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Gnomonaut - The Chronocosm CD (album) cover




Heavy Prog

3.69 | 15 ratings

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Special Collaborator
Symphonic Team
4 stars Gnomonaut are an instrumental space rock band hailing from the United States, with music that pierces the stratosphere with the dark clouds of Black Sabbath that are lightly sprinkled over with the sun showers of King Crimson cascading down. The album "The Chronocosm" even pays tribute to the Crims with a glorious rendition of 'Red', that is closer than most cover versions you are likely to hear. The cover of Black Sabbath's 'The Wizard' is wonderful, even without those lyrics, that are replaced with a wah wah lead guitar effectively. The sax and brass sounds on this track gives it a jazzier feel, with its rock fusion of guitars meets brass, like souped up Mahavishnu Orchestra. The lead break screams with killer slashes and overall it is one of the great cover versions of the Sabbath gem. It fast became one of my favourites from the album with chilling riffs and heavy wah wah lead guitars.

Gnomonaut are reinventing these covers with their own unique brand of spacey Psych Prog. The intro of 'Red' is filtered with machine gun fire and bombs exploding providing a compelling backdrop and a fresh approach to the meaning of the song. A great deal of the tracks are open to interpretation due to the lack of vocals, though there are some sound effects to provide some semblance of a story that has something to do with an astronaut making his way around the universe and encountering the wonders of cosmic exploration. The album cover provides some clues but this is really astral music to soak the senses into; an aural explosion of interstellar ecstasy.

The album opens with the sounds of an astronaut preparing for a space walk and we hear the sounds of breathing reminding me instantly of the soundtrack of "2001: A Space Odyssey". The computer network noise is reminiscent of the opening of Ayreon's "Universal Migrator". The hypnotic breathing and white noise hiss draws one into the music and a disconcerting drone hums along like some absurd Middle Eastern gathering, a hum sounding like the darker side of Therion. The ambient textures of Pink Floydian synths and atmospheric chimes add to the ethereal mood. A spacey guitar enhances the musical imagery. One can picture the astronaut making his way out of the hatch and gliding slowly towards the stars. This is the delightful 'Bekajamir' clocking 7:50, and this one entrances with its encapsulating beauty and solid wah wah guitar punches. It is an absolutely mesmirising track that grew on me after a few listens to fast become one of my favourite Space Prog instrumentals. One is reminded of Ozric Tentacles, The Ovals or Hawkwind and yet Gnomonaut have their own distinct sound and style.

Next is 'Celestial Dirt Nap', driven by polyrhythmic guitar cadence, similar to Fripp's style. The guitar work of Jeremy Adams and Patrick Marshall are astonishing, with complex rhythmic figures and enhanced by the fractured metrical percussion of Andy Snedden and pulsating bassline embellishments of Jeromy Dooyema.

'Shipwrecked' moves along with wind howling and odd synth sequencer motifs by Snedden that lock in as a backdrop for more scintillating lead guitar swells. The techno beat is pronounced and a dark ambience falls over the soundscape with sustained guitar effects. The repetition of synth is a bit hard to withstand on repeated listens but this works as effective background music for all occasions. The music is hypnotic and has a compelling resonance throughout. There are some bizarre vocal intonations that are more unsettling than appropriate, and they go on for too long with unnecessary rasps.

'ManBearPig' opens with a guttural growl and then launches into spacey reverberations and psychedelic guitars. The rhythm is measured and this features funkadelic guitar riffs and some odd time sigs to throw off the listener in classic prog style. Synths break through and dominate later over the relentless asymmetrical riffs. The percussion is equally irregular and keeps the listener off balance, then a lead break is unleashed that is multi layered with another guitar break. The wall of sound is generated to create a blazing sound, and there are 70s throwback retro guitars on this wondrous track.

'Beard Mudding' has an unusual title and the music is as weird, with an off kilter time sig that splashes all over the place speeding up at will, and yet with all the complexity this is a tight sound and well performed. The tempo becomes increasingly complex with extra beats thrown in and bewildering shifts in meter with guitars and extreme spaced out effects. This is one of the highlights of the album undoubtedly. Hawkwind's 'Silver Machine' springs to mind with King Crimson rhythms spliced in and a smattering of Pink Floyd lead breaks.

'Gnomonaut' opens with grinding raspy guitar rhythms and soaring lead guitar bricks cemented over the top. Dooyema's bassline is dynamic punctuated by Snedden's drum patterns. The time sig is syncopated with a grandiose guitar figure. The lead breaks are a powerhouse of guitar dexterity from Marshall and Adams, again showcasing the virtuoso skills of the band.

'The Chronocosm' is a lengthy 9:23 track, permeated by steady rhythms and heart pounding extended lead breaks. There is a soft cadence at times generating a relaxing atmosphere. The beauty of the guitars have a tranquilising effect, and yet at times the music builds to towering heights with complex metrical patterns. This is another of the highlights on the album and has King Crimson written all over it as polyrhythms and jamming guitars dominate. The ending reminds me of the dark weirdness of Gary Numan, with its industrial sounds and disconcerting backwards percussion. The 2 cover versions have been mentioned already but again I must say these tracks are simply amazing and icing on an already well presented cake; and should prove to be pleasing to any fan of the Crims or Sabbath.

Overall, "The Chronocosm" is an inspired album laced with psychedelia and spaced up rock to the max. It does not suffer with the absence of lyrics as the music is so dynamic and complex. It is as good if not better than Ozric Tentacles or other instrumentally based space rockers. Some of the tracks on this album are absolutely mesmirising such as the opening track, 'Beard Mudding', the title track and the 2 covers. Had the rest of the album been this powerful this album could have well been a masterpiece of prog. As it stands the album is certainly an achievement in instrumental prowess. Each member is at the top of their game and it would be of interest to hear more from this band in the future. I hope a forthcoming album would come as Gnomonaut have created an album of incredible intensity; brimming over with innovation and some of the best space prog on the planet.

AtomicCrimsonRush | 4/5 |


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