Saturday, February 18, 2017

Seth - Apocrypha (2016)

Since Seth is first known as a black metal act, and “Seth Rock Band” gives me results for a rapper by the name of Seth Rock, I'm just going to have to say that information is slim regarding this Massachusetts bassed progressive rock act. Now, Seth is definitely influenced by everyone from Ozzy Osbourne to Robert Plant, which means we are definitely hearing Zeppelin and Sabbath in the mix. You can tell right off that multi-instrumentalist and frontman Gerry Stafford is heavily influenced by artists like Ozzy (especially with his vocal style, which seems to echo quite a bit of the Ozzman) even though this act goes back to '74 and predates the British metal legends by quite a bit. Nevertheless, I'm still hearing that Sabbath flair here. It's undoubtable that there are several artists not limited to Cream, and The Beatles, Yes and possibly even early Pink Floyd that could have had a hand in this, but that depends on who you ask. The record itself nearly comes in at forty minutes, so there's quite a bit of territory covered here and a great deal to be explored.

Unfortunately, several of the cuts here are not quite as thick as those at the beginning of the album and although we get a rather potent opener in “I'm No Saint” as well as a grooving alternative rock (it almost sounds a bit like grunge, if you ask me) number in “Semaj” there exist two rather light pieces in the ballad “Love's Hallowed Ground” and the even lighter ballad “The First 29 Years” which aren't exactly bad, but might be a bit more airy than one would expect. Sandwiched in the middle of that is a decent enough piece called “Free World” that despite it's length, feels a bit off for some reason. I've listened to this track several times today and it just feels as if something is wrong with it. It honestly kind of feels a bit garage for me, which I'm kind of lost to. The rest of the album sounds a bit more clear than this – whatever it is supposed to be – and I certainly cannot say that it is one of the band's best tracks, by far. Maybe with a slightly less raw production as the others have received, “Free World” will come off a bit more lively. Not only does the piece sound off, but it feels stifled compared to the rest of the album. Seth had the right idea, but it's just a little below the bar for me. I also feel that “There and Now” isn't quite what it should be, even though it is definitely a much heavier cut than some of the others here. That being said, I'm not looking for an overly heavy record here and perhaps it touches on doom a bit too much.

The real treat on this album (and why it is worth the purchase price) is a wonderful instrumental called “Quadragy” which spans well over ten-minutes and carries me into places that not only execute great prog, but remind me of great classic video game soundtracks. I strongly doubt these were inspirations, but I heard something within the piece that felt like a Mega Man style melody and I definitely jumped on it. It felt like the end credits music to such a game, what you would hear after finishing the final boss and seeing how the story turned out. A veritable time for relection, which is a good idea between games. We often don't reflect on media period, which is definitely not a good thing. We should think about those experiences that we've had with art in all of it's different facets. It doesn't help the Mega Man feeling I get when electronics and keyboards are wholly used to make these sounds, and when something comes off very much like a charge sound, I can't really help it. Later, the piece goes into something that kind of reminds me of the seventies inspired progressive rock that influenced some of the tunes in X-Men: Arcade's Revenge. This is definitely eighties X-Men to me. Then we have what sounds like a ship landing as what feels like classic music for a shmup begins to blare. I'm just missing the ship and the enemies. Very cool, very classic and certainly one of the best things I've heard this year.

I guess this comes off as a bit rude, but with such an amazingly outstanding performance like this one, why did Seth even write traditional songs? I think I would have absolutely salivated over an entire record like this and as much as I really dug “I'm No Saint” and “Semaj” there's nothing like “Quadragy.” That's simply just “cool” and I can't say much more than that. It brings back so many memories, of course – and I feel that ended far too soon. Twenty or thirty more minutes of that would have been awesome. That, is the very essence of this genre. Without a piece like that, this record would probably receive a five, or if I was feeling gracious, a six. But since there's such a monumentally awesome recording utilized as a finale, I have to give Seth the benefit of the doubt. I want more people to hear said track, because it is absolutely incredible. These guys reunited after many years, and even though I didn't think so much of the record at first (it was relatively decent,  but not phenomenal) they unexpectedly blew me away right at the end. It's like watching a film with a good build-up and a lowly climax, only to be shaken by a suprisingly fantastic ending note. I have to recommend Seth's Apocrypha to progressive rock fans sheerly due to “Quadragy”, because such a piece is worth paying for. There's absolutely no question in my mind.

(7 Tracks, 37:00)


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