3RDegree: Ones & Zeros Volume 1
10t Records; Release Date August 18th 2015
Produced by: Dobbs, Kliesch & Pashman
Patrick Kliesch/ Electric Guitar, acoustic 6-string, synth programming, backing vocals
George Dobbs/ Lead vocals, keyboards, percussion, backing vocals
Robert James Pashman/ Bass, additional keyboards, backing vocals
Aaron Nobel/ Drums, percussion
Eric Pseja/ Electric Guitar, acoustic 12-string, backing vocals
Bryan Zeigler/ Electric Guitar, backing vocals
It’s hard for a band to follow a good to near great album (The Long Division, 2012) with an even more superior outing, but 3RDegree has done just that. Ones & Zeros is simply a great piece of progressive music. It is to The Long Division as Close to the Edge was to Fragile and Moving Pictures was to Permanent Waves.
Ones & Zeros is 3RDegree’s 5th and latest studio album. The ten track album is a concept piece that submerges the listener into both the current high-tech, omni-present surveillance state (the panopticon social media saturated society) as well as a dehumanized and dystopic near future where the eternal questions of life, death, and meaning intersect with hubris, power, and control.
I refrain from a detailed track by track analysis as each song builds on its predecessor in weaving a themed arc. In a general way the music inhabits a near-future world where the protagonist (and the listener) is confronted by the ubiquitous Valhalla Biotech Corporation and its death-defying, age-enhancing science of perpetual longevity—at, and for, a price…the price of freedom, dignity, and humanity.
From the 17 second electronic “sci-fi” voice introduction to the final track’s synthetic “fade out” the big smile on my face and the bobbing of my head hardly dissipated. This is an inspiring, ambitious, intelligent and tight work of musical story-telling. The lyrics are deep and clever, worthy of a Roger Waters, if Waters was encouraging and hopeful in assisting and guiding broken and subjugated victims of technology’s amoral metastasis. While somewhat reminiscent of the best of IQ’s social commentary, the libretto of this disc hearkens to Orwell and Heinlein in these current days of Edward Snowden, but trapped in the amber of corporate and soulless medical archiving of bodies and lives. You just know the music is deep when as you’re listening to it you reminisce about the discovery of reading the best of Philip K. Dick or even Vonnegut.
The music in some ways is a perfect throw-back to the classic ‘70s era. When George Dobbs starts to sing “These are extraordinary times…” on track 2, one is almost reminded of Jon Anderson on some long lost YES classic. But 3RDegree is no Starcastle/YES clone. And while at times they make me think of Ambrosia meets Glass Hammer (i.e. stunning studio musicianship filtered through an uplifted human decency) they have their own sound—and it’s a poetic and tight swirl of cautious optimism. Though I may have been a bit underwhelmed by George Dobbs on The Long Division, here he ‘notches’ it up and shows what a remarkable set of pipes he has—clear, strong, and suitably emotive; I’m impressed!
I wish I had had a printed sheet of lyrics while listening (though, this will joyfully cause me to re-listen multiple times) as the many clever lines bear fruit upon reflection, to-wit: “every gadget’s an extension of my motives and my ego. And now that I’m totally integrated I’d be foolish not to upgrade” and “try keeping a secret in the age of a diode” and again “we’ve come so far, from Saturn devouring his own son.”
If modern and contemporary radio were sane, Track 3, This Is the Future would be a popular “single” with its catchy and infectious drive. Track 4 with its almost lullaby like opening is a delicate love song to life with a desperation of sorrow beautifully realized by Dobbs. The drumming of Aaron Noble is muscularly aggressive and he really shines on Track 5, The Best & Brightest, as well as Track 6, Circuit Court. The 8:49 epic Track 7, Life At Any Cost may be the most brilliant composition with a stunning instrumental break around the 3 minute mark where drums, killer guitar riffing, and then keys, coalesce into melodic prog greatness! Robert Pashman also turns in some really fine lumbering Bass work—a brontosaurus ninja with precisely crushing weight!
Mirroring a line in the second song, this entire album is a very PRESENT “singularity” of what the band itself calls its music: “song-centric” progressive rock. Indeed.
This is not just another futuristic, sci-fi derivative, or empty piece of generic “concept” bandwagoning. 3RDegree has constructed a compelling symphony of energetic songs with truly meaningful lyrics that take the listener on a journey. And no, it isn’t Valhalla Biotech that we thank for delivering its predatory singular relationships with ersatz and faux fragmentation, stasis quarantine, and finally deletion from the human family of love and joy, but rather the six artists from Bergen County, New Jersey who have given us hope for, if not a “better” future, than at least one with a glimmer of a transcendent day.
A++, 10 of 10, “must-buy” rating.
I’m hoping fellow Progarchy “archivists” also weigh in on this disc with additional reviews. I really love this album. It’s being added to my “best of” for 2015…with a “bullet” and I expect it will be on many other best of year lists as well. Special mention should be made of the colorful and impressionistic artwork that adorns this disc. A swirling of yellow and reds (that’s probably NOT Elvis) that evokes the legendary Moodies. The 10t web-site indicates this “Vol 1” of One & Zeros will be followed by a Vol. 2 next year. 2016 can’t get here soon enough!
I really love this album.
3RDegree Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/#!/3RDegree?fref=ts
3RDegree 10t web site: http://www.3rdegreeonline.com/3RDegree/Home.html (some great photos and bio’s of the guys)
3RDegree Bandcamp: http://3rdegree.bandcamp.com