Sometimes when you ask for a CD to review, you get a nice surprise in addition. This time when I asked to write about The Aristocrats latest album, I was handed their bass player Bryan Beller's solo album as an extra. Since I like his songs and also highly regard his participations with other musicians, I was eager to listen to his double album Scenes From The Flood. But first, where did he ever find the time to write, seeks guests and record an album which almost sees a simultaneously release with his band The Aristocrats. And even more, WOW. Wow, because the album is a great one; thought through and guesting the right people on the right tracks.
Listening to the close to ninety minutes long album, it stands out that there is so much variation during the composition, take the opener of Part One on CD 1; The Scouring Of Three & Seventeen, a cool atmospherically track highlighting Bryan Beller on piano and lead guitar. An impressive opener that is followed by one of the highlights of the album; Volunteer State. Together with guitarists Joe Satriani and Rick Musallam; Bryan's bandmate with Mike Keneally and drummer Joe Travers; Zappa Plays Zappa and Joe Satriani, they have created a wonderful smooth instrumental, one that kicks in and sticks in your mind. During the following composition, Everything And Nothing Bryan himself takes the lead; fine spoken words and a Primus related bass sound make this another interesting experience. The aforementioned Mike Keneally joins in at A Quickening, a more experimental track. Keneally also joins on the heavy track Steiner In Ellipses, where former Death and Bellers partner in Dethklok; Gene Hoglan covers the drum tracks. Part Two sees another amazing track; Always Worth It. Multiple guitars and solos are accompanied by Haken's Ray Hearne on drums and Joe Travers during the solo parts. Lookout Mountain is a composition that highlights Bryan Beller playing Tibetan bowls. This one is followed by one of the more progressive rock songs on the album; another one of my personal highlights; The Storm. Hoglan and Hearne preserve the pounding parts and four guitar players complete the song's line-up. Godsticks' Darran Charles, fingerstyle guitarist Mike Dawes and Jake Howsam Lowe play the melodies, while Zappa Plays Zappa guitarist Jamie Kime is responsible for the wonderful solo. The first CD finishes with an atmospherical interlude, called The Flood.
The second CD; Part Three kicks off quite amazingly with Bunkistan, where Beller is handling all the guitars, bass and keyboards, with Hearne on drums and Christopher Allis as percussionist. The overall feel of this track reminds me of a smooth Buckethead composition, without the subtle keyboards and wonderful bass. As Advertised is a more experimental contribution, focussed on melodies and sphere. Hailing the mobile telephones is Army Of The Black Rectangles. I guess he sees a lot (way too much) of them during his shows. The Outer Boundary follows instantly, almost combining the two songs together. The nine-minute lasting Angles & Exits can be seen as an interesting highlight. Angles & Exits is a cross over progressive rock song with intense vocals and a beautiful atmosphere. Part Four starts with a doomy post rock related composition; The Inner Boundary, a real nice spherical one. The highlight for me could be World Class where the sitar and violin emphasis on eastern influences and both guitarists Nili Brosh and John Petrucci make this one extraordinary. Love this one, just because I would not have connected Petrucci and Brosh to this kind of composition. When we move on, I am afraid I have to mention “highlight” again. Sweet Water combines the acoustics of Mike Keneally with Guthrie Govan's soloing and melodies. Quite different from The Aristocrats, nevertheless equally impressive. Dark powerful chords lead in the final composition of the two CDs; Let Go Of Everything brings the album home with heavy guitar chords and smooth keyboards melodies and a meaningful bass.
Not much to say more I guess. Sure, some of the compositions don't do the trick for me, but overall this is an immense album, filled with absolute great compositions, brought to life by a fantastic musician, who is joined by the right people to make this album a huge success. Love it!!
****+ Pedro Bekkers (edited by Dave Smith)
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