The fantastic sophomore effort from this texas based progressive metal act proves that the sophomore slump doesn’t apply to everyone. According to the press release, they’re a bit Cream, Deep Purple and Uriah Heep with some Candlemass thrown in for good measure. They were essentially formed from a temporary hiatus for the band Sanctus Bellum back in 2014, but have proven themselves to be a remarkable act in their own right. As it was very difficult to tell from the Bandcamp as to who plays each instrument (and I also couldn’t discern that information from the press kit either) I will simply use generic terms as not to get anyone’s position wrong. In any case, the first thing I’m reminded of vocally would have to be a mixture between early and late nineties Faith No More. The frontman here reminds me a bit of Mike Patton, as well as some of the riffs. In particular, the title cut and “Illusions Of Reality” sound just like classic Faith No More, albeit with nearly limitless amounts of guitar shredding. The latter also carries a bit of funk with it, which is always fun. I’m also reminded a little of Living Color (who recorded more than just “Cult Of Personality” by the way) which is not something I’d expect from a sixties/seventies progressive rock act. As the disc rolls on however, we have the more traditional style of “Firedrake” which comes packed with hefty synths, jazzy rhythms and just the kind of trippy vibe that works perfect on a record of this type. Guest vocalist Kelly Cousins Adams also performs on the track, and she has a such a control of pitch and tone that she actually sounds better than the band’s frontman! Coupled with such mesmerizing synth and guitar structures, not to mention the incredible solos – this one is a real standout. But if that wasn’t good enough, than the opening leads (which seem to have a flamenco vibe) of “Casmir” only help to further pepper the listen. It also features a couple of middle-eastern inspired pieces as well as something that reminds me of 8-bit NES chiptune in the solo section. These guys seem to derive inspiration from everywhere and that’s going to make them standout in the future. When I say these are great leads folks, I really mean that. It feels a little bit like Santana, which for those of you familiar with his albums and not his pop singles; will be a breath of fresh air. I’m not saying that this man can play as well as the Latin American legend, but that he’s very close to that level of proficiency.
In just these few tracks alone, Blues Funeral prove that they have the potential to be one of the hottest progressive rock acts around. Their attention to detail and ability to experiment with many different styles of playing is what will make them a real trip for guitar aficionados everywhere, or at least people who just like good music. There’s real substance here, which you don’t hear often; coupled with the fact that the album’s level of production quality shines much better than a slew of similar acts I’ve heard on various labels. I didn’t know what to expect at all from these guys, but was pleasantly surprised and nearly blown away in some sections. Definitely give “Awakening” a listen, you’ll be glad that you did.
(6 Tracks, 39:00)