1. Who is the band? What is their history? What motivates them?
“Izz is a New York based band, and is frequently seen on the Progressive Rock festival circuit. Their name is taken from one of bassist John Galgano's favorite Mets players. They are influenced by the usual classics (Yes, Genesis, Gentle Giant, The Beatles, etc.), and also modern bands, like Radiohead. There are even those that see a certain pop element in the music, mostly due to Tom Galgano's vocals. They seem to have no exceptions when it comes to incorporating styles. It is not unusual to hear Rock, Jazz, Latin, and Funk. This gives them a unique crossover appeal” (Progarchives.com, 2009).
“Once considered neo-prog, further exposure suggested there was something else going on. This is what led to the label of modern symphonic. Each album has been released with ever-rising praise. The numerous live appearances add to the growth of their skills” (Progarchives.com, 2009).
“Even before the release of IZZ's new opus, the band is back in the studio recording the second part. ”What is probably more a focus at this point is completing the recording of Part 2 of this album series," John explains. "We've already started the recording process and hope to have a follow up to The Darkened Room soon. However, since all the members of IZZ consider the band to be a band that you need to experience live, we will definitely sprinkle in a good amount of live performances to promote and play out material for The Darkened Room” (IZZ MySpace page 2009).
2. Why did they make this album? What was the passion or message that forced them to produce what they have? Or, simply what was their motivation for the themes they chose for this album?
Their latest record and offering to a growing fan base. The band has been busy touring and appearing at major US prog festivals in the last couple of years, so it was definitely time for some new material for their loyal fans. This is an opportunity, as all bands have, to take their fans in a new direction and provide memories to last a lifetime. Will this one be as memorable as the last, My River Flows, released in 2005, which is also my favorite album of theirs, and it ranks highly on my list of prog albums for this decade?
3. What message are they delivering through their lyrics and music?
I will not give away my guess on the topic of the album either. The band hopes to allow each listener to establish their own vision of the theme.
Swallow Our Pride – Synths and guitar open this with an eerie echo effect, bouncing back and forth around the speakers in the room. Then the drums come front and center and Tom Galgano’s voice, “every minute we’re making it more difficult to pass.” “Wondrous ways are far behind in a childhood that should last.” Synths and Anmarie’s backing vocals before the launching guitar riffs, full drum pounding and all the music unleashed. The effect is like something being brought back to life after a long rest.
The synths and guitars are signature and very different than anything being played today. There are memories of the classic prog I used to listen to all the time, but this is very different. A synth, drum and guitar interweaving section is just incredible with bass supporting well in the
One of the best songs on the album. Anmarie’s vocals backing are wonderful in support of Tom’s. In the past the band often separated sections of songs, one with male, the other with female vocals, however, blending them really brings out the great harmony that both vocalists create together.
The guitar riffs are unique and provide such a distinct sound for IZZ.
The song ends with drums, then whispers and a dream – like sequence filled with synthesizer sounds. Off to a perfect start!
Day of Innocence – Opening with the acoustic guitar running forward developing the rhythm with bass support. Very acoustic and a great way to move into the rest of the album. Then Anmarie and Tom’s voices matched together drifting above the acoustic music below. The effect is dreamy and really sets a tone, before the full drum and building rhythm take over. Unfortunately at 2:56 it is over too quickly. The launching guitar, drums and bass gather together to bring the climax to a full boil.
Regret - Piano and synths. Every song different. The heavy bass in back. Then those lead guitar riffs and bells. So unique and adding that new vibe that I have been waiting for all year from progressive rock. Tom and Anmarie match up well and the lyrics are delivered with sincerity, “I see you falling into the sea, I see you falling into the sea of life.” The guitar riff that comes in after this refrain is wonderful. They even mimic the sound of waves. The ever – present bass is just wonderful, (would make Chris Squire very happy). Another one of the best songs on the album.
Can't Feel the Earth, Part I – Breath deep, then “When I was young I used to scare myself with thoughts of forever, what a frightening proposition to imagine something that never ends…” Then the piano, drums, guitar and synths take over. A great instrumental interlude, i.e. ELP and you drift away to enjoy something Keith Emerson would be proud to have played. Piano played like a virtuoso. Intricate, detailed piano, then the full power guitars, bass and drums to support. Synths and drums with interweaving guitars and bass.
The synths are so good and different than anything you may have heard this year. Bells, piano and bass weaving together to create something very complex and wonderful. That launching guitar that really punctuates everything, just as we leap into the next song.
Ticking Away – “Ticking away the clocks ticking.” “This might be a day when the heals will be clicking.” Very upbeat song. Acoustic guitars, drums, keys and all musicians moving at full pace. The rhythm on this one is so powerful. You want to dance to this one, or at least jump up out of your chair and sing! This will be a crowd pleaser at live shows.
