Backhand — Through the Turbulence
((Not on label) , 2014, CD)
by Peter Thelen, Published 2014-09-25
The eleven minute multi-part instrumental opening cut “Introspektion” by this Venezuelan five-piece featuring Canadian singer Phil Naro (of Druckfarben) is like a calling card that features a diverse collection of styles and some outstanding playing by everyone. The piece starts in earnest with some heavy metal chugga-chugga riffage mixed with with bombastic choral keyboard blasts before it finds its way into genuine symphonic prog territory, then in a quick scoop the listener is led away into a jazzy rock passage driven by keyboards, then onward into a sweet bluesy section that starts gently and slowly grows into full throttle blues rock, with the reappearance of those choral blasts and some truly outstanding lead guitar, full of power and emotion, all culminating an a massive coda, covering all the elements of a classic prog rock opus and more. Indeed, if the album ended right here it would alone be worth the price of admission. But it doesn’t.
For the remainder of the disc’s 76 minutes the listener will hear plenty of material that straddles mainstream prog (think Saga, later Kansas, Wall era Floyd, and post 90125 Yes) and straight-ahead classic rock, often punctuated with generous moments of instrumental brilliance. Naro’s vocals are a perfect match when the band is in this mode. Cuts like “The Big Red Wall,” “Me, Myself and I", ”Hold the Light” and “Crime Story” don’t really break much ground stylistically, staying too close to the all too comfortable and often hackneyed realm of accessible prog. The band throws some decent instrumentals in along the way that keep the fire of that opening track burning, like “Hardwood,” with its gentle and jazzy center section driven by piano and guitar. A couple other instrumental pieces that shine brightly are “Tears from the Sea,” with its emotional attack and melodic substance, and “Spider Riff,” a multi-part workout that shifts gears continuously as it goes through its six-plus minute duration. So there you have it; there are really two distinct albums here – one of commercial sounding vocal cuts, and another set of inspired instrumentals by a promising group of outstanding players and writers.
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