One of the strangest band names in the progressive rock scene undoubtedly belongs to the New York based band IZZ. The band's name is derived from the nickname of baseball relief pitcher Jason Isringhausen, who once played in the New York Mets, a team favoured by bassist John Galgano. For me IZZ is one of the best contemporary American progressive rock bands. Their music is a mixture of the music of Yes, Genesis, Gentle Giant, The Beatles and modern bands like Radiohead. Since their wonderful debut Sliver Of A Sun (1998), they have recorded an impressive number of strong albums: I Move (2002), Ampersand, vol. 1 (2004), My River Flows (2005) and The Darkened Room (2009). With Crush Of Night another imposing album can be added to that list.
Crush Of Night is served as part 2 of a three-part series of thematic albums that began with The Darkened Room. Once again this album features Gary Green of Gentle Giant fame. This time he added electric guitar solos and backing vocals to Words And Miracles and a guitar solo to The Crush Of Night. Another guest on the album is Greg Meade who played a guitar solo on Almost Over. While listening to the album it soon became clear that Paul Bremner (electric and acoustic guitar), Anmarie Byrnes (vocals), Brian Coralian (electronic and acoustic drums, percussion), Greg DiMiceli (drums, percussion), John Galgano (bass guitar, acoustic and electric guitar, vocals) and his brother Tom Galgano (keyboards, vocals) have created a superb album. One of the musical highlights of 2012 if you ask me! The compositions, the production and the musicianship; everything is just top-notch!
The album is a strong musical journey that you have to make if you're devoted to progressive rock. Especially their characteristic sense for melody comes into the prominence, but they also blend emotional singing with outstanding musical performances.
With the opening piece You've Got A Time you know that you're in for a real treat right from the start. This song contains fine vocal melody lines, but you can also enjoy excellent instrumental parts. The up-tempo guitar-driven second piece Words And Miracles is of the same high calibre. In the distinctive guitar sound of Gary Green and the strange rhythm structures you'll recognize the style of music that Gentle Giant created on their albums. The next track Solid Ground is another excellent up-tempo piece with fine electric guitar playing on which the electric drums can shine and have a major role. Vocal wise The Beatles can be regarded as a good reference. Next track Half The Way is the first ballad on the album. It's mainly performed on the acoustic piano. The track builds up to an incredible climax with an outstanding solo on the synthesizer and electric guitar.
The 26-minute suite Crush Of Night is divided into two parts: This Reality and The Crush Of Night. This long epic can be seen as the centre piece of the album including the best vocal and instrumental parts the band has to offer. Strong male and female vocals alternate and the marvellous musicianship build up to an excellent piece of music that can be enjoyed throughout this piece. The Gentle Giant influences are present as well in the second part of the suite. The lyrics deal with the struggle that all people have while searching for a meaning in life. The Crush Of Night contains a musical panorama, weaving melodic and rhythmic themes with innovative and fresh diversity. The album ends with Almost Over. Once again the typical IZZ sound is all over the place. A fine up-tempo piece can be enjoyed with strong vocal and synthesizer parts. A solid guitar solo ends the song and the album.
The band started recording some of the tracks for this album while they still worked on The Darkened Room. This means that there's a kind of similarity and continuity between the two albums. At the same time they developed the pieces for Crush Of Night, which got their own identity after a while. Knowing this I found it rather strange that I couldn't discover any filler on Crush Of Night. This happens mostly if bands are working on more albums at the same time. However, on this album all compositions are of the highest possible quality level, just as the tracks on the previous album. The Darkened Room didn't get the high rating it deserved. Therefore this album gets the highest rating of five stars. Highly recommended!
***** Henri Strik (edited by Peter Willemsen)
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