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3RDegree - Ones & Zeros - Volume 1 CD (album) cover




Crossover Prog

4.11 | 362 ratings

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5 stars . . . in my not so humble opinion.

This is one of the most frighteningly dark guerrilla concept albums that I've had the pleasure of listening to.

3rdegree is back with the follow up to their politically poignant 2012 release "The Long Division". I was lucky enough to get an advance copy of the CD from the band and it does not disappoint. While "The Long Division" explored the current political landscape, "Ones & Zeros: vol. 1" takes us a few years into the future. Not a science fiction of aliens and interstellar travel, but five or ten years from now. What happens when the current trend of consistently upgrading one's personal electronics extends beyond the simple phone and watch, what happens when technology starts to mend with biology? It's a world where upgrades include your glasses, your clothes and even your mind. It's a compelling story, with appropriately intricate music to accompany it.

'Hello World' sets the stage by introducing us to Valhalla Biotech. While this is only a fifteen second intro, it shows a new level of sophistication and immersion in recording and atmosphere for the band. The jingly high tech commercial only sounds slightly ominous. 'The Gravity' immediately sheds the ominous sound with a rolling rock beat as singer George Dobbs chimes in about the 'extraordinary times' that we are experiencing, quickly supported by the quartet of backup singers, also known as 'the rest of the band'. While the band does not focus on twenty minute epic pieces, they cram a ton of music and ideas into the eight minutes of this song. The vocal call and answer at the six minute mark utilizes the voices of all five singers to great effect. Just in case that wasn't enough, the funky rhythm section of Aaron Nobel and Robert James Pashman are locked in behind the vocal gymnastics. Nobel does some of his best work here.

'This is the Future' is mostly an upbeat vehicle to push the story further along. Notable to this song is the beginning of the central figure's story as a new set of upgrades are installed. Easily overlooked during the call from Valhalla is Pashman's utter disregard for order as he provides the sick background for the call. 'Life' is a soft introspective piece that lets Pat Kliesch set the atmosphere with a nice acoustic bit allowing Dobbs to show his range with a gorgeous showpiece. 'Life' is a nice set up for the closer, 'More Life' with a few musical nods that adds to the continuity of the album.

The Best & Brightest is really one of my favorite songs on the cd. The song gives Pashman a chance to really set the atmosphere with the keyboards, not to mention Dobbs' tasteful piano work throughout. The band gets into a slick groove for newcomer Bryan Zeigler to solo over towards the half way point of the song. Again, the keyboards really set the groove while Pashman's bass growls underneath. It should be pointed out; the harmonies throughout the entire CD are both intricate and tight with 'The Best & Brightest' being a perfect example of their acumen. 'Circuit Court' is another favorite, with a Steely Dan feel as Dobbs and company happily bemoan the lack of privacy in the internet age. We do get a nice Tony Banks solo from Dobbs followed by an example of what Zeigler brings to the table. This song is another one not to be missed.

"Life at Any Cost' is another example of the wonderful songwriting these guys are known for. What starts as a rolling piece changes to a beautifully atmospheric, and somewhat ominous electric piano at the three minute mark, headphones recommended here! After the keyboard sets the tone, the riff is punctuated by a series of hits and growls before guitarist Eric Pseja crashes in with an crunchy lick that adds an angry, dark feel to the piece. This sets up another beautifully melodic solo by singer / keyboardist George Dobbs. After the angry sections we're treated to Bryan Zeigler's melodic soloing once again.

The last three songs are all fantastic as well, I'm not going to delve into the details other than lyrically it leads to a strong conclusion to the story and features so much more of what I've mentioned above. Fantastic five part harmonies in unexpected places, tasteful solos by the army of guitarists, beautiful keyboards by Dobbs and Pashman, an incredibly tight rhythm section and several more great solos.

Seriously, this album easily deserves all five stars; if I have a complaint it's that the cd is too short. My personal preference would be to hear longer solos because the grooves that these guys put behind them deserve to be given a longer life. The upside of this is that it leaves you wanting more. At no point do I get tired of listening to this album. Every time you think that they're going to get complacent the time signature shifts and the band is off in a different direction. Once you start to get used to the new direction, the five part acapella hits you out of nowhere. I said it before, this band puts so much into every song, there really is no wasted space on the entire CD.

This is on my short list for albums of the year and comes highly recommended.

Roland113 | 5/5 |


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