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Beautiful Bedlam - Beautiful Bedlam CD (album) cover

BEAUTIFUL BEDLAM

Beautiful Bedlam

 

Heavy Prog

4.07 | 49 ratings

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siLLy puPPy
4 stars New to the prog rock arena is the Melbourne, Australia band BEAUTIFUL BEDLAM which has released its self-titled debut album in 2021. Fronted by the Ancell brothers, guitarist Luke and drummer Scott, this band has its antecedents in A Lonely Crowd which released two experimental and heavy albums in the early 2010s but for the most part the Ancell brothers have been on a hiatus but with the release of their BEAUTIFUL BEDLAM project, it's clear that they have been hard at work crafting an intricately designed prog album suitable for the fickle crowds of the 21st century.

This is one of those bands that grabs you right from the getgo with sounds that are somewhat familiar but yet crafted in a manner that is very original and best of all doesn't dwell in the world of one trick ponies to fill up an album's worth of material. Not at all, in fact BEAUTIFUL BEDLAM as its moniker suggests walks the tightrope in offering easily accessible rhythmic and melodic constructs fortified with interesting juxtapositions of tones, timbres and time signature deviations with a stellar palette of 12 tracks that are quite distinct.

A bit difficult to pigeonhole, this album runs the gamut from emotive atmospheric keyboard drenched compositions such as "Two Thirds" which offer somewhat of a neo-prog connection with arpeggiated guitars, multi-layered atmospheric richness and emotive vocal deliveries to the jazzier side of things with "Cocktail Crime Scene" which displays a retro jazz experience with vibraphone sounds and swinging rhythmic drive. The album's opening "Flaking Paint" showcases the band's quirky indie pop sensibilities with staccato-rich guitar heft that alternates between clear smooth guitar sounds and thundering borderline metal stomps. The keyboards oft resemble the new wave music of the 1980s and the contrapuntal sound layering is quite brilliant.

While the album is quite adventurous in many parts such as the varying motifs of "Open World (+ Apparitions)," BEAUTIFUL BEDLAM excels at offering heavy crunchy guitar riffs that bring the band very close to metal territory but it's the layering effect of the keyboards, the jittery almost zolo time signatures and the abrupt change in dynamics from pastoral to pummeling that make this an exciting roller coaster ride of adventurous proggy yumminess! In many ways this album truly is furious BEDLAM tamed and pacified into true BEAUTY. The album starts out as confident but by the time you get to the latter half of the album with tracks like "I Adore," it gets more complex, louder and bold.

If any single element dominates the BEAUTIFUL BEDLAM soundscape, it would surely be contrast as the main gist is to juxtapose musical elements in order to heighten the wow effect. The time signatures are very unorthodox and although the album doesn't sound overtly jazzy, the time signature unconventionalities definitely break out some serious unorthodoxies for the rock universe including the world of prog. The diversity factor is heightened by the fact that in addition to the two vocal contributions of keyboardist Ross Taylor and bassist James Van Strien, there seven guest vocalists adding lead vocals to different tracks which almost makes this sound like a different band at various moments.

Given the many vocalists on board, this can leave some tracks sounding stronger or weaker than others depending on your preferences. For me i'm a bit underwhelmed by the second track "Breather" for some reason and the track "Life, Death & Cheers" rubs me the wrong way as the melody seems to remind me of some pop song from the wayback machine although i can't put my finger on exactly which one it could be! Other than those two tracks for me personally, BEAUTIFUL BEDLAM is an excellent collection of modern day prog tracks fueled with a fiery passion for detail and an impeccable attention to detail. The compositions are quite exhilarating and cleverly crafted, the musicianship is spot on and the production is absolutely perfect for the music at hand. The band never pulls off more than they can chew and despite the diverse elements on board, the album never loses its connective tissue which gives it a unified feel. This is a band i look forward to hearing more from in the future. Bravo!

siLLy puPPy | 4/5 |

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