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(48:49, 10t Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. Hello World 0:15 2. The Gravity 7:50 3. This Is the Future 4:28 4. Life 2:38 5. The Best & Brightest 4:05 6. Circuit Court 5:10 7. Life at Any Cost 7:58 8. What It Means to Be Human 5:30 9. We Regret to Inform You 5:22 10. More Life 5:33 LINEUP: George Dobbs – vocals; keyboards, percussion; guitars Robert James Pashman – bass; keyboards; vocals Patrick Kliesch – guitars; keyboards; vocals Bryan Zeigler – guitars; vocals Eric Pseja – guitars; vocals Aaron Nobel – drums With: Five more singers
Prolusion. The US band 3RDEGREE has been a more or less ongoing feature for a quarter of a century now, initially active in the first half of the ‘90s and then returning to activity a decade or so back following a spell of hiatus. Since their return they have released three full-length studio albums. "Ones & Zeros Vol. 1", the most recent of those, was released through the US label 10t Records in 2015.
Analysis. My experience with 3rDegree as a band is that they, by and large, tend to explore parts of the progressive rock universe residing in places not all that crowded. They do so in a fairly accessible manner though, with what one might describe as a crossover potential to a mainstream-oriented audience, although achieving that potential is probably much more difficult than acknowledging it. In a progressive rock context, this is a band creating a fairly easy to grasp variety of the style, and they create music that is fairly accessible by and large. Part of the reason for why the music of this band merits such a description comes down to the vocals, where especially the vocal harmonies have something of a Beatles-like vibe to them at times, strikingly harmonic in a manner that can be traced back to the exploits of the Fab Four, although in this case perhaps with a stop-over at the likes of Spock's Beard along the way too, as 3rDegree does blend in the lead vocals and vocal harmonies in arrangements that occasionally feature keyboards and guitars assembled and mixed with the vocals in a somewhat similar manner. There's also a touch of Rush here at times, in some of the more dramatic lead vocal deliveries, in the alternating use of wandering gentle guitar motifs and harder edged, firm guitar riffs in the individual compositions and, to some extent, a bass guitar occasionally given a firmer sound and more prominent place in the mix. Neither of these features are replications however, and they are additionally fleshed out by other details. A recurring feature throughout are sections and interludes that sport something of a smooth jazz-rock undercurrent, for instance, by way of piano motif, bass line or an ongoing guitar solo overlay, but rarely, if ever, with two or more of those present at any given time. Another running feature particular to this production is the use of cleverly made voice and instrument effects that add a focus on the storyline explored on this concept album, inserting these sections and snippets into the composition in a logical and unobtrusive manner that elevates rather than degrades the end result. And even in the one case where this aspect becomes something of a dominating feature, in second to last song We Regret to Inform You, this is executed in such a manner that it becomes a charming feature of the song rather than a bland, detrimental one. Thumbs up for that one, and for my sake at least I'll add another one for the more challenging exploits of the darker moods paired of with the more playful interludes on What It Means to Be Human, arguably the least accessible and most challenging number on this CD, but also by far the most intriguing one.
Conclusion. 3rDegree excels at the art of creating accessible progressive rock with plenty of intriguing details hovering beneath the surface, and in this case also managing to add a distinct and charming emphasis to the story explored by way of incorporating effects into the compositions that elevate the total experience quite nicely. Perhaps a bit more of a purebred progressive rock-oriented creation this time around when compared to their previous albums. An album worth taking a look at if you tend to enjoy accessible progressive rock, especially if well developed concept and theme albums tend to fascinate you.
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