At the Summer’s End Festival in 2014, Verbal Delirium proved to be an unexpected treat. During that show their singer and leader, who goes by the name of Jargon (not sure what his Mum thinks of that), delivered a compelling performance, packed with energy and squeezing every drop of emotion out of the songs. He’s a gifted frontman and keyboardist with a superb vocal tone and with him writing all of the music and lyrics for Verbal Delirium this could be seen as something of a one man band, but that is certainly not the case
At that performance in 2014 they played The Decayed Reflection (A Verbal Delirium), an impressive 11-minute piece that was not included on either of their first two albums and which pointed towards a very positive future for the band. It now appears on their third album, but is perhaps surprising to learn that The Imprisoned Words of Fear was originally released as the band’s first demo back in 2007. In the accompanying interview with Jargon he describes how they came to revisit and re-record the work for this first release on Bad Elephant Music.
The previous albums have featured a modernistic alt prog/art rock style but The Imprisoned Words of Fear takes its lead from ’70s classic prog, filled out by sax, flute and the piano which is integral to the sound and a haunting focal point for many of the pieces. The arrangements and instrumentation instil a real sense of variety into their music and this is not a release that gets to feel samey during it’s 60-minute running time. The band integrate traditional flavours of their native Greece here and there, but not often overtly. With music being such a huge part of the heritage of Greece it seems strange how few bands from there seem to break through to a wider audience but hopefully Verbal Delirium can make the transition.
From the outset there’s a sense of foreboding, Jargon singing like he means it over subtle piano during the intro to Words. There’s flute, washes of synths and guitar but it all returns to the revolving piano part which becomes more disjointed until it moves into the full-on hard rock of Close To You. But wait! A sudden a flip and we’re in a lounge jazz setting that builds to Mellotron swamped prog and is a complete delight. After a breakdown into piano and synth, whispered vocals act as a prelude to a fuzzed and angry guitar attack. There is a heavier side to the delivery on this album, but that does not swamp the strong sense of melody in Jargon’s intricate writing. The band appears to have remained intact from the Summer’s End line-up, with the addition of Nikitas Kissonas on occasional guitars and orchestral arrangements. With Jargon and Nikos Terzis supplying the keys and piano, the sound is rich and full, nailed down by the rhythm work of George Pagidas and Stelios Pavlou, guitarist George Kyriakidis swooping and diving, but the key is often the contribution of Nikolas Nikolopoulos whose sax, flute and Mellotron colour the dramatic music, adding emotional tones.
A change of pace and Misleading Path is light and bouncy with stabs of heaviness and jazzy sections. The tempo changes at will, from upbeat to sedate piano with effortless ease, sax adding a Greek flavour before moving in a Zappa influenced direction. These turn-on-a-sixpence shifts keep it all very entertaining, the vocal superb, strong and emotive in the delivery. The broken keys intro to Images from a Grey World moves into a heavy maelstrom of sound with prog metal rhythms, but this soon dissipates with sparkling keys and a change of vocal tack. There’s an epic quality and a fine chorus with extended instrumental sections allowing the band to stretch out.
Loading the epics into the second half of the album could be a dangerous strategy but they’re wall to wall from here on in, starting with the aforementioned The Decayed Reflection (A Verbal Delirium) which pares things down on jazzy influences. The upbeat feel defies the title and it’s even a bit Love Boat at times! The sinister is never far away though and bursts out in the expansive guitar led chorus, the ’70s traits not overshadowing proceedings as the engaging modernistic approach remains, piano again central and often leading the compelling sweep of the music as it builds to a quite stunning crescendo. In another subdued opening, Jargon sings the words to Fear over strummed guitar with piano and flute. There is perhaps just a little bit of Discipline and The Tangent in there and a more orchestral feel to the backing. The sound throughout is sumptuous and beautifully arranged; a delicate piano solo and the scene changes as the orchestration builds to a wonderfully energetic guitar and piano instrumental, stripping things back to its barest emotions as the song falls away on the fragile vocal. Jargon really does have a fantastic range and tone, these beautifully understated sections punctuating the guitar-led gallops which build at a stately pace to a widescreen conclusion.
Finally, In Memory is a very different beast – a simplistic old school keyboard rhythm emerging from vinyl crackliness. This track underlines the variety inherent within Verbal Delirium’s music; Jargon singing in theatrical style, soaring over the computer driven soundscape as the melody emerges. It remains sedate and edgy, the regular instruments returning as the tension ramps up. A slight niggle that this one might have been drawn out a little too far but that’s a minor gripe as the vocal performance is superb and all about the delivery of the words with a strong chorus, guitars buzzing around like a jam jar full of angry wasps as prog metal returns for the charge to the finish.
All of the performances throughout The Imprisoned Words of Fear are excellent with the writing and arrangement being the key to its success. It’s an album that bears repeated listens and isn’t overshadowed by the need for over the top soloing, the band working well to portray the pieces to their best advantage and given the space to perform to their strengths within Leonidas Petropoulos’ expansive production. The artwork of Dimitris Tzortzis is also noteworthy and a perfect fit for the package.
There is breadth, scope, diversity and variety in these well executed songs that makes for a particularly engaging listen and this is certainly a release to get behind and be excited about. For all their influences Verbal Delirium are their own men and do their own thing in this sumptuous and compelling work that successfully delivers on the bands potential. Despite being older material this is definitely a move forward from last album From the Small Hours of Weakness and if you liked their previous releases then this one is a must buy. If you haven’t come across Verbal Delirium before just dive in with this one, another winner from the ever expanding roster at Bad Elephant and hopefully more listeners will now come under the spell of this singularly impressive outfit who return to the U.K. next March for HRH Prog V.
[You can read TPA’s interview with Verbal Delirium’s composer and lead singer, Jargon, HERE.]
01. Words (3:12)
02. Close To You (6:36)
03. Misleading Path (5:57)
04. Images from a Grey World (6:35)
05. The Decayed Reflection (A Verbal Delirium) (11:51)
06. Fear (13:06)
07. In Memory (11:22)
Total time – 58:39
Jargon – Vocals, Keyboards, Piano
George ‘La Trappe’ – Bass
George ‘K’ – Guitars (except Track 1)
Nikos Terzis – Piano
Nikolas Nikolopoulos – Flute, Saxophone, Mellotron
Stelios ‘Primordial’ – Drums
~ Guest Musician:
Nikitas Kissonas – Guitars (tracks 1,3 & 7), Orchestral Arrangements (track 6)
Record Label: Bad Elephant Music
Country of Origin: Greece
Lyrics & Music: Jargon
Arrangements: Verbal Delirium (except track 4 by Verbal Delirium & Giorgos Maniatis)
Production/Mixing: Leonidas Petropoulos & Jargon
Date of Release: 7th October 2016