Can't Feel the Earth, Part II – The epic at 10:37. Riffing guitars, synths and then bass. Then full on synth effects with guitar. Then fall into a gentle rhythm and dream – like bass and guitar with Anmarie taking over the dreamy lead vocals. Launching guitars, bass and drums. Anmarie in all her glory. The synthesizer takes over for a moment and it is wonderful, but not long enough. The bass is also ever present. Anmarie’s support of Tom and their harmonies are wonderful, just before an exciting piano and drum rhythm.
The piano interludes are just what are needed, acting as a breather in-between sections of this and other songs. Then back to power guitars, drums and bass.
Again the guitar riffs are new and unique as are the synths sounds. Very innovative ways of creating similar effects but delivering the speed and power of an early Dream Theater environment without locking yourself into using the same keystrokes and blasting guitars and drums. The drums are there, so are the guitars, but this is very different while delivering the same power.
Stumbling – Drums and powerful guitar from the last song open this one. But then that wonderful piano takes over. This one is full of lyrics and similar to their first couple of albums. The guitar, drum and piano interlude towards the end is very jazzy and interesting.
The Message – Quiet keys and vocals, “I saw your haven on solid ground shifting the leverage I could not be found.” Then building guitar, drum and piano working in rhythm to set a mood. The guitar riff with piano and drums is wonderful near the middle.
23 Minutes of Tragedy – Acoustic guitar then, “Dark and blue a moment comes too soon.” Another of the best songs on the album. Wonderful launching electric guitar coupled with acoustic guitar rhythms that continue throughout the song. That Steve Hackett, early Genesis sound, without imitating, just setting the mood so well. The heavy synths come in to build a darker effect along with higher pitched synths and then the launching electric guitar solo with drum support. The synthesizer that comes in after the solo is one I cannot get out of my mind. So different and wonderful. The climax to this one is one of the best on the entire album.
Can't Feel the Earth, Part III – There is a long break in between almost giving you the feeling that the last song should have been the finale. This song seems to be a narrative to conclude this part of the album and guide us to the next part of the story, which will come on the next CD.
The slow drum rhythm with acoustic guitar is again wonderful with Tom’s singing. ”In this life I still dream, I still dream, I confide.” That Hackett, Please Don’t Touch era, sound to the music, but again, not a copy, just a mood, which sounds completely wonderful at the end of the album. Really sets us all up for the follow up. The guitar is simply wonderful along with the synths and drums. That unforgettable majestic synthesizer really pulls you through to the climax and makes this song and album very memorable. Hope there is allot more of it on the sequel disc. The Yes – like bass on this one towards the end is also very good.
Places to Hide – This is a single which was not included on the album. This sounds more like the sound from My River Flows. Beautiful song with that wonderful piano and drums. The rhythm and sound of this one is different than the rest of the TDR album. This was a bonus track available via iTunes before the CD came out, as a sampler. The piano is deeper and fuller with the support of more synths and fewer guitar riffs. Though towards the end the guitar does play a more prominent role. The song has a very heavy influence of Yes - like bass lines at the end. It is well worth the price and a great addition to your collection.
4. Does this music improve, change, or add to the genre? What does the listener receive from listening to the music?
This is one of the most original sounding recordings I have heard this year and makes me proud that Americans are showing the rest of progressive rock world how to be truly innovative and define progressive. The band really progressed from the sound of My River Flows to create something very different and new. I enjoyed most of My River Flows and especially the epic Deafening Silence. It is still my favorite IZZ song. However, MRF was a bit more uneven. It had the epic Deafening which was excellent, and others which were just ok. This album grabs you and never lets you go. It does not reach the powerful climax that Deafening did, but maybe that is still coming on the follow up.
The four year wait for a new album was well worth it. Hopefully the follow – up sequel will follow soon. Though I haven’t stopped listening to this daily since I received the promo. I am proud to say I have remained a fan and all fans will be rewarded for the wait with this new classic to add to their IZZ and progressive collection.
Really the most innovative and complex prog album I have heard this year. Really setting this band up for more touring and the anticipation of the follow up sequel CD.
5. Does it have longevity? Is it something a fan will like to play again and again?
Absolutely yes! Excellent! As a fan of the band, they exceeded all of my expectations. Now I am very interested in hearing the sequel to the story. Don’t know when that one will come out. Hopefully soon.
Rating: 9/10 – I want to hear the follow up before giving this the perfect album rating, though I really cannot find anywhere I would change anything. Wonderful music after the long wait. We can all be grateful for this new set of music. Hopefully I’ll get a chance to hear this live someday. They provide a full album of complex and interesting music with an intricate story interweaved.
Reviewed by Prof on December 1st, 2009