Deluge Grander: The Form of the Good
ALERT! ALERT! This is the first new review written for this blog!
Yes, this one is special. Unexpectedly receiving this album from Dan Britton got this whole thing started. So, this had to be the first thing written by me (H.T. Riekels), just for The Bodhisattva Beat. I am also posting it on Prog Archives, because it will be good for the band, and I at least owe this fine group of musicians that much.
When I first heard Deluge Grander, I became an instant fan. “August in the Urals” made my list for best of 2006, and got me very excited about the future of symphonic prog. There was much debate within Prog Archives during the initial inclusion as to whether this was truly a symphonic band or not. I argued vigorously for symph (not just because I was a member of the symphonic team), and have been absolutely validated with this release.
The opener, “Before the Common Era,” Should sound very familiar to anyone who has Heard Deluge Grander before. The mood, tonal quality, and ghostly vocals are all there. It sounds like something that could have been left off of “August in the Urals.” The difference is that it is fully orchestrated. This gives it tremendous depth and lushness. It’s not an overt, in your face type of thing, but it is rich. The strings are absolutely gorgeous. This time out, the band is also taking us in slowly. This is definitely an intro, and as Dan Britton says, the shortest thing they have ever written.
“The Tree Factory” begins in classic symph land (tasty mellotron), and gets darker as it goes along. Two minutes in, it becomes a fusion jam out. This builds, changes gears, and even total direction a few times. The jazz themes remain present, but not always in the forefront. One thing that strikes me is that it makes me think of Birds and Buildings. I think the esthetic from that project carried over a bit. There is a distinct Zuehl feel to the pace and intensity.
“Common Era Caveman” seems to be more of an extension of the previous track. It continues the frenetic fusion jamming. Only this time there is more fuzz, and a strong Zappa influence.
The next part is where this album really comes into it’s own. In my review of the debut, I mentioned how it suffered a bit by starting out with the big epic. After that, nothing else quite measures up. This time it is next to last (was someone listening?). “Aggrandizement” is full on glorious symph. In fact, I think it is closer to classical music than rock. It really is a big orchestrated symphonic piece. It is pure Deluge Grander all the way, but boy did they hit the nail on the head this time. There are parts that may sound derivative, but they are nonetheless welcome. Other parts I find truly striking, and surprising (check around ten minutes in). When the mood takes them, this outfit can really cook. It’s just an outstanding piece of music.
I find the title track very interesting. The beginning is like something that would be a short, postscript closer. It evolves into something dark, and subtly menacing. The music is actually soft, but there is an uneasy tension. The tension and menace continue to build to eeriness. Just when the decent into the netherworld seems imminent, redemption is found. The grandiose, ‘all is well now’ thing may seem trite, but it is pulled off expertly. I mean come on. Didn’t most of us dig our classic prog opuses because they made us feel renewed at the end? Well, I sure did (think “Misplaced Childhood,” and “Supper’s Ready”).
So, how does the sophomore effort of this Dan Britton project measure up? Is it as good as “August in the Urals?” Is it a let down, or is it even better? You know what, I’m not even going to go there. The first couple of listens didn’t take hold. Perhaps it was because I wasn’t paying close enough attention by the time “Aggrandizement” started (which alone is worth the price of the CD). But now that I have applied the “critical” treatment, I see that its value should not be judged that way. Some things are very familiar, but the addition of strings and winds provide what may have been missing before. The quality of the production is also much improved. Whatever the differences, or similarities may be, Deluge Grander just makes great music. I was ga-ga about the first album, and a lot of that had to do with how original it was. So, this one doesn’t sound as fresh, but that doesn’t make it any less good. Go get it.
Dave Berggren – guitars
Dan Britton – keyboards
Brett d’Anon – bass
Patrick Gaffney – Drums
Nathan Bontrager – cello
Frank d’Anon – chorus, wood block
Brian Falkowski – clarinet, flute, saxophone
Heather MacArthur – violin
Jose Luis Oviedo – trumpet
N. Aaron Pancost – trombone
Kelli Short – oboe
Megan Wheatley – vocals