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Contrarian - Minor Complexities CD (album) cover




Heavy Prog

3.39 | 14 ratings

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Symphonic Prog Specialist
4 stars It made me extremely happy to find "Minor Complexities" as the featured album of the month, since a few months ago I've been indirectly involved in the addition of this excellent New Jersey band to our database, and I believe they represent the best of 21st Century's USA Progressive Rock.

"CONTRARIAN" manages to combine the spirit of Classical Progressive Rock with a new fresh sound that clearly marks a distance with the great dinosaurs of the 70's even when always showing respect to their influence; their sound reminds me of KANSAS but with a harder and more aggressive edge.

That's why it surprised me when I found a couple of persons saying they were tired of Retro-Prog albums as "Minor Complexities"..For God's sake, this is a band with strong roots in Symphonic, what else can you expect if Prog is a genre that reached it's first peak in the 70's? Any Symphonic or Symphonic oriented band as CONTRARIAN needs some Classic era influence, but this guys are cloning nobody, yes you can listen some echoes from KANSAS, KING CRIMSON, GENESIS and even DEEP PURPLE and URIAH HEEP, but to blend all that influence and still be original, you need talent, and this guys have it.

I believe the problem is not the band, but some people simply prefer much more complex stuff (Which I usually don't understand), but if you like strong melodies with a hard edge, you most surely will like CONTRARIAN.

The album starts with "Operation Overlord", an excellent track about the "D-Day" with a clear USA Symphonic style "a la" KANSAS, but if the Topeka guy's strongest point is the blending of violin with keyboards, CONTRARIAN presents us a very solid violin, guitar and drum work. Joseph L Leming voice is probably not as strong as Greg Lake's but his style is perfectly adequate for the music, something in his vocal range reminds me of Tommy Shaw with a metallic edge. The whole band is excellent, but the impressive violin performance of Lance Cockrell helps to boost the sound.

"Twilight of the Idols" is a heavier song, you can listen some DREAM THEATER influence but much more melodic, as I suspected Leming's voice suits much better for this kind of stuff, again the electric guitar takes the lead but this time the dramatic organ sections are much more important for the overall sound.

After a frantic track, they need to calm the mood and that's the job done by "Sting of Fate", probably the less Prog track up to this point. Don't know if the intended this, but I can perceive some Grand Funk Railroad shadows which are boosted by the almost Psyche era keyboards and Lemings sounding almost like Mark Farner. They prove that not everything has to be Prog to be good.

The fans of more complex stuff will be pleased with "Fear and Tremblig", which stats with the complexity of KING CRIMSON but soon changes to Hard Prog with a touch of DEEP PURPLE, even the keyboard reminds of Jon Lord in "Burn" with that Neo-Classical sound he created so nicely. After several minutes of strong material the band returns to a softer passage that leads to the finale where the powerful keyboards are the star, one of my favorite songs in the album.

"Barricade" is totally different to any previous song, as always the Hard Rock essence is there but this time the structure is much more complex and the changes are very dramatic, it's hard to compare this song with the work of any band because it's totally eclectic; and have to say it again, the vocals in this heavier tracks is much better.

"Another Day" brings us back to KANSAS, but this time to John Elefante's era, if I had to choose a weaker track in the album I would go with this one, despite the excellent guitar work I find it less satisfying.

"Just Doing Time" starts very rhythmic, again they move away from Prog, but this time goes too simple, if I had to compare "Just Doing Time" with any other band's sound, I would go with early Bon Jovi. We reached the lower point, but the good news is that from now on, everything is uphill.

"Plato's Cave" presents us a different approach, much more dramatic and darker than all the previous tracks (We're back in Progressive Rock's territory), solid keyboard with occasional guitar explosions make of this song a soft and pleasant experience until the middle when they dramatically change to a more complex and aggressive approach with a hard rock keyboard and violin based ending, a very high point..

Now its' turn for the acoustic and softer "You're My Prayer" which sounds closer to a lighter Prog more or les in the vein of STYX, extremely melodic and melancholic, nice change, Timothy Boney proves us he can deal with electric an acoustic guitar with equal dexterity.

"Stand or Fall" is a Prog Metal track that changes by moments into a Power Ballad with an excellent piano background and a couple of radical changes, no time to rest, CONTRARIAN seems to have what I call panic to emptiness filling all silent moments with their strength,

"Sanguine Bells" takes us to new territory, now CONTRARIAN is trying a Hard Neo Prog style, with those fast and pompous keyboards close to Mark Kelly's style, not the best track but this guys sure are versatile, they have music for all the tastes, specially because the song mutates about the middle to an IRON MAIDEN reminiscent mood.

The album ends with "The Final Hand" which again makes imagine how IRON MAIDEN would sound if they had a Psyche oriented keyboard, even the vocals seem closer to a Bruce Dickinson style, strong closer.

There's something else we have to talk about, the lyrics, because it's not common for a band of any genre to try writing about Kierkegaard, Neitzsche or Plato's Philosophical concept, so if you add the intelligent and well crafted lyric, we are before an excellent debut album.

Now comes the hard part, rating the album, because the music is extremely solid except in a couple of weaker tracks which neither are bad, but to give 5 stars we require the album to be totally Prog and "Minor Complexities" have a couple of excellent but straight Hard Rock songs.

On the other hand there's no way I would qualify such a strong and versatile debut album with three stars, because it's way over the average. So I will go with four solid stars, for an extremely solid album. If you like Symphonic and hard Rock made in USA, get the album, you won't be disappointed.

Ivan_Melgar_M | 4/5 |


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