Dave Kerzner – Heart Land Mines Vol. 1

Dave Kerzner – Heart Land Mines, Vol. 1

The very first review I ever submitted to TPA was for Dave Kerzner’s 2022 effort, The Traveler. Fast forward a year, and here we are again, this time with Kerzner’s latest release, Heart Land Mines, Vol. 1. From his time with Sound of Contact to his solo work and his band In Continuum, Dave Kerzner has developed an identifiable sound – one part Pink Floyd, one part pop songwriting savvy, a healthy dose of Steely Dan attitude, add some of the finest musicians you can find, and stir until well blended. The result is a prog pop juggernaut that never fails to thrill. When Kerzner debuted the album at Progstock this past October, weeks before its official release, many of the musicians from the album accompanied him on stage. The live rendition, good as it was, seemed to emphasise the pop songcraft. The album version relies on modern production and a plethora of musician friends to reveal the beating prog heart at the centre of what could easily have been a singer/songwriter confessional.

The acoustic guitars and Mellotron flutes of True Story, Part 1 set the sombre mood for the short introductory piece in which the singer sets up his autobiographical tale of leaving Los Angeles after a bad breakup and driving across country with a guitar and a suitcase and no plan. The music that came out of that nineties journey is what appears on this record. Kerzner’s Floydian bent is given free rein with Eye of the Storm. Understated vocals hover over a driving rhythm (think of Pink Floyd’s Sheep), cushioned by a cloud of synths. Fernando Perdomo’s guitar takes a page from the Dave Gilmour book of lead guitar playing, not so much flashy as simply perfect for the song. The tension in the song is courtesy of the keyboards which lie just beneath the surface, a representation of the storm about to be unleashed. The anxiety builds as the song progresses and never releases, a harbinger of the relationship troubles ahead. The story of how the two protagonists came to meet and be together is told in Dreaming in LA. Reminiscent of Foreigner’s Juke Box Hero and Tom Petty’s Into the Great Wide Open, the couple take their shot at the big time, with predictably dismal results. The acoustic guitar verses are complemented by the full band chorus, giving the song depth and resonance. Beatles-esque touches abound and, like its forebears, this song should be a massive hit.

Heart Land Mines is a very guitar-centric album, as exemplified by Genevieve. All sorts of six-string instruments contribute to the sound, leaving the keyboards to take a back seat, so that when they do make an appearance it makes an impression. Put on the headphones to hear all the deep-in-the-mix instrumentation and vocals. The Steely Dan attitude is most prominent on Back to One, a sense given credibility by Perdomo’s electric sitar and a guitar solo from Elliot Randall, the guy who lent his chops to Reelin’ in the Years. Pushed Me Out is another short tune – less than a minute-and-a-half – rich with sonic delights, including Joe Deninzon’s violin and gorgeous vocal harmonies. The Floyd influences return for When the Heart Sinks Like A Stone, a song which highlights Kerzner’s distinctive approach to the keyboards. The ivories colour in the spaces left by the dominant guitars. And listen to the way the word “stone” echoes at the end of the song. Sound familiar?

Dreamy, massed vocals and electric piano give Worlds Apart a soft, gauzy feel, like a hazy memory. The Wall-inspired phone call snippets enhance the sense of disconnectedness, both musically and lyrically. Even the guitar harmonics seem to untether the song so that it feels like the tune is floating in an out-of-body experience, a reflection of the distance between the story’s protagonists. Touchstones abound on this album, and APP’s Snake Eyes informs the rhythmic electric piano of Dirty Girl. Fernando Perdomo’s drums take centre stage as he shifts from one approach to another in a dazzling display of virtuosity. The tranquillity which explodes in a punk-like outburst is an apt feature of Manic Calm. This approach cycles through the song with constantly changing instruments and embellishments to keep the listener alert and interested.

Nuance and emotion are the calling cards for Too Far Gone. The sophisticated songcraft is evident in the catchy-as-the-flu chorus, surrounded by strings and acoustic guitars. The wordless vocals during the interlude are especially beautiful. To the Eye (Reprise) hearkens back to the menacing strains of Eye of the Storm. Kerzner does nothing to disguise its debt to Sheep, right down to the sound of the synth solo. Sisters Durga and Lorelei McBroom are given room to do what they do best as they vocalise all over Siren’s Song, while Perdomo does his best Gilmour impersonation. The album closes as it began, with the acoustic guitar and Mellotron flute of True Story, Part 2.

One of the aspects of any Dave Kerzner production that I appreciate most is how he marries ear-worm pop melodies with a decidedly progressive instrumental approach. Heart Land Mines, Vol. 1 is probably his finest example yet of that balancing act. I will be eagerly anticipating Vol.2.

01. True Story, Part 1 (1:08)
02. Eye of the Storm (4:56)
03. Dreaming in LA (4:46)
04. Genevieve (5:50)
05. Back to One (5:27)
06. Pushed Me Out (1:24)
07. When the Heart Sinks Like A Stone (4:17)
08. Worlds Apart (6:32)
09. Dirty Girl (5:30)
10. Manic Calm (4:46)
11. Too Far Gone (5:43)
12. To the Eye (Reprise) (2:46)
13. Sirens Song (1:26)
14. True Story, Part 2 (0:46)

Total Time – 55:17

Dave “Squids” Kerzner – Lead Vocals, Acoustic Guitar, Keys, Percussion
Fernando Perdomo – Acoustic & Electric Guitars, Bass, Electric Sitar, Drums (track 9)
Matt Dorsey – Electric Guitars, Bass, Percussion
Derek Cintron – Drums (except track 9)
Joe Deninzon – Violin, Viola, Chin Cello
Daniel Kerzner – Horns
Mark McCrite – Electric & Acoustic Guitars, Backing Vocals
Gene Siegel – Bazouki, Electric & Acoustic Guitars
~ With:
Lyle Workman – Electric Guitar (solo track 4)
Elliott Randall – Electric Guitar (solo track 5)
Devin Powers – Electric Guitar (solo track 7)
Randy McStine – Electric Guitar (FX track 9)
Alex Cromarty – Drums (tracks 5 & 8)
Stuart Fletcher – Bass (tracks 5 & 8)
Toss Panos – Drums (tracks 3 & 4)
Durga McBroom, Lorelei McBroom, Emily Lynn, Robin Schell, Pat Meyers – Backing Vocals

Record Label: Sonic Elements
Country of Origin: U.S.A.
Date of Release: 18th October 2023

Dave Kerzner – Website | Facebook | Bandcamp | Twitter