spiritus Cactus" with a track that isn't as heavy, yet is so awesome that you won't even notice that. It starts upbeat, and keeps that pace even when nothing else is going on. This is like a stew of progressive styles, things thrown together that shouldn't work together, yet it does in a big way. Orchestral hits, clackers, tango percussion sounds, jazz guitar, driving rhythm, stop start sections, all thrown together into a crazy, entertaining mid- tempo track. Wait, I thought you said up tempo. Yeah I did. Prepare for a lot of styles in this one. Yet it all comes across quite coherent.

Coming up next, we get "The Ballad of Bonnie and Clyde". It all starts out with a soft, loung-y vibe, soft jazz guitar with tinkling, soft percussion and soft bass, which suddenly intensifies bringing everything up a notch. After 2 minutes, everything takes off with a regular rhythmic and melodic style where all instruments stand out well and the guitar taking us into a swirling climax. Things calm down towards the middle again and build to a moderate rhythm while the guitar improvises along, building tension right up to the end where we come to a boiling climax. "Burial at Sea" starts off with bubbly sounds and an atmospheric feel in the chiming guitar. When you think you are in for a more atmospheric flotation device style track, the band suddenly kicks in, but things wander from heavy to soft easily, creating a variety of textures in one song, yet, remaining concise and logical. This track takes us in a lot of different directions, but never tries to drown us in technicality and doesn't compromise the melody for difficult, high-tech solos. There are some cool vocal effects thrown in there too just to keep things interesting and unique.

Just when you've heard it all, the last track comes along. "Last Orders" is the longest track at over 8 minutes. This track begins as a slow burner, a nice mix of tender guitar, strong bass and hesitant, yet soft drums. This is a nice throw back to a more soft Stevie Ray Vaughan style with just the right mix of Frank Zappa which adds just the right jazz feel to it. Just as you think you can settle into this peaceful track, the guitar blows it all wide open for a blistering solo and the band follows suit as it does so, and then leads them back to the softer sound again. After this track is over, you know you have been to pretty much every musical planet you could have a chance to visit in an hour and still remain sane.

You probably wonder how musicians like these three could be kept in hiding so long. Well, surely you've heard of "The Raven Who Refused to Sing", the amazing, excellent work by Steven Wilson, right? Both Gowan and Minnemann were on that album and in Wilson's band. Govan also worked with Asia, GPS, Hans Zimmer and several other bands, Minnemann also works with "The Mute Gods" as their current drummer and part of the prog supergroup "The Sea Within". Beller has also been around playing in Joe Satriani's band and also with Steve Vai, James LaBrie and Dweezil Zappa. So you definitely got quite a pedigree of musicians here, and as this album attests, they are adept in playing any style they want. The best thing about this album is the fact that there is so much variety here, that you never get tired of listening. In fact, the hour flies by before you know what happened. This album is full of surprises, mood swings, and plenty of progressive music that it should keep everyone happy, and these musicians don't fall into the same trap as many of their contemporaries by making music where one song sounds pretty much like the other. Every track here has it's own distinct personality and every song on this album is a highlight. Excellent album!

TCat | 4/5 |


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