BLK COQ Music/Believe Digital
Review by Rick Ossian
Treading a trail left, in recent years, by Karma to Burn, Red Bazaar and Semantic Saturation, Unbeing are quite possibly one of the best instrumental progressive metal outfits I’ve heard in months. From Quebec, this quintet is composed of guitarists Sherif Maghraby and Anthony Grieco, drummer extraordinaire Jean Phillipe Bedard, bassist du jour Alexandre D’Amour and keymaster Martin Labelle. The first thing we notice, of course, is the obvious absence of vocals. Not to worry, young punters! Where there is a distinct lack of vocal acrobatics here (which tend to accompany most prog metal bands nowadays), there is a decided surplus of proficient musicianship. As you will see/hear on several tracks in particular, it is not just a guitar camp, either. Bassist, percussionist and keyboardist all get their chance to solo and accompany and blend and mix and other such musical savoir fare. Other than the acts mentioned above, only America’s Dixie Dregs come to mind, and perhaps the jazz-rock fusion legends Mahavishnu Orchestra when searching for comparisons. So while it will be seen that they are not peerless, they are indeed worthy of inclusion in the dream team rock player sweepstakes.
Octo8 is an instrumental prog workout with chops to spare, including some healthy piano in the mix. Then again, that could be said about pretty much any of the tracks here. Every tune is, in its own way, a miniature prog metal masterpiece. The classical breakdown about 6 minutes in, for example, is not something any ordinary Dream Theater or Fates Warning fan might expect. It is something that you will learn to expect from these fellows, however. Enjoy and continue listening, please!
Next we have the only plausible deniability on board. Fifteen Years In Space is a quasi-Hawkwind sort of blast of ambient noize, if you will. The thought of hearing something like this in a mall elevator years from now is positively disturbing, but absolutely possible. It is short, blessedly short, thank goodness, but it does conjure up certain images in one’s mind. I, myself was reminded of the space sci-fi epic, 2001. Structube starts out to be apparently more of the same, but the jarring reminder that we are listening to prog metal is brought upon us almost immediately. There is some really neat piano chopping/riffing in this number also. Both of the brief ones herein reminded this listener of the Alan Parsons Project, particularly the first of the pair.
Mercury is — you guessed it — another bad-ass instrumental prog metal workout. It features drums, piano, guitar(s) and bass in an all-out attempt to outdo each other. Chops become a whole new musical matter in this piece – we know to what we refer, but the point I’m trying to make is that they are chops in more ways than one. Not only are they chops/licks/riffs, they also sound choppy. Classical and jazz fans may well become fans of Unbeing if they only were to listen. The drummer is particularly busy on this number, as is the pianist. There is a tasty lead solo about 3 1/4 minutes in as well. At 4:30, everybody goes back to double-timing it. The piano work can only be described as aggressive, as is the rest of the musicianship. Some really fine work going on here.
Chuck Norris (sic) is probably the finest tune to this point. The intro (“Hi. My name is Chuck Norris.”) is almost disarmingly normal, then slam, we are nailed to the wall by a bank of riffing par excellence, even when compared to the rest of the stuff on display. I think it is quite possibly another masterpiece. There is an interesting video of this one on YouTube also. Interlude is just that, and another instrumental (surprise!). Don’t get me wrong, it’s definitely worthy of inclusion here, but it is obvious at this point that the boys call them as they see them!
Versus 10 Behemoths conjures a vision of battlefield splendor and glory, seemingly at odds with its beauty of a guitar intro. Its hard to single out one of the musicians here, as they all do their fair share of damage. They are unerringly in sync with each other, and all have immaculate skill. There is no question there. The question remains, then, are they noodling for the sake of noodling, or does all this utterly impressive musicianly skill have a place? Does it fit? Indeed it does, and all one need do to be convinced is treat your ears to a few listens of this unlikely Canadian success. At about 5 minutes in, everybody clicks into double-time again. I was trying to keep up with my air drums, but I was, alas, not even remotely able to keep up!
Zomb is another prog-length epic, featuring a mellow guitar intro and some drums. This track, being the final one, leads into what I believe may be a ‘hidden track’ of sorts at the end. The reason I say this is because there is a definite pause, then nothingness, at about 2 1/2 minutes in, then something, not sure what — perhaps an ambient violin. It is distant, but it is effective nonetheless. The whole recording practically invites us to sit in for a crash course in Prog Metal 101. Superb, I say – and full marks! I’d give it higher than that but I can’t.