November 5, 2007

CD Review: Cosmosquad - Acid Test

Prior to being asked if I was interested in reviewing the latest Cosmosquad offering, I had never heard of them, or primary members Jeff Kollman and Shane Gaalaas. Of course I responded yes to the review invitation. I am always up for being exposed to something new (although my tastes tend to be confined to the world of rock and metal). When the disk arrived in my mailbox, I slipped it in completely unsure of what to expect. I was greeted by this fusion of rock and jazz in a rather progressive format. Not the usual stuff I listen too, but not so far out as not to be accessible. Acid Test is a strong album willed with instrumental excursions out of the ordinary, but not so far out as not to be groove-laden and completely enjoyable to listen to.

Acid Test is the fourth release from Cosmosquad, but the first since 2001. This album also finds the trio reduced to a duo as bassist Barry Sparks was unable to join them. All three of these guys are incredibly busy working musicians with a number of projects going simultaneously, or so I discovered. It was these projects that conspired to keep the three from getting the time to work together on Acid Test. To fill the gap left by Spark's absence a revolving door of bass players were brought into the studio to lend their expertise. The musicians were selected based on their prior work with the band in the live setting. You see, Cosmosquad may not have recorded in some time but they were far from dormant. They regularly played live gigs with a variety of bass players sitting in for Sparks. Talk about the perfect choices to assist in making a new album!

The album opens with what is likely the most accessible tune on the disk, "Numena." It is a fusion track that leans heavily towards the rockier side of life. The early goings are marked by a catchy riff repeated while drums groove away moving together in a way creating this building wave of mellow rock. The pace quickens later in the track, moving into a more metallic sound with double bass keeping time with the main riff. That build up leads directly into a soaring solo that climaxes in a speedy crescendo of flying fingers and squealing notes. Needless to say, after one track I found myself prepared to like whatever Cosmosquad planned on throwing in my direction.

The second track boasts a title inspired by a famous cinema spy, "The Spy Who Ate Her." The song has extended trippy segments interrupted by heavier rock interludes. One of those interludes shows off the lead and speed chops of Jeff Kollman. Not quite as strong as "Numena," but still in possession of a strong groove.

And so the album continues. Cosmosquad take us on a journey through rock/metal/jazz fusion that sounds refreshingly lively, random, completely planned, and is ultimately thoroughly satisfying. It is a new world that I have little experience with. Whether this is at the top of the pyramid or at the bottom I don't know, nor do I really care. It is the tip of the iceberg for a new unexplored area of music that I may not get to spend much time in, but will always be willing to explore.

Each song adds a little something different to the mix. It never becomes boring or repetitive, and it is never so random as to lose focus. They deliver a variety of flavors that add a little something more to the whole work.

Listen to the playful funkiness of "Bed Bucket." The song steps back from the heavier rock influences and shows off their considerable jobs, just listen to the drum solo that builds towards the end of the track before the reintroduction of the playful opening that opened the song.

That is followed by "Goathead," a song that opens with a strong percussive groove. The groove goes on for awhile before simmering down for a slow mid-section before turning it back up with some heavy guitars and squealing leads.

A few tracks later is one of the most beautiful songs I have heard in a long time. The instrumental ballad "The Long Walk" is simply gorgeous. The song evokes feelings of longing and sadness that has an undercurrent of hope. This is the kind of song that can bring back memories of long lost love, or feelings of the love currently in your heart. I know that sounds a little sappy, but there is something to this song and the incredible performance from Kollman that gets inside and resonates. It is impossible to ignore.

Bottomline. A little freshness never hurt anyone. In fact, it is freshness that helps keep everyone's love in music (or whatever) afloat. Cosmosquad delivers a great dose of freshness. These guys have great chops and know how to construct songs that rock as well as dig a little deeper. You will not be disappointed.

Highly Recommended.


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