Postcards From the Asylum continues Jason Bieler’s 21st Century musical renaissance with his second album release under the Jason Bieler and The Baron Von Bielski Orchestra umbrella.
Jason/The Baron is described as a post-apocalyptic troubadour, amateur surgeon and water diviner, amongst other things. More possibly familiar to some as a founding member of Miami, Florida based hard rock band Saigon Kick, from which fond memories were resurrected by this reviewer of the self-titled debut album and follow-up The Lizard, which were released in the early nineties.
This latest release is a follow up to the Orchestra’s debut album, Songs for the Apocalypse, which was well received on its release in 2021. That album was notable for Jason pulling out the Rolodex to invite guests such as Devin Townsend, Ron ‘Bumblefoot’ Thal, and recent touring partner (and Saigon Kick collaborator) Jeff Scott Soto, as well as lesser known turns Arthur Bumpstrange and Biff Loudness. For the new album, the likes of Wormsby Troutlick and Stralinski Waka-waka are credited.
Serious stuff, this is not then; not a shock to anyone who follows Jason’s social media channels. Although fun is a serious business, as they say, the humour is better when the music is this good. The success of the first JBBVBO (as they will be known from now on in) album must have cemented the feeling that Bieler was on the right track with his enjoyable mix of melodic hard rock, layered vocal harmonies, varied musical styles and offbeat subject matter, so this continues on Postcards From the Asylum. What also continues is the interesting collaborations. A large portion of the songs are performed by a core of Bieler, drummer Edu Cominato, and lead guitarist Andee Blacksugar, who is currently a member of industrial metal outfit KMFDM, and there are a sprinkling of guests, one such being Spock’s Beard keyboardist Ryo Okumoto on piano and Hammond for Birds of Prey.
Across fifteen tracks, Jason and friends – real and imaginary – manage to incorporate singalong chorus-laden rock (Heathens, Bombay), downtuned doom metal (Sic Riff), melancholy ballads (Mexico, Human Head), as well as “I don’t know how to describe it” (Flying Monkeys). The running order allows for welcome changes of pace, which means the fifteen tracks never outstay their welcome.
A favourite of mine is Numb, the second track in after the anthemic start of Bombay. This one begins with a thumping drum beat and the familiar layered harmonies welded to a simple riff. It builds and later the guitars and voices go for the heights; stirring stuff.
The whole package is extremely well done, Jason plays the apocalyptic surgeon-like Baron on the album cover, and a lot of the tracks have strikingly designed visual ‘shorts’ on YouTube, with a summary of what the song is about. For example, Bear Sedatives is explained as a song about not fitting in in social situations, and Mexico is about escaping everything. Credit to Robert Merrick for the excellent artwork.
We only received the music files here, but there are lovely gatefold vinyl editions available in red and yellow vinyl, as well as a CD version. Whichever version you choose, this is an engaging listen from start to finish, and the quality of the songwriting and musicianship really shines through. Highly recommended.
01. Bombay (4:33)
02. Numb (4:58)
03. Heathens (4:41)
04. Mexico (6:04)
05. Birds of Prey (4:41)
06. Flying Monkeys (3:43)
07. Sic Riff (4:53)
08. The Depths (4:28)
09. Beneath the Waves (4:05)
10. Sweet Eliza (5:08)
11. 9981 Darkness (4:43)
12. Feels Just Like Love (3:44)
13. Bear Sedatives (5:17)
14. Deep Blue (5:48)
15. Human Head (5:44)
Total Time – 72:30
Jason Bieler / Baron Von Bielski – Vocals, Instruments, All Songs, Production, Mixing
Edu Cominato – Drums (except tracks 5 & 6)
Ricky Sanders – Drums (track 5)
Marco Minnemann – Drums (track 6)
Andee Blacksugar – Guitar Solos
Ryo Okumoto – Piano & Hammond Organ (track 5)
Todd “Dammit” Kerns – Bass (track 9)
Record Label: Baron Von Bielski Records
Country of Origin: USA
Date of Release: 14th April 2023