One of the more interesting trends in progressive rock music is the emergence of the ‘Project’ idea, whereby musicians from various bands come together, temporarily, to form a new outfit, writing and performing music outside their usual remit. A couple that come to mind are Flying Colors and Storm Corrosion, with the members exploring new and beneficial collaborations, whilst broadening their profiles and rekindling and recharging their batteries. Pattern-Seeking Animals is one such project that features both current and former members of Spock’s Beard, along with their long-time songwriting partner and collaborator John Boegehold, who also plays keyboards on this album.
Well I’ve been listening to this album for the past few weeks and I can honestly say that if you prefer the more melodic crossover type prog of Flying Colors or Spock’s Beard then this is going to be right up your street, as it has similar qualities to both of those bands. In addition, this album also reveals just how fine a guitarist and vocalist current Spock’s Beard man Ted Leonard really is, as his guitar work here is tasteful, precise and very satisfying. Whilst he may not have quite the flair of, say, Roine Stolt or Steve Morse, he is definitely a hidden weapon that is revealed and unleashed here. Many will already be aware of Dave Meros’ fine bass work, along with the thunderous drumming of Jimmy Keegan, if you now add to that mix the very tasteful keyboard and synth work of John Boegehold then what we have is a very musically strong new band.
The album is a mix of some lengthy pieces, No Burden Left To Carry and Stars Along The Way, along with shorter, more pop-influenced numbers, such as The Same Mistakes Again and No One Died and Made Me King, sandwiched between the other, more medium length tracks.
Soundwise, there are no real surprises, as Pattern-Seeking Animals has strong echoes (not unexpectedly) of Spock’s Beard and Flying Colors, along with the sound of mid-period Kansas. I hear the strong and positive influence of Kerry Livgren, certainly in the lyrics, no mean feat and certainly one that captures this listener’s attention. With its strong vocal, strident, impassioned guitar lines and fluid solos, the opening track, No Burden Left to Carry, is a perfect example of the merit of this project arrangement, and has yielded possibly the best prog song so far this year! In the pre-release blurb, Boegehold specifically mentions that he wants the songs to have new elements being introduced throughout, keeping the listener’s attention and making for a positive listening experience. The opener certainly achieves that, catapulting this album into the realms of being something rather special.
Now I realise that this is purely a personal viewpoint, but I certainly feel that this song, in particular, is well placed to make significant inroads into the progressive and crossover markets, especially with the enticing prospect of live shows to come later on. Simply put, an excellent song!
Following this, The Same Mistakes Again has a real touch of Neal Morse about it, in both its vocal phrasing and the musical delivery, being somewhat anthemic in nature and with a strong melody and chorus woven into it. Orphans Of The Universe, on the other hand, is another epic length track, with many different moods and textures throughout. Of particular note here are John Boegehold’s recurring keyboard refrain and the tastefully delivered guitar break, halfway through, by Ted Leonard. Concluding this opening salvo is No One Ever Died And Made Me King, another short, but excellent piece, with a driving bass hook powering it along and a stunning chorus – watch the video and it will make sense…
The tempo and levels are far more gentle during Fall Away, but no less heartfelt. A real grower, and once again another great chorus adds to the song’s emotional content. The delicate refrain of Fall Away sticks in the mind long after the track finishes. In contrast, No Man’s Land is a bit unusual as it features whistling as part of the intro, making it sound rather jolly, even though this contradicts the lyric, which is somewhat darker in tone. There’s another great guitar break in the latter sections of this sprightly little number before the whistling brings us to the close.
Stars Along The Way, the longest song on offer here, is a corker, opening with a slightly Eastern sounding keyboard, this delicate song has a truly fantastic chorus, on an album replete with strong choruses, and here Leonard sings of how the stars along the way will guide you home. The midway point of the song features some evocative keyboard sounds before the track is taken through a series of ever-increasing levels and another fine solo from Leonard. The end result is a highly effective way to close what has been a triumphant release and an emotionally rewarding journey.
Pattern-Seeking Animals is a fantastic debut album that really impresses, with its great hooks, intelligent lyrics and great musicianship. Marvellous, highly recommended indeed and already in my top five of this year, so far!
01. No Burden Left to Carry (9:38)
02. The Same Mistakes Again (5:10)
03. Orphans Of The Universe (10:28)
04. No One Ever Died And Made Me King (3:54)
05. Fall Away (4:47)
06. These Are My Things (4:52)
07. We Write The Ghost Stories (3:22)
08. No Man’s Land (5:36)
09. Stars Along The Way (10:21)
Total Time – 58:10
Ted Leonard – Guitars, Vocals
Dave Meros – Bass Guitar
Jimmy Keegan – Drums, Backing Vocals
John Boegehold – Keyboard, Synths, Backing Vocals
Record Label: InsideOut Music
Country of Origin: U.S.A.
Date of Release: 5th July 2019
Pattern Seeking Animals – Facebook