Third From The Right
posted on 11/2006 By:
Planet 13 is a Florida based two-man prog outfit that has just released its third effort. The album’s presentation and the professional, mature effort contained therein make an impression that the band has its shit together, and Third From the Right is an impressive but uneven album that proves that Planet 13 are worthy of the attention of serious prog fans. The band’s style sounds as if it was shaped by icons like Rush, Queensryche, and Fates Warning, and in some places a darker, Martin-era Sabbath vibe creeps into the mix.
The band favors long, complex compositions, and half of Third From the Right’s six tracks are fourteen-minutes or longer, and the album spans a bulging sixty-six minutes. Although I have a few gripes about this record, it has to be said—these guys have a respectable talent and do a lot of things quite well. The longer tracks, especially the opening duo of “Darker Side of You” and “Eyes of Deception” boast proficient technicality, impressive arrangements, and a nice amount of darkened heft beneath its cerebral prog ethic. “The Quest” is a heavier track that bears some Queensryche similarities. The guitar work is appropriately restrained, resisting the urge to descend into flashy wankery, but the solos that crop up are effective. The keyboard lines are similarly well constructed, and add an atmospheric touch and support the songs without becoming needlessly intrusive. However, the band makes a couple missteps in both songwriting and execution that make this album uneven. First, although these guys aren’t like, scary talented, they’re capable multi-instrumental musicians and deliver a professional effort. The kinks in the armor come in the vocal department. Ray Zarate holds up pretty well over the majority of the album, but this material is a bit more dynamic than his range. His higher registered work is not as impressive, and some of the vocals during slower sections also suffer, but at times that’s a writing criticism as much as a technical one. On the topic of slow sections, there’s simply too damn many. The band spaces them out well on their longer songs, and although they are typically the least enjoyable parts (sometimes quite noticeably) of those tracks, they still are reasonable paths. Problem is, it feels like slower material makes up roughly half of the album’s considerable runtime. My music doesn’t have to be fast. It doesn’t even have to be heavy. But it has to be good, and the band’s fluffy cover of The Carpenters’ “Superstar” is indefensible—sitting through it is like an evening of a root canal followed by Ice Capades. The best thing I can say about the track is that at four-minutes, it’s the shortest of the bunch. The same can’t be said for “Rain”, a nine-minute ballad that plays like a bloated “Thank You” prog-rock effort. A modestly edited version of this album would go much farther. At the risk of being repetitive, Planet 13 does a lot of things well here, and if this sounds like your thing, these guys are worth exploring. The album has also racked up a couple pretty positive reviews, so it’s worth visiting their site and finding out for yourself.
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