Thank You Scientist | Stranger Heads Prevail
Label: Evil Ink Records
Release Year: 2016
Genre: Progressive Rock/Genre Transcending Rock
Salvatore Marrano – Vocals
Tom Monda – Guitar
Cody McCorry – Bass
Odin Alvarez – Drums
Ben Karas– Violin
Ellis Jasenovic – Saxophone
Andrew Digrius – Trumpet
Thank You Scientist are a band that come along once in a generation and shatters any preconceived notion of how progressive rock should be made. Their newest album in 2016 Stranger Heads Prevail proves that there are still more frontiers of progressive rock to explore. Thank You Scientist certainly refuse to be pigeonholed with the stereotypical cliche`s that seem to be branded on progressive rock.
Thank You Scientist brings several dynamics to the table. They bring traditional progressive rock, acid jazz, avant garde, some 1940’s big band and even film score soundtrack. Somehow and in some way the band manages to utilize all these genres and more. In the band itself, they present three very distinct and present dimensions. First of all there is the typical progressive rock rhythm section, then there is the multi layered string section of keyboards, guitars and even violin. The last dimension they present is a refined horned section of both trumpet and saxophone present. It is as if they place that all in a audio blender and engineer a soundscape of sheer melodic and harmonic bliss.
Stranger Heads Prevail proves that anything and everything can happen in progressive rock. It is a album that even the most critical reviewer or progressive rock collector can easily acquire a audio pallet if the album is approached with a really open mind and some serious patient time to absorb the many dimensions presented on the album. It is a album that also commands every audio sense of the listener to really begin to appreciate the album. The band certainly knows how to hit every audio nerve in both ears and in the theater of the mind of the listener. Now I am going to discuss some highlights to every track on the 11 track piece.
Prologue: A Faint Applause begins as a melodic handshake for two people that are about to have a conversation. They approach this by tight vocal harmony meshed with the complex instrumental. This track has a well engineered segue into the next track on the album The Somnambulist.
The Somnambulist starts out as if a 1970’s progressive rock band went back to the 1940’s Big Band era recruited a saxophone and trumpet player. They then return to the year 2016. There is so much going on in the intro. You have the full horned section, full stringed section and the rhythm section as tight in melody and harmony as it gets. The drums play on a off time progression however maintaining the integrity of the instrumental melody in harmony with the vocals. The guitars seem to have a slight metal edge to them as well. There are some very warm vocal harmonies as well. This segue’s nicely into the next track Caverns.
Caverns opens up with a 6 string guitar shred fest that is also running side by side with the horned section. This allows for depth and a unique distinctive sound to emerge. In the first minute or two the rhythmic section of drums/bass is very thunderous while the horned and stringed sections interchange in and out of multiple time signatures and passages. The fact that the band are never predictable really works in their favour. There are many hooks and chords like a winding road. You will find a lot of this executed throughout the album. There is a delightful guitar solo towards the end of Caverns. This leads into their next track titled Mr. Invisible .
Mr. Invisible opens up with a Steely Dan style horned section. I feel like I am listening to Aja. The track soon takes a very alternative progressive passage. With a tight instrumental section the band starts to really expand their range of vocal harmonies between the lead vocal and backing vocals. From there it is a full on progressive jazz rock track taking various time signatures and turns. Once again the listener has no time for boredom. The band manages to keep all audio and psychological progressions allowing for the listener to remain busy in those internal channels. There is even a jazz funk passage towards the end. This leads into the next track A Wolf in Cheap Clothing .
A Wolf in Cheap Clothing begins with a beautiful harmony between keyboard and the horned section. Soon they drop off and the drum/bass rhythm section perfectly compliments the vocal in harmony. This track takes a very early Chicago style especially with 25 or 6 to 4 . The band even perform with a illusion of sounding djent while not crossing that line. Like the rest of the album, this track certainly has its fair share of various hooks and signatures. This leads into the next track Blue Automatic.
Blue Automatic begins with a thunderous rhythmic melody that stands quite well in harmony with the vocal. The rhythm section sounds like a more traditional progressive rock track. The horned and stringed section are utilized tightly as to continue with the bands very unique and distinctive sounds. The harmony in the vocals is very spot on with every other of the six other instruments. This track continues the series of assets that Stranger Heads Prevail bring to the table. The end if this leads the way wonderfully to the following track Need More Input.
Need More Input begins with a deep tuned down bass intro matched by the guitar and drums. Soon the horned and other portions of the stringed section create such vivid melodic atmospheres where the warm vocals can easily take the track on a mini journey. About the 1:00 mark the entire track explodes into a almost jazz metal fusion atmosphere. At the 2:26 mark the track settles down and the story continues. When they go up tempo from here it is not as overwhelming to the listener as the first time in the track itself. The rest of the track takes on very traditional progressive hard rock with a horned section blended in with it. This leads into the next track Rube Goldberg Variations.
Rube Goldberg Variations begins totally as a old school jazz standard that soon progresses to a very jazz based. It continues and weaves in and out of several time signatures and progressions. It is a semi instrumental that is met by a choral vocal section towards the end. This leads right into the following track Psychopomp.
Psychopomp begins as if the listener is transported to a vacation island resort in The Caribbean or French Riviera. It has a heavy percussion in the beginning . This is one of the more aggressive and heavier tracks on the album. It is also one one the most melodic in the vocal harmony. Once again the band goes into new frontiers and territory that is not currently present among their peers today. The guitar solo is very much in the vein of Steve Vai. The horned section even presents a dynamic along with the guitar solo. There lies in a very strange spoken word narrative towards the end. The spoken word narrative is some out of science fiction like Carl Sagan or Rod Sterling with the Twilight Zone or even vintage Art Bell from the long running Coast to Coast AM overnight syndicated show. This leads into the next track titled The Amateur Arsonist’s Handbook.
The Amateur Arsonist’s Handbook begins as a straight away progressive jazz rock intro. This track tightens up the entire project. Melodically it is a summary of everything the band used in the crafting of the album. This also allows both regular fans of the band to newcomers like myself to really absorb what I just experienced over the duration of the last hour or so. This leads to the final track …. Epilogue: And the Clever Depart.
…..Epilogue: And the Clever Depart ends the album with a really intelligent barbershop quartet singing with a slight and modest jazz atmospheric passage.
Thanks to Ian Beabout and his show Prog Rock Deep Cuts With Ian Beabout at House of Prog for the introduction to this great pioneering band. Yes I said pioneering, they opened another door in progressive rock, what that door is well that is remained to be seen. Thank You Scientist have brought back some serious intelligent progressive rock that has seemed to of been lost over the years since Robert Fripp of King Crimson, Jon Anderson ex- Yes and Peter Gabriel. They allow for no complacent listening or close minded preconceived typical stereotypical notions that sometimes plague progressive rock. Thank You Scientist Stranger Heads Prevail gets a strong 5/5. This is also serious Album of 2016 material as well.
Video Courtesy: ( Evil Ink Records Official YouTube Channel )
by Robert Brady