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Old 11-12-2014, 12:29 PM   #2512 (permalink)
Trollheart
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After all the fun and excitement (and earache) of Metal Month II it's time to return to my first love, and a project I was running before my sabbatical. It certainly won't be finished this year at this point, but I'd like to try to get to the end of it, even if it takes longer than I had anticipated.

Yes, it's time to return to that music Batlord hates, and continue our interrupted countdown of the 100 best prog rock albums of 2013, as compiled by Prog Archives.com.

Before my self-exile and before Metal Month II began, I reviewed “Limnal” by Exivious, and while unimpressed with this instrumental album I mentioned that there was another one coming up that was similar, another fully instrumental album that was supposed to be great but basically bored me to tears. This is it, at number



LMR --- Levin, Minneman, Rudess --- 2013 (Lazy Bones Recordings)


The problem with so-called supergroups is the superegos that go with them. Think ELP. Think GTR. Think Asia. When you go to LMR’s official website there’s no tracklisting for this album. They’re more concerned with reviews, press, purchase links and videos showing them either making the album, talking about making the album, or playing the songs. That’s all very fine guys but where is the bloody tracklisting? Also, who is Marco Minnemann? I mean, everyone knows bass supremo Tony Levin, and of course Dream Theater owe a whole lot to the keyboard talents of Jordan Rudess, but who is the guy in the middle, the “M” in LMR? Okay well Wiki tells me he’s a “drummer, composer and multi-instrumentalist” who apparently lost out on the chance to replace Mike Portnoy in Dream Theater. So there’s the DT link again. And he’s German. Okay.

That’s all well and good, and he has an impressive discography but he’s hardly an icon of progressive rock is he? This is a claim made on the LMR website, and while I would certainly consider Levin and Rudess icons, I don’t see Minneman as one. So that’s the first thing wrong with this album, and group, from my perspective: this supergroup is made up of two icons and one guy I know nothing about. And he’s a drummer. And plays guitar too here apparently. The other problem is that my dislike for Dream Theater has been well documented here, so to have essentially two guys from that sphere --- even if Minneman didn’t make it as replacement for the departed Portnoy he was on the shortlist so will be linked with them --- is not good news for me.

But I like to give everyone a fair shot and I stuck the album on the playlist, but found every time one of the tracks came around I just hated it. This is my first time to listen to it all the way through so perhaps my view of it will change, perhaps not. If not, then it’s likely to be a short review as I have no intention of cataloguing every keypress and drum roll in the way I often do on albums; if this is as boring as I remember it then I’ll just be doing a cursory writeup on it. It’s all instrumental, as I may have mentioned, and for my money, and as far as memory serves, it’s all pretty much the same throughout its fourteen-track and sixty-two minute run. This is not one I’m looking forward to.

There’s a big heavy guitar break to start us off, something like a faster version of “Smoke on the water” then Rudess blasts in with uptempo keys which then slow down on what sounds like mandolin but I guess isn’t as “Marcopolis” (wonder who wrote that?) is the opener and it’s full of power and energy, plus the drum solo that comes as obligatory when one of the “supergroup” is a drummer. I must say, I hear a certain Yes sound in the melody. Next up is “Twitch”, with a dramatic, proggy feel to it, rumbling keys and high-octave synth and some stabbing choral vocals. A heavier guitar-oriented tune on the weirdly-named “Frumious banderfunk”, though it gets quite Caribbean at times. Odd little flute sounds too; sort of all over the place really though the guitar when it breaks back in is powerful and angry, so props to Minnemann for that I guess.

“The blizzard” is much nicer, Rudess showing his undoubted talent at the piano, with Levin supplying some truly superb bass lines. Much easier on my ear than that squawking synth, and even when he switches to the synth it’s relaxing and peaceful rather than harsh and abrasive. Definite standout so far. “Mew” then is almost eight minutes long, and jazzy in a breezy sort of way with nice piano, keys and guitar but it loses its way early on and never really recovers, and I just fail to notice as it plays out and onto the next track, which is called “Afa vulu” (where are they getting these track titles??) and is at least a much shorter track, short of three minutes. It’s a bit like listening to the theme to “Hawaii 5-0” for the most part, but it is very upbeat and fast. Levin then has his chance to shine with a bass-led track in “Descent”, which is to be fair not too bad but it’s a bit dull. It’s short too and leads into “Scrod” (which is almost “dorks” spelled backwards!) and this runs for six minutes. Is it six minutes too long? Well, I wouldn’t quite go that far but…

… the problem with this album that I see is that old bugbear of ego over talent. I’m not saying these guys can’t play, cos they sure can. But rather than, for the most part, compose some decent songs they seem to have decided just to each display their own talent in another Dream Theateresque show of “Look at me!” This makes many of the songs nothing more than extended workouts on their instrument of choice, and this makes for, dare I say it, boring music. There are exceptions. “Orbiter” has a really nice and cohesive melody, quite a spacey (unsurprisingly) feel to it, and its followup, “Enter the core” is good too, sort of cinema music. This is when LMR don't annoy me, when they make good music together and give you something you can hum, or at least remember. I don't want an album of jams thanks. I'm no fan of any of these three, though I do recognise the massive contribution Tony Levin has made, to this genre and others. But even with my favourite bands, an album of improvisational music does not interest me, and for the most part this is how this comes across to me.

“Ignorant elephant”, on the other hand, is another of those let's-see-what-we-can-come-up-with-if-we-all-just-play sort of deals, and it bugs the hell out of me. It's fast and vibrant but generally speaking it's totally directionless and very frustrating. “Lakeshore lights”, on the other hand, is a jaunty, upbeat tune with a real radio airplay appeal, if the radio played instrumental music. Some great guitar work from Minnemann as he more or less takes the tune, but “Dancing feet” is a little too loose and experimental for my tastes. Sort of a new-wave/krautrock thing going there. The closer is an eight-minute effort which goes by the title of “Service engine” Driven on heavy bass and guitar it's okay and has the most proggy feel of any of the tracks here but for some insane reason, after playing sixty minutes of instrumental music, they suddenly decide to start singing in the last two! Why? What's the point? I also don't know who's handling the minimal vocals, but I have to admit, I don't care.

TRACKLISTING

1. Marcopolis
2. Twitch
3. Frumious banderfunk
4. The blizzard
5. Mew
6. Afa vulu
7. Descent
8. Scrod
9. Orbiter
10. Enter the core
11. Ignorant elephant
12. Lakeshore lights
13. Dancing feet
14. Service engine

If there's one thing this album proves to me it's that it can be dangerous, even counterproductive to get too many massive egos in the one recording studio. Little of this sounds like a collaborative effort to me at all --- most of the time it's like each is trying to outdo the other a la ELP --- and the end result is a pretty boring, fragmented and ultimately pointless album.

I expected to give this a low rating, and indeed I find that all I can find it in my heart to award this useless exercise in ego-stroking is a very low 2/10.

And I honestly don't think it even deserves that.

Ooh! It's good to be back!
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Last edited by Trollheart; 11-12-2014 at 02:52 PM.
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