Album review: The Deadstation – Episode 01: Like Peering into the Deepest Ocean Abyss (EP)
Posted by ChristopherMammal
Genre: Progressive metal
Release date: 3 April 2014
Recommended to: Fans of many prog metal and crossover prog rock bands including those named in this review
The Deadstation spells its name in upper-case letters. I don’t. My keyboard is allergic to Caps Lock. The sound card, the headphones and my ears, however, are anything but allergic to The Deadstation. I experienced two immediate reactions after playing their one and only release. The first was: “Where are they hiding the rest of their albums?” The second: “Why aren’t there more?”
A digital version of the EP was released two years ago. The physical recording, which includes an additional song, runs to 34 minutes of grand music.
It’s not easy to categorise The Deadstation in this era of blurred genres. They do comfortably wear the general label of progressive metal. More specifically, the closest match that comes to mind is prog djent – think TesseracT with more powerful vocals (but without the string-palming). TesseracT is probably my favourite djent band, so you can take it as read that I greatly enjoyed Episode 1: Very Long Album Name.
Three pleasant American chaps from Boston, Massachusetts, make up the band. Shjon Thomas, who revels in dialogue with fans, does guitars, bass and vocals. Ryan Mattheu is a solo guitar wizard. The lead singer is Greg Murphy, who is also the drummer. This dual role of drummer-vocalist is something of a rarity… the singer is the back man. The band doesn’t single out a front man.
Phil Collins of Genesis has managed the same type of dual role competently. The principle differences between Murphy and Collins, apart from the fact that one plays metal and the other is stuck in schmaltz, are: (a) Murphy is a much better and more creative drummer; (b) Murphy has a far superior voice, range and execution; (c) Murphy delivers the percussion for great compositions, not crappy choons.
The band says it draws its inspiration from Alice In Chains, Dream Theater, Megadeth, Porcupine Tree and Radiohead. One can feel those influences in Episode 01, but I cunningly (and handsomely too) discerned other parallels that should make this band and album accessible to a wide range of prog metal and crossover prog rock enthusiasts. On the metal side they are likely to do well among fans of – let’s think of some suitably big names – DT, Symphony X, Queensrÿche, Amaran’s Plight and Shadow Gallery. They should also be well-received by fans of harder, heavier prog bands including Porky Tree, Rishloo, Blind Ego, Arena, Galahad and Wobbler.
The EP packs a lot into a haf-hour-plus, most of it excellent. The compositions, instrumentation and performances would be worthy of a much more seasoned outfit with a long discography to its credit. Themed albums are a hallmark of established bands and Ayreon-type projects. It’s quite ballsy to kick off with one. The theme here is deep introspection, a psychologically stressed perception of life, presented in the form of a journal. The band calls it “dystopian progressive metal”. It works.
The music features many passages in which chunka-chunka riffs meld into a broader “wall of sound” of the type that the best post rock and post metal bands do so well (Russian Circles, for example). The compositions are punctuated by superb guitar work, both electric and steel acoustic. They are the platform from which the soaring, clean tenor vocals are launched. Everything is glued together tightly by the ebb and flow of the keyboards. Hey, there’s real piano in there too! This band knows that acoustic extends beyond fret boards.
If I were to offer one suggestion to The Deadstation, which of course I’m about to do right now, it would be this – next time, do less emotional whispering, effective though it may be. That tenor is too good not to use more of it.