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Pseudo/Sentai - Bansheeface CD (album) cover




Crossover Prog

4.03 | 18 ratings

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4 stars I was contacted by Greg, one of the frontmen for the band Pseudo/Sentai to do a pre-release review for this album. Since I haven't actually done a review by request before, I was happy at the prospect of getting to know some of the forum members and musicians that wander around this site looking for more of the music they love and inspiring each other. So, without knowing a lot about the band other than being able to listen to the amazing sounds on this album, I venture forth to do a review simply of this album not being able to compare it to other releases by the band, but with the hope that I can learn more about them, because, after listening to this album a few times, I must admit that I am impressed and want to hear more.

The band is categorized under Crossover Prog. I'm not exactly sure where that designation came from. Because of their similarity in form and style to The Mars Volta, I would be inclined to put them under Heavy Prog with an edge towards avant garde styles. This leaning comes from a very impressive use of chromatic scales and harmonies throughout their work on this album. The chromatic use is to help better harmonize the weaving of several melodies that play over and under each other throughout the tracks. This is done both in the layers of vocals and instrumentals that are worked into each track. But even when the tracks are not dense with multi-layered themes, the chromatic modes are still used.

If you are wondering just what I'm talking about, then you can again compare the style to The Mars Volta or maybe even Coheed and Cambria. The music from these bands can be quite dense sounding because of the use of many themes throughout their albums. They also use chromatic scales, more so on the part of The Mars Volta. That will hopefully give you a better idea of the complex sound that is going on in this album. Now, I have to say that one major distinction in the sound is that Pseudo/Sentai doesn't turn this multi-layering into a impenetrable wall of sound like the Mars Volta did on a few of their albums and this makes P/S's sound a lot more accessible. This is a great thing because even a lot of MV fans couldn't take the inaccessibility of the sound. With P/S, what you end up with is a sound that is somewhere between MV and Rush which is a very good place to be.

Now lets talk about the vocals. The vocals are great and strong. There is usually a really untraditional harmony going on a lot of the time which at first can be hard to get use to, but it doesn't take long to figure out that it all fits and is not really irritating, so you will come to accept the sound. The minor complaint I do have about the vocals is that they are at times unsure. Sometimes this works as a vulnerability, but not always. When using a chromatic mode, it is important to hit the odd harmonics spot on so that there is no confusion as to what kind of sound you are trying to convey. Without that surety, an odd harmonic can sound like it was unintentional to a casual listener. So if anything, I would work on making the vocals more certain. Also, at times it seems that quality in the singing suffers a little bit because the vocalist is trying too hard to make the lyrics understood. This preoccupation can be dangerous. It is better to maintain the quality of the vocals even if the lyric translation doesn't always come out so clear. Listen to most rock bands and you'll find that most of them don't care if you can understand the lyrics or not. Besides, most people will look up the lyrics themselves if they are not printed in the program notes somewhere. Anyway, like I said, these are not huge issues, just personal preferences.

So, now that I got the minor issues off my chest, I want to reiterate the fact that this is an awesome album and, if this album is indicative of their other works, I don't understand why this band is not at the forefront of the prog spotlight. Instead of saying "This band sounds like The Mars Volta", we should be comparing other bands to P/S. There are some stellar tracks here. Namely, the title track, "Sleeping Closer to the Ground", "Black Matter of Machinations", "Seeping Closer", and "March of the Selkies" just to name a few that stand out as unique. "Black Matter..." is more of a quieter track with some excellent vocals, "Seeping Closer" is a short intermediary track that has some ingenious and unique sounds (I love how the vocals have been manipulated here) and "March of the Selkies" has this traditional guitar solo that is bookended by the signature sound throughout the album. Does this traditional solo and rhythm sound out of place? Not at all. I wish that more bands would explore this style and I would welcome seeing traditional rhythms and solos interspersed more often in unique "neo-classical" techniques, as long as it is done tastefully and not leaving an inconsistent sound. This track is a good example of how it should sound. This also will help with accessibility as long as it is not overdone and it will still not endanger the quality of the music.

Another high point in this album is that the shorter tracks work in so nicely with the longer tracks. They don't seem like filler at all and for the most part, are just as essential and interesting as the longer tracks and that is something you don't find very often.

Anyway, for what it's worth, these are my feelings after hearing the album a few times. I believe this is a legitimate progressive band that needs to be recognized. Hopefully, the things I have talked about will pique your curiosity enough that you will search this album out when it is released. I believe this would be an excellent addition to any prog collection and, with some smoothing out of a few rough edges that I have mentioned, has the potential of being an essential recording. However, hearing the version that I have heard, I would rate this as a strong 4 stars. Very smart musicianship and great production with plenty of variety and dynamics.

TCat | 4/5 |


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