Doone Records [Release date 21.05.19]
Don’t Panic – the ninth studio album by New York based proggers Izz, may feature – as one of the band’s four vocalists – Laura Meade who’s debut solo album Remedium topped my 2018 best albums, but Izz are a different kettle of puffer fish.
While many of the band featured on Meade’s highly melodic offering – most notably bassist and multi-instrumentalist John Galgano, Izz deal in an altogether harder currency – the more ‘hard core’ prog pioneered by the likes of King Crimson, Yes, and ELP where chucking the kitchen sink into the mix just ain’t enough. Hell, no. Get the bath, the bathwater, and the taps in there as well.
Over two decades on from their debut, Izz have lost none of their drive with Don’t Panic marinated in the collective creative juices of Paul Bremner (electric & acoustic guitars), Anmarie Byrnes (vocals), Brian Coralian (electronic & acoustic drums and percussion), Greg DiMicel (acoustic drums and percussion), John Galgano (bass guitar, electric & acoustic guitar, vocals), Tom Galgano (keyboards, vocals), and Laura Meade (vocals).
Centred around the epic 18 minute ’42′ (yes, “the meaning of life, the universe, and everything”) you might half expect the extended piece to be one of the least immediately accessible. But you’d be wrong. It’s one of the tracks where Laura Meade features prominently and in the final third, has distinct flavours of the musical Hamilton. Now, there’s a thought – an Izz (prog) version of that production could be a monster!
Elsewhere, there’s a couple of instrumentals – the 2 minute classical guitar piece ‘Six String Theory’ which, while pleasant enough, meanders along (briefly) with no apparent destination, and the 9 minute ‘Moment Of Inertia’ which, while technically beyond reproach and with moments of sheer brilliance – notably the cinematic piano opening and the soaring Hackett-esque final section, may on first blush, at least – be too densely layered for those with more conservative tastes.
Which leaves two, more vocal, tracks – the album opener ‘Don’t Panic’, with its driving bass, insanely addictive hooks and harmony vocals, and the equally irrepressible set closer ‘Age Of Stars’ with its unpredictable twists, reminiscent in parts of Remedium, and some particularly fine vocals from Meade and Byrnes.
Izz aren’t a band who offer instant fixes, their work requiring the investment of repeated listening to get the very best out of it. And with a modicum of perseverance, Don’t Panic – which boasts some of the most accomplished playing, and one of finest productions you’ll hear this year – slowly reveals riches that will surely merit an album of the year nomination.
Uncompromising maybe, but a cert to feature in Arthur Dent’s desert island discs. *****
Review by Pete Whalley
Album review (Laura Meade, Remedium)
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