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Variant - 2006 - "Beyond Jargon"

(57 min, 'Variant')

TRACK LIST:                    

1.  March to War 6:49
2.  Today I Tried 4:21
3.  None So Blind 7:10
4.  Deeds 6:10
5.  Carrin' Carrion 10:20
6.  Going 6:58
7.  Regardless 9:24
8.  Reflections 1:17
9.  When the Lights On 4:17


Jerry Wengert - vocals; guitar
Erik Connolly - guitar
Mike Herrel - bass
Gary Langton - drums

Prolusion. "Beyond Jargon" is the debut album from VARIANT, of the American state of Texas. The musicians on the photograph in the CD booklet look like being in their early forties, but I think it is always great if creative natures reach one day a decision to follow the proverb "Better late than never".

Analysis. Anybody who has ever been keen on '70s Hard Rock and related styles will easily 'calculate' where this creation of Variant is rooted - already upon an initial listening. Being equally inspired by the work of early Black Sabbath and Wishbone Ash, this quartet took "Master of Reality" and "There's the Rub" by those respective bands as a basis for their "Beyond Jargon" and have in most cases successfully intermixed the ideas of their teachers in absentia with those born in their own heads. The only - yet really glaring - exception to that rule would be the opening number, March to War, whose central guitar riff down to the smallest details repeats the one from Children of the Grave. Before the album's conditional equator the songs, where the influence of Black Sabbath or Wishbone Ash is obvious, strictly alternate with each other. Just consequently, March to War and None So Blind each draw a picture of classic progressive Doom Metal, whereas Today I Tried and Deeds are both the creations of accessible, yet very pleasing intelligent guitar Art-Rock, although each from the two categories contains also a small number of features typical of the other benefactor. Not surprisingly, most of the guitar work on the former two songs instantly evokes the name of Tony Iommi, and, hence, on the other two, the dual guitar soloing is very much in the style of Wishbone Ash. Then follow three tunes, each being a true embellishment of the album. Carrin' Carrion and Going at first seem to be just two more numbers continuing in the same line. In fact, both are almost fully original compositions, with large-scaled instrumental arrangements, and while some corresponding similarities still exist, they reveal themselves almost exclusively on the tunes' stylistic angles. The same words remain relevant regarding Regardless - the one that finds Variant sliding (both masterfully and elegantly - like mountain-skiers) between their two chosen styles. Only on the last two tracks, Reflections and When the Lights On (the former being the sole instrumental), the band is back to the approved formula of walking a path paved by the others - this time around think Wishbone Ash, in both cases.

Conclusion. I like almost everything created by the Godfathers of Prog-Metal, but quite frankly, I'd been happier if Variant were inspired by Black Sabbath at their most progressive (1973-'78). However it would be wrong to finish this review without mentioning that all four of the band members appear to be well-prepared musicians, equally skilful in using complex stop-start movements and odd meters, besides which on two of the tunes they demonstrate how subtly they can slacken their pace. In all, I find their "Beyond Jargon" to be a curious album, at least.

VM: January 10, 2007

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