Review: Dead Man - Euphoria
Label: Crusher Records
Released: May 5, 2008
For outsiders, prog rock really seems like a limited genre full of musicians whose musical narcisism takes center stage, relegating things like hooks, emotion and all things rock n roll to the background. That may be true to some extent, but prog has also expanded rock's palette in many ways. A band like Emerson, Lake and Palmer is heavy on the classical, while King Crimson incorporates angular jazz and Mahavishnu Orchestra is as much a fusion band as a rock band. Jethro Tull stamps their prog with a heavy gothic brand. Voi Vod puts prog in a fast and heavy format and the Mars Volta even approaches their music from a hardcore background. The really great thing about Dead Man's Euphoria is that it brings many of the things these bands did individually into a single package (okay, not the hardcore bit) and even add touches of hard rock and jam band folk (a lá the Grateful Dead). They are thoroughly a prog band, yet it is difficult to pin down just one or two influences.
The album is a dynamic ride with surprises around each corner. Occasionally, those surprises aren't so great (like when "Footsteps" had me thinking about fairies and wizards), but generally they keep the album out of the stagnation that plagues so many complex, technical bands. As a matter of fact, the playing on Euphoria is often quite understated, letting the music stand on its own rather than as a vehicle to show off the bandmembers' chops. The vocals, by prog standards at least, are flat at times, but it gives the album an earthiness that escapes many of its genre-mates. None of this makes the music any less grand. In fact, it comes across nearly as big as the classics of the genre. Dead Man doesn't transcend prog itself, nor do they extend its boundaries (except perhaps on the very country, yet very fitting "A Pinch of Salt"), but they do manage to add another album to the must have list of the world's thousands of prog rock fans. While it might be hiding behind many of the musical turns on the album, Euphoria does manage to put the rock in prog rock.
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