Hess & Franzen [ClosedLockedSealed] – CD Baby download & Ltd CD

At the risk of sounding anal, an instrumental prog-ish (small ‘p’) album with interesting time signatures is pretty much on safe ground here. So, wearing an objective hat I also have to concur that this is a revelation.

An unlikely collaboration between Bristol (Hess) and Brazil (Franzen) opens with the blistering Quick Space Threat, which delivers on its promise – sharp metallic almost threatening in an unnerving way. Gobi Desert Search For SS Cotopaxi has a stronger metal overtone but the Mars Volta weight is punctuated by an earthy organ reminiscent (in sound) of the Doors or Greenslade.

Don’t expect psychedelia. Think Larry Fast circa sequencer combined with heavy King Crimson, a dose of Riverside plus some Darryl Way style riffing. Mantis slows down the pace to give a much needed breather (the only track to feature albeit heavily treated vocals). I’m reminded of Annette Peacock on Bruford’s Feels Good To Me. China Inox delves into Brand X, Collosseum II territory and the complexity of the piece benefits repeated listening before the ‘theme’ of the album is returned to during Doomsday Device – distorted staccato riffing competing with right hand keyboard runs.

The stunningly chaotic When I Get Out Of This Place is but an appetite whetter for the glorious climax of Magic Cat, a track which builds on the themes created by its predecessors. The keyboard run at the end of this piece reminiscent of Apocalypse in 9/8. This album is going to please Prog Metal afficianados first and foremost, but there’s plenty for lovers of prog in general, the avant garde and indeed jazz rock to sink your teeth into. A stunning debut which is highly recommended. Only 300 of the CD’s have been pressed in a stunning anti-static LP sized package, so get your hands on what is sure to become a collectors item. Rating: 4/5 http://www.hessandfranzen.com

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