Izz: The Darkened Room
The first Izz music I heard was their previous studio effort “My River Flows,” and was very impressed. Shortly afterward I saw them live and was extremely impressed. This led to the inevitable discovery of the entire catalogue. What I found was a very talented band that kept improving with each release.
Since my fandom of Izz has been steadily growing, you can imagine how exited I was to hear that a new album was on the way. As welcome as “Live at Nearfest” was (especially because I was there), it had still been four years since the last studio release. The only cause for concern was the news that Laura Meade was not in the lineup. No offence to Anmarie Byrnes. She is great, but it was the combination of the two that helped make “My River Flows” such a success. Losing such an element could seriously affect the trajectory of growth this band had been on.
Once again not only does Izz not disappoint, they have released their best work yet. They have never been lacking in talent, and always come up with good musical ideas. They just never quite captivated the prog community enough to be seen as a major force in the genre. In my opinion, “The Darkened Room.” should change that. I believe what may have been lacking was clarity of vision. As good as the last album was, you could probably remove any track, change the order, or add something, and the overall feel would have been the same. Each song was very good, but the album lacked that ‘grand vision’ aspect which prog fans salivate over. Now they have hit the concept nail on the head, and anyone not acknowledging Izz’s status should pay more attention.
As the title implies, this is a moody album. That is evident right up front with “Swallow Our Pride.” It begins somber and swells up to an angst ridden force. However, the emotions are not all on the low end of the spectrum. “Day of Innocence” turns the tables immediately with a lovely lilting acoustic guitar grove, and turns into an all band jam out sunrise.
The ups and downs continue as with the juxtaposition of the lamenting “Regret,” and the toe tapping positivity of “Ticking Away.” Seriously, for a moment there I almost thought I was listening to Moon Safari (if you have ever heard “[Blomljud]” you know what I am talking about).
What I think is really interesting is that they have split up the epic into three parts. One of which is long enough to be considered an epic track on its own. Yes, this has been done before, but it is usually a return to a musical theme. Here the separate movements have been placed at different points on the album. Each is so different that they could be stand-alone tracks. There is definitely a concept to the album, but “Cant Feel the Earth” solidifies it. Thus the ‘grand vision’ issue is no more.
The most impressive aspect of “The Darkened Room” is just how good this band is. I said they keep growing, and the ceiling may have finally been hit. The compositions, instrumentation, vocals, and performances and passion are second to none. I thought the loss of Laura Meade would have had more impact, but Anmarie Byrnes has proven to be a powerhouse. All the vocals are stellar, John Galgano’s bass is smooth as silk, Paul Bremner’s guitar is on fire, Tom Galgano’s piano work is nothing short of masterful, and I’ve always loved the Brian Coralian / Greg DiMiceli drum duo.
I come across people saying that there really is no modern symphonic prog. New bands are said to just be derivatives of bands like Genesis and King Crimson. Well I beg to differ. This is what symphonic prog sounds like today, and it is excellent. It also may be just a bit more accessible to the masses, without losing any artistic integrity. The Darkened room was one of the best albums of 2009, and Izz is one of the best bands out there today.
Tom Galgano – keyboards, vocals
Paul Bremner – electric & acoustic guitars
Brian Coralian – electronic & acoustic drums, percussion
Greg DiMiceli – acoustic drums, percussion
John Galgano – bass guitar, acoustic guitar, vocals
Anmarie Byrnes – vocals