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Izz - Don't Panic CD (album) cover

DON'T PANIC

Izz

 

Symphonic Prog

4.20 | 123 ratings

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TCat
5 stars "Izz" is a symphonic prog band from New York founded in 1996 by Tom and John Galgano (yes they are brothers). Over the years, they have received a lot of positive response from critics and fans alike. Since 1999, they have released 9 full length studio albums and a live album. Their 9th studio album is called "Don't Panic" and was released in May of 2019. The line-up hasn't changed much over the years as both Tom (keyboards, vocals, production and mixing) and John (bass, guitars, ukulele, keyboards and vocals) still remain as do Paul Bremner on guitars; Brian Coralian on acoustic and e-drums and Greg DiMiceli on drums and percussion. There are also two other vocalists that joined the band later; Anmarie Byrnes and Laura Meade. "Don't Panic" has 5 tracks and has a total run time of 44 minutes.

The album starts with the title track "Don't Panic". After some effects, wordless vocals start along with a definite progressive flair. The music is definitely leaning towards the symphonic sound with a mix of male and female vocals, sounding almost like "Pure Reason Revolution" at their best, but with a more defined sound with a slight jazz edge. The individual instruments are all well mixed so that you can hear everything going on, and the melodies are definitely interesting and catchy with some short attention grabbing riffs. This track is a standard length of just over four minutes, but it does well to establish the bands sound to the listener.

After this, we go right to an epic 18 minute track entitled "42". (Now it is starting to become clear where their inspiration for this album lies especially if you are a Douglas Adams fan). There is a nice build up to a guitar and bass heavy track supported by choral effects on the synth. This has a definite likeness to "Starcastle" and "Yes" with the instrumental beginning, with its cheery keyboards and tricky bass lines, also in the guitar passages and it's symphonic sound and the slight jazz leanings. I'm really liking this sound. Just before 4 minutes, things slow down to a moderate rhythm for a little while, then intensity builds in the synth and bass patterns, then the harmonized female vocals come in followed later by male vocals. The vocal melodies are definitely not the standard verse and chorus pattern, it is non-repetitive, but it is still melodic. After 7 minutes, a guitar-led passage is followed by a synth melody which is developed to that symphonic style. Complex instrumental changes continue with two acoustic guitars playing countermelodies before returning to the original progressive theme and then another guitar solo built on top of that with the nice heavy bass line playing along supported by synths. Vocals are brought back in after 10 minutes. Again, melodies change as needed by the lyrics and male and female vocals are used interchangeably making this music very dynamic and interesting. After 15 minutes, we get a cheery organ solo that later adds a guitar playing along with the same melody and later builds off if it. This is an 18 minute track that just speeds right by because it is so good!

After this comes a short track called "Six String Theory". This is a nice acoustic solo that is a nice peaceful break. This is followed by the instrumental "Moment of Inertia" which has a 9 minute run time. This continues in a softer style with a rhapsodic piano intro which is later joined by the guitar which doubles the melody. Atmospheric synths build tension and a sudden outburst from the drums bring in a heavy guitar riff. A second guitar then improvises over this with a rousing solo. Tempos shift and melodies and riffs replace each other as the lead guitar keeps things together while the support create interesting progressive shifts. The complexity and heaviness of this track is sort of unexpected, but definitely welcome. At 5 minutes, this stops and you hear laughter in the background. A slower rhythm takes over making for a steadier pattern as the synths and keys take the center stage for some more excellent music. Awesome! In this track, all semblance to the previously mentioned bands is gone and traded for a darker and heavier sound, but still quite amazing. Again, this is over too soon as those 9 minutes speed by.

The last track also nears the 10 minute mark. This one is called "Age of Stars" and it starts off with a softer feel, but a heavy bass. Vocals start off quickly and sound a bit menacing at first, but the vibes brighten things up along with the higher vocals when they come in. Soon, things pick up with more progressiveness and counter harmonies in the vocals. Meters and melodies change as it continues and the vocals keep going with short instrumental flourishes between the lyrical lines. After the vocals stop, there are some nice instrumental solos shared by both electric and acoustic guitars and synths. There is another big shift in melody and tone as the vocal melodies become a bit more complex with each vocalist singing different lines and then a sudden synth solo comes in. Vocals come back in and work towards a finale that brings the entire album together.

This album is quite impressive, and since I can speak first hand that it is an excellent entry point for those wanting to explore this music, since it is the first album I have heard from them. I know I will be looking into more of their albums if they are as great as this is. The music is top-notch progressive music with non-standard patterns, changing meters and melodies, and complex themes. The vocal harmonies are excellent and spot on. Even when there are no harmonies, the singers are strong enough to carry the lyrics forward. Unlike similar bands like those I mentioned earlier, the vocalists are much stronger which works even more to this band's advantage. This album is excellent and is definitely the best symphonic prog album released this year. Definitely recommended to symphonic prog and to all prog lovers.

TCat | 5/5 |

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