posted on 6/2007 By:
The concept of Thought Chamber was first put together many years ago by long-time axemaster, Michael Harris. From 2001 through 2004, Harris laid down preliminary blueprints and purposely plucked teammates from progressive bands holding a wide berth of musical influences, resulting in a collection of diverse individuals bringing fresh elements to a formula already well established by progressive hard rock/metal acts such as Dream Theater, Pain of Salvation, and King’s X. The rhythm section from the oddly named funk/metal/prog-outfit, Haji’s Kitchen, fulfilled Harris’ vision of a necessary groove element, and his hard rock roots twined seamlessly with the smooth vocal styling of Ted Leonard from long-time San Francisco prog-rockers, Enchant. And with the final piece of the puzzle firmly in place -- keyboardist Bobby Williamson from the criminally under-appreciated aggressive prog-metal band, Outworld -- Harris’ former blueprints at long last became a reality.
As it turns out, Harris’ patience and meticulousness in choosing his comrades really paid off, because the long-awaited outcome, Angular Perceptions, is an incredible debut. In fact, the lofty position that’s been held by Threshold’s latest release the past few weeks has now officially been trumped. From start to finish, this record displays the finest progressive music I’ve heard yet this year, and it’s certainly the choicest debut in the genre I’ve heard in a quite some time.
One of the key ingredients that sets this record apart from its peers is exactly the element Harris was so intent on including: a wee bit of funk/groove. Now, before you all go hammering your fingers down your throats to purge your bellies of whatever’s left of the last Pain of Salvation record, let me assure you, another Scarsick this most assuredly is not. There’s nothing rap-like here. No ghastly images of progsters with platinum grills. Instead, imagine Truth and Soul era Fishbone filtered through late 70’s era Rush, especially during the moments where the slap bass and accompanying drumming really break free (“Transmigration of Souls” and “Accidentally on Purpose”). But for the most part, the groove element has simply been swirled within the metal foundation of these tunes, giving the whole of the record a nice head-bobbin’, feel-good vibe.
Occasional funkiness aside, Angular Perceptions’ prog-metal foundation also gets shaken up with added elements of full-on jazz guitar plucking and occasional strays into Rush-flavored rock territory as well, with the two instrumental tracks at the midpoint and towards the end of the record really airing things out and stretching into multiple genres. And the solo work…dear Lord, the solos! Each song (apart from the short ballad, “Silent Shore”) features some truly masterful guitar/key dueling during soloing, some of which will leave your jaw dropped as if a nekkid Scarlett Johansson just walked into your room with a plate full of cheeseburgers. Well, obviously nothing would drop a jaw lower than that, but you get the drift: the shit is good. Harris’ quickly strummed acoustic guitar also adds a nice, uplifting catchiness to many of these tunes, but the trifecta of “Balance of One”, “Mr. Qwinkle’s Therapy”, and the incredible “Transmigration of Souls” (the strongest prog-metal song I’ve heard in years) easily make this record worth the price of admission for any fan of this genre.
As far as the vocals are concerned, I’d have to say Leonard’s performance is directly on par with the fine musicianship found throughout this record. There’s undoubtedly a Dream Theater-esque quality to his voice, but where guys like LaBrie and Threshold’s McDermott deliver with a touch of ‘hair metal’ flavor, Leonard smoothes things out with a bit more soul, especially when layered within the catchy chorus’. And holy-hell does this guy have a massive range, and he’s completely unafraid to use it.
In a year that’s already provided scores of high quality prog-related releases, Thought Chamber have managed to slip a record under the radar that may very well end up eclipsing its peers as the surprise hit of 2007. This may seem like a daunting task with shots already fired across the bow by the likes of Porcupine Tree, Threshold, Planet X, Redemption and Dream Theater, but Angular Perceptions truly stands out as one the more impressive debuts in progressive hard rock I’ve heard in quite some time. I’d say if you consider yourself a fan of the genre, you’d be a fool not to give this band your immediate attention. Highly recommended.
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