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Garden Wall - Assurdo CD (album) cover


Garden Wall


Progressive Metal

3.89 | 62 ratings

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Man With Hat
4 stars Assured to make waves.

First and foremost it must be said, this is my introduction to the band Garden Wall. I can not comment on the rest of their discography, however I'm inclined to say this one is different than most. As others have said, the label of progressive metal is not completely accurate for this cd. This album is incredibly eclectic. Metal, jazz, hard rock, prog, experimental musics, atmospheric soundscapes, electronica (although not the techno form), amongst other sounds drift in and out nearly seamlessly. There are also an array of vocal stylings throughout. Some 'straight' singing, some metallic outbursts, some spoken word/semi-spoken word, some processed vocals, some experimental expressions, some shrieking, and other 'heart felt emissions' (as it says in the booklet). Alessandro Seravalle voice is somewhat deep and ominous, but at the same time very versatile. (Case in point, on the first track there was a part that to me sounded very reminiscent of the great Demetrio Stratos of Area fame.) Finally, this album has a very Italian sound to it, that hard to describe but instantly recognizable modern Italian prog sound. No doubt in my mind upon first listening that this album could have been made in any other country.

Musically, there are two great strengths to my ears. The use of electronic percussion and electronics (which I believe are covered under the soundscapes, synths, and samples banner) and the use of a large group of guests on a wide array of instruments. For me, these elements really make the record stand out in a crowd. Personally, I love the mixing of traditional rock instruments (guitar/bass/drums) with more exotic or classical instruments (flute, bass clarinet, strings, etc) and this album uses them excellently. All instruments are integrated in a way that doesn't sound contrived or unnecessary. Another high point for me, that is even though the vocals play a significant part of the sound, there are plenty of instrumental passages that show the strength of the musicians of the band. Even when the vocals are present the music in the background still demands attention and isn't just there to serve the voice (which is one of my biggest issues with alot of non-instrumental music). Musically, it is hard to compare this CD with others, as it really is a bubbling stew of musical influences and techniques. (I can hear influences as far and wide as the aforementioned Area to Marillion to the modern Italian Symphonic Prog scene to 20th/21st century classical-rock acts. Not to say that Assurdo is derivative in any way of course. Everything is combined in a unique way for certain.) But overall, I would say that the electronic and avant music influences lead the pack. It's hard to pick out favorite moments here. It feels like one whole work with each song evolving into the next with few declarations that the next song has begun. However...standout moments for me would be the powerful opening track which really expresses what this album and band are about in about six and a half minutes, Negative (with it's wonderful use of vibraphone and overall floating/spacey feel that encapsulates your head), and Just Cannot Forget, which really is an experimental joy.

All in all, Assurdo is a wonderful, esoteric CD. I feel no qualms calling this modern progressive rock (thats more on the Avant-rock side of things without being Avant-rock) that's truly forward looking in it's assimulation of sounds, techniques, and musical happenings. If I had a complaint, perhaps it's a bit too long. Or perhaps it's just front heavy, as most of my favorite songs occur within the first half/two-thirds. But, this is a minor quibble overall. The excellence presented here more than makes up for any short comings. The production is crisp and clear, and nothing is obscrued (and a good thing that is too. This is certainly a record that demands modern production skills). Certainly an album that defys the 'prog-metal' tag so don't let that scare you away. However, this is a demanding listen, which, more likely than not, will take a fair number of spins to fully appreciate. I think this could be safely recommended to any fan of avant-prog, modern RPI, or fans of adventours rock/music. Garden Wall show some real potential here and I hope they can create more albums like this. I will certainly be listening in the future. (And of course, many thanks to Claudio Milano for sending me this Cd.) 4 solid stars. Recommended.

Man With Hat | 4/5 |


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