M-Theory Audio [Release date 30.11.20]
Progressive Rock’s most famous unknown band, Scardust, released their second album, Strangers, to widespread critical acclaim in November last year. It was an unauspicious time to be releasing new product. Consequently, the label has “re-released” the album this month, clearly hoping to build commercial success on the back of an uninterrupted series of glowing reviews.
The sheer breadth and width of the music and lyrics – written by vocalist Noa Gruman and unofficial member, Orr Didi – pushes “progrock” beyond conventional boundaries. This is a “Tales of the Estranged” album, where events unfold as told by each side of the “Strangers’” story, with each chapter painted from a musical palette filled with classical colours and hard rock textures.
Guitars, bass, keys, a string quartet and a spectral choir take us worryingly close to symphonic sensory overload at times, but Gruman’s soaring vocals act as our guide … follow me and you’ll be just fine. As concepts go, this one has stamina.
Melodies come and go, some hit you between the eyes, others orbit in ever decreasing circles, negotiating slick (sometimes dizzying) time changes, eventually to crashland in your subconscious.
To pick a standout track from an album of standout tracks is impossible, but . . .
‘Break The Ice’ and ‘Addicted’ are sweet triumphs of invention and a lot of daring. We’ve heard these ingredients before, well used by Progrock bands, but not assembled in exactly this manner. These arrangements push the word ‘inventive’ to breaking point. And at times, in parts, songs like ‘Tantibus 2′ and ‘Under’ recall ELP in content and execution.
There isn’t a dull moment, and there are some truly great ones. And the fact that several tracks, like ‘Concrete Cages’ and ‘Over’, take time to reveal themselves is no accident – the effort required to get there is part of the payoff.
At a point in time when superlatives have been devalued by overuse, it’s no exaggeration to say that Strangers, the album is immense – an extraordinarily rich, intoxicating, complex mix of progressive rock styles and sources. If this one doesn’t do it, nothing will. ****1/2
Review by Brian McGowan
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