In a stunning coincidence, I just threw out some mouldy banana bread during the writing of this review…
Joey Frevola himself assured me that the new Edge of Reality album would be far-removed from his orchestral if somewhat twee solo debut album Gone, and he was not wrong. In Static takes the listener straight back to the band-only formula with a myriad of zany musical moments, many wackier than the pieces found on the band’s 2016 release Vicious Circle.
Opening the album is the spectacular Attack of the Great Worm with solid power metal chords straight from the ’80s to greet the listener. A flurry of time signatures will leave you unsure of quite how to bop your head before an unexpected acoustic guitar section introduces the singer. I’ll leave the word ‘unexpected’ out of the rest of this review because just about everything on this record is made to defy expectations; no familiar song formulas or structures, quirky instrumentation on every track and a turbulent seesaw between silly and scary atmospheres throughout. Just as you get comfortable with the angsty feel of this acoustic section, a bizarre Bill Wurtz-esque chord throws everything off track and we’re treated to a reimagining of the opening theme. And all of that happens in the first two minutes of this nine-minute epic.
The rest of the album is just as quirky and energetic, save the short, eerie and atmospheric Notebook, placed conveniently in the centre of the album. This track aside, it seems that there is a correlation between how long a track is and how melancholy it is. No song has just one tone, so you’d have to assign an average tone for each track if you were to get scientific about this. But in general, the shorter five to seven-minute songs like Puzzle Man, Lovestruck and bizarrely Civil War provide more jollity than the longer pieces, like the opening number, New Fuel and Illegal Chord. The latter track is a fun take on the done-to-death (thanks The Astonishing!) dystopian concept where music is outlawed in the future; in Illegal Chord, only one specific chord is illegal: BmM9.
The album isn’t without its flaws, however. The most notable flaw is the slightly lo-fi quality of the recording. Some bands, such as Astra (whatever happened to those guys?) choose a lo-fi sound to capture that retro feel, but that’s not what’s happening here. Maybe there was bad luck with the production of this album, but there’s a noticeable difference in quality between Vicious Circle and In Static. If you put on Khanfusion you can hear every single drum beat clearly and discretely despite how speedy it all is, but on In Static, it’s hard to make out all the notes, despite how evidently impressive the performances are.
Beyond that, my other main grievance is the same one I had for Vicious Circle: the lack of a singable tune. I get that the band is trying to stretch outside the realms of predictability, but there are ways to do that whilst still creating an earworm, as has been proved by so many bands of the past. Having listened to the album several times, the only bits I can distinctly remember are the epic opening to Attack of the Great Worm and parts of Puzzle Man which use a fun leitmotif. While it’s a fun ride as the listener is hearing the album, there’s not much to pull you back in afterwards.
Some minor gripes aside, however, this is an engaging album from an incredibly talented group. They have almost become a second Haken to me; technical yet fun and diverse. The real Haken departed from this formula following The Mountain and have never been quite as good since. The major difference is that Haken usually would follow a semblance of a regular song structure while Edge of Reality clearly doesn’t abide by this rule. In Static is a rollercoaster of prog from start to finish. Each of the songs is so intricately crafted that they feel like fine chocolates you are supposed to enjoy one at a time, but you inevitably end up scoffing the whole box because one just isn’t enough.
01. Attack of the Great Worm (8:52)
02. A Consultation (5:54)
03. Puzzle Man (5:44)
04. Bed of Lies (7:13)
05. Lovestruck (6:37)
06. Notebook (4:27)
07. Azira (7:28)
08. New Fuel (10:30)
09. Remorse (1:46)
10. Civil War (5:18)
11. Illegal Chord (9:01)
Total Time – 72:44
Joey Frevola – Guitars, Keyboards
Jesse Peck – Guitars, Vocals
Jesse Brock – Lead Vocals
Nick Mills – Bass
Branndon Center – Drums & Percussion
Megan Rasmussen – Vocals (track 10)
Laura Epling – Violin
David Williford – Saxophone (track 5)
Spencer Hurst – Electric Piano (track 5)
Justin Berger-Davis – Upright Bass (track 5)
Eloise Tyner – Spoken Word (track 2)
Record Label: Independent
Country of Origin: U.S.A.
Date of Release: 31st May 2019