Progarchives, the progressive rock ultimate discography
Syzygy - A Glorious Disturbance CD (album) cover

A GLORIOUS DISTURBANCE

Syzygy

 

Crossover Prog

4.75 | 29 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Conor Fynes
Prog Reviewer
4 stars 'A Glorious Disturbance' - Syzygy (75/100)

All but one of the guys in the present-day Syzygy have been playing together for years. From that, there's the expectation that a chemistry would form that could only be fully heard in a live performance. With that pretense, I was more than excited to experience A Glorious Disturbance, the first official documentation of Syzygy as a live entity. More than that, the band's fourth release has been lavished with the warmest praise they have ever received. As live albums tend to be seen as a fans-only product, this is quite a surprise. More than a simple live album, this is a multi-faceted experience of a band that has lingered in the shadows for far too long.

A Glorious Disturbance boasts roughly 5 hours of material; in addition to the live album, there is a 5.1 Surround-supported concert DVD and host of special features documenting the band's existence behind-the- scenes. On paper, A Glorious Disturbance sounds like an investment best suited for the established fans of Syzygy. Surprisingly, it might actually be the greatest place for newcomers to start. Everything from the pastoral leanings of their debut Cosmos and Chaos to their full-fledged progressive rock on The Allegory of Light and Realms of Eternity are thoughtfully represented, and though the emphasis is weighted towards their latter 2009 album, the setlist pays respects to Syzygy's decades-long history together. This is the best these songs have ever sounded, and I don't think there's been anywhere better to start with Syzygy than this.

If anything put Realms of Eternity above its predecessors, it was the introduction of vocalist Mark Boals into the fold. Until then, Syzygy had always felt like a band in search for a vocalist, and I couldn't have thought of a better choice. Boals is a world-class vocalist, with a dramatic presence easily rivalling the versatility of Carl Baldassarre's guitarwork or Paul Mihacevich's dynamic drumming. Most impressively, Syzygy have taken advantage of Boals' talents by re-fitting previously instrumental tracks to fit his vocals. Surprisingly enough, the vocals work better on the original instrumentals than I thought they did on Realms of Eternity. On both the live album and DVD, Mark Boals' presence cannot be denied; the re- fitted versions of "Mount Ethereal" and "Strange Loop II" are pretty incredible to hear with vocals. It's really as if these songs were meant to have vocals, and only now, with A Glorious Disturbance, has that dream been able to come to fruition.

While the Live CD portion of this set is arguably the most fine-tuned and inspired recording Syzygy have ever conjured, the DVD is more problematic. Given how strong the sound is, it's surprising how amateurish and fuzzy the video itself is. As a concert film, A Glorious Disturbance is caught somewhere between looking like a bad home video and a semi-professional get-up. When it's not mired in poor 'Movie Maker' effects, the film direction is usually aimless. There are never any effective syncs of the music and visuals. At their worst, the cameras give a glimpse of what someone from far-back in the crowd would see if they were squinting. At their best, it's what someone at the sidelines might see. It's reassuring to see the band having obvious fun when they're playing, but the video adds so little to the appreciation of their music. For instance, I've been a fan of Paul Mihacevich's drumwork from the first time I heard it, but the camera almost never gives insight into what he's doing at the back of the stage. It would have been foolish to expect this (or any concert DVD) to be the visual work of some emerging Kubrick or Bergman, but the DVD doesn't offer enough to merit it over listening to the audio alone. The cover of Deep Purple's "Burn" rocks pretty hard, though!

I'd actually recommend checking out the special features before heading onto the concerts proper. While the progress they have made from Cosmos and Chaos onward was already obvious from listening to the three records in sequence, a lengthy and passionate interview with Carl Baldassarre gives valuable insights into the mindset and stories behind each stage of their existence. Under the name Abraxas in 1979, Syzygy was originally a hard rock cover band, though it wasn't long before they felt the urge to get original. Although Baldassarre looks on each following era fondly, it's clear that he views Syzygy as being in the midst of their golden era -- and rightly so! Hearing the stories of Syzygy's development (including a strangely propitious meeting with future keyboardist Sam Giunta) brings an unexpected emotional weight to the proceedings. Regardless whether you're a seasoned Syzygy veteran or A Glorious Disturbance is your first dealings with the band, Baldassarre's interview is sure to enrich your appreciation of the band's work.

While A Glorious Disturbance is probably better off with the other special features than without, the rest of Syzygy's would-be documentary is underwhelming. It' enlightening to hear some of the isolated tracks from Realms of Eternity discussed on the "Writing of Realms" feature, but the plodding verse-by- verse, song-to-song dissection is tough to get through with all interest intact. If anything, it makes me want to revisit Realms of Eternity and keep an ear open for the troves of detail hidden in the mix. Mark Boals' much-shorter interview feels lacking in substance; for a guy whom I consider to be the keystone Syzygy needed in their sound, there's not much to be taken from the interview, other than that Boals thinks the rest of the band is pretty swell. The roundtable discussion (which I was most excited for) was most disappointing of all. Considering its length, it is fairly absent of fresh insight and information. I certainly get the impression that they (and many of their listeners) are passionate about the music of Syzygy, but I can trust their performance to convey that passion to me. In an interview, I want information, I want stories, I want unexpected insights that are going to fuel the way I approach the music. Baldassarre had some great things early on in the disc, but the rest of the special features I could take or leave.

To their credit, Syzygy's enthusiasm and live chemistry leaves me with some of the same awe I felt when listening to Yessongs for the first time. Undoubtedly, the live CD segment of this boxset is the most impressive thing the band has ever done, and further proves to me that great musicianship can only be fully appreciated when the artists are performing live. Many of the issues I've had with Syzygy's work are mitigated by the sheer passion and chemistry they exhibit live. I have no problem calling A Glorious Disturbance the most impressive live prog album I've heard since Moon Safari's The Gettysburg Address. At the same time, the other two thirds of A Glorious Disturbance are major disappointments in comparison. I'm always in awe whenever a band takes a multimedia approach for a new release, but Syzygy's decades of experience and expertise together were deserving of something far better than the amateurish quality ascribed to the video. Regardless however, when the current mindset is to avoid live albums under the impression that they offer little to an experience of a band, A Glorious Disturbance deserves to be heard (if not seen). More than that, this is the way Syzygy deserve to be heard.

Conor Fynes | 4/5 |

MEMBERS LOGIN ZONE

As a registered member (register here if not), you can post rating/reviews (& edit later), comments reviews and submit new albums.

You are not logged, please complete authentication before continuing (use forum credentials).

Forum user
Forum password

Share this SYZYGY review

Social review comments () BETA







Review related links

Copyright Prog Archives, All rights reserved. | Legal Notice | Privacy Policy | Advertise | RSS + syndications

Other sites in the MAC network: JazzMusicArchives.com — jazz music reviews and archives | MetalMusicArchives.com — metal music reviews and archives