A few years back, 3rDegree’s Ones and Zeros, Vol. 1 took the prog world by storm, being one of the highest rated and reviewed albums of that year. For good reason too. Combining excellent music with contemporaneous subject matter of very high relevance, it did – extremely well – what prog does better than any other genre. Namely, it provided music and lyrics that, in addition to being entertaining, made the engaged listener think. But Vol. 1 was not the whole story – there was another one to come. And here, in 2018, Ones and Zeros, Vol. 0 has now arrived. And we can happily say that 3rDegree has done it again, providing another album that builds upon and maintains the excellence of its predecessor.
Both this album and its predecessor combine excellent prog rock music with timely subject matter. Musically, the album both pays homage to the classic prog movement while still providing a modern, unique sound. Topically, the lyrics explore our modern, digital, technological world, with a particular focus on its dark underbelly. For these reasons, Vol. 0 – along with its predecessor – pull off perfectly what exemplifies one of the best aspects of the current prog scene, namely complex, engaging music combined with a biting but (very) necessary cultural critique.
The songs on this album flow together nicely, with the instrumental track Re1nstall_Overture providing a charging-out-of-the-gate musical opening. Connecting follows, with some biting lyrics regarding social media, trolling, and addiction to the same. Olympia follows with some great melodies and lyrics about android love … cue Rachel from Blade Runner.
Most of the next song, The Future Doesn’t Need You, as an easy, breezy feel, while lyrically hammering home the theme of technology addiction and its effects on the wider culture. I’m wondering if they drew inspiration from this essay, which is similarly titled. Unintended Consequence musically has an early-to-mid 80’s feel, while lyrically mocking the hubris of those who believe tech is all that is needed to make the world a better place.
Perfect Babies is chock full of excellent lyrics that explore the understandable desire of every parent to give their kids as many advantages in life as possible, juxtaposed with a subtle warning against the temptation of taking biotech shortcuts. Logical Conclusion meanwhile explores one of the drivers of human need for technological master – the uncontrolled whims of nature – extending into the conceit that we might be able to pull it off (hint: we can’t).
The epic Click Away! comes up next, and it’s a doozy, divided into multiple movements. There are so many different musical moods and styles throughout it would be more efficient to simply listen to the track than to try and list them here. This one is best listened to at your computer, as the lyrics are found on the Valhalla Biotech website. It’s great to sit back, read the lyrics off the website while listening to a clever critique of social media and its attendant addictions.
The title track, , closes the album, with the question “are you a one or are you a zero.”
Making a concept album hold together is tough enough. Doing it over multiple albums is even harder. In the wake of the standard set by Ones and Zeros, Vol. 1, the pressure to deliver a worthy follow-up could have weighed heavily on 3rDegree. And yet, as evidenced by Vol. 0, the band seemed impervious, delivering exactly the sequel that a fan of its predecessor would have hoped for. In what is shaping up to be a very good year in the prog scene, 3rDegee has delivered one of the best albums of the year, combining interesting music and topical lyrics. Well done, guys.