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Ovrfwrd - StarStuff CD (album) cover




Heavy Prog

4.05 | 36 ratings

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5 stars Ovrfwrd has been one of my favorite American bands since their very first album, 'Beyond the Visible Light', that stunned the 2014 prog market and raised a few eyebrows. The all-out instrumental quartet has sizzled ever since, regularly releasing albums that maintain or even surpass their initial foray. There is also another constant that is remarkable: the same band members have solidified their musical relationship and find themselves progressing further down their artistic path. 4 exceptionally gifted musicians, namely keyboardist Chris Malmgren, guitarist Marl Ilaug, bassist Kyle Lund and my current choice drum maestro Rikki Davenport! Both 'Fantasy Absent Reason' (2015) and 2018's stellar 'Blurring the Lines'A Democracy Manifest' kept the course steady, culminating in 'Starstuff'. Historically, I have never been a big fan of virtuoso displays of technique that always seem to subvert composition, melody and arrangement, which is why I only have one Wyngvie Malmsteen recording in my collection. But Ovrfwrd creates memorable pieces of music where each member is an equal partner , very much a team effort from start to finish, mastering the art of interplay , common feel , sense of purpose and deft touch in all of the notes they display. This why this band is in my treasure chest, you can listen to both the whole and the individual parts, in any combination and hear the sheer tightness for yourself.

The bravado of opening up with a growling, sweaty Jon Lord-like organ attack is proof of their immediacy and balls, within a minute all the fury and gusto kick in, to wit : cyclical guitar patterns that would make Lifeson-Fripp proud, booming bass undertow and the wickedly dextrous Davenport , bashing away with precise zeal. Within seconds, Ovrfwrd grabs your aural attention and does not let go an inch. 'Firelight' is an aptly named scorcher that lights a hell of a burn under any listener's armchair. The organ scours, scrapes and shatters unflinchingly. One word: WOW!

The fittingly named 'Let it Burn (King George)' keeps the bonfire raging but now adding subtlety to the mix , with a delicate flute to establish contrast , as Ilaug unleashes a crying axe solo that really hits the spot, with Rikki blasting his drum kit mercilessly. The cohesion and maturity are enhanced now more than ever, as the attention to detail, both light and shadow as well as emotional effect, reign supreme. The enchanting title track evokes a gentle veneer, offering orchestral string synths galore, as the clanging guitars envelop the piece in a swirl of progressive bliss. While there are obvious Rush influences (mostly in technical terms), this is an original group of musicians that take their craft very seriously and their catalog clearly proves their dedication.

The heaviness returns momentarily on the explosive 'Looking Up' where Rikki kicks his kit into overdrive (or should I type ovrdrv? pun intended) , before a totally unexpected bass groove settles the scene into a jazzier realm , adorned by some tasty electric piano fills, and some oblique guitar lines that will just blow minds. As the 8 minutes + roll forward, the persistent ebb and flow are quite the spectacle. The piano-led etude 'Daybreak' flashes the spotlight on Chris Malmgren's dexterity on ivories, a relaxed piece that serves as a wonderfully calming break before the final fury.

The tingling 'Zathras' may initially evoke a Steve Howe style of guitar exercise but the mood quickly deflects to a more symphonic approach, what with the slow buildup of piano, keys, rumbling bass and slick drum patterns that coalesce into a rambling colossus. Ilaug rips off a wicked guitar solo full of effect and sizzle, spiralling slowly into the horizon. And now for a total change of pace, the finale is quite the departure. 'From Parts Unknown' shows off some typical American roots, slightly country or folk tinged, as if inspired by Canned Heat or Neil Young, piano still in the place but the guitar twanging and rocking! The intensity of the outro is dazzling, daring to pull off a fade and return delirium as once fathered by Roxy Music on the classic 'In Every Dream Home a Heartache'. Brazen and ballsy once again, they are continuously broadening their palette, much to the prog community's satisfaction. Very gratifying tour de force and a band that deserves the loftiest praise.

Instrumental prog does not get much better than this, serving up unending creativity, impeccable technique and a cohesive musical legacy.

5 astronomical paraphernalia

tszirmay | 5/5 |


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