3RDegree: The Proggiest Temperature for the Summer of 2015

3RDegree: Ones & Zeros Volume 1

10t Records; Release Date August 18th 2015

Produced by: Dobbs, Kliesch & Pashman


3RDegree is:

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

Challenging Greed and Media Whoredom: 3rdegree’s “The Long Division”

“The Long Division” By 3rdegree (2012)

Sometime right after Christmas, I had the great joy of receiving a package addressed to Progarchy from New Jersey.  A nice note accompanied the very intriguingly-packaged CD, “The Long Division” by 3rdegree.  long division cover

Lots of great CDs have come in for review, but I’m always surprised when they’re not accompanied by some explanation.  Or, it would be better to write: I love getting notes from the artists themselves.  Even the short “Hey, let us know what you think” offers a personal connection.  Maybe it’s just my Kansas upbringing regarding such things as “thank you notes.”  But, I digress.

Suffice it to write, the note from Robert of 3rdegree said: love what you’re doing; please check us out when you have a moment.


And, for the last month, I’ve been thoroughly enjoying my time with 3rdegree’s 2012 release, “The Long Division.”  Imagine Steely Dan, Echolyn, and Tears for Fears in the studio together.  Maybe throw in just a touch of the more complex aspects of some 70s harder rock.  Prog it all up and throw some New Jersey attitude in.  Finally, mix in some really bitter populist–true and righteous (in the best sense)–lyrics, and you start to approach the wonder that is 3rdegree.

And, I should mention, this is really, really American.  How can I state this?  I’m frankly not entirely sure.  But, the whole cd certainly feels very American.

As with much of prog, there’s a real perfectionism here, too.  The keyboards (especially the piano), the bass, the drums, and the guitars sound very sharp.  The mix is simply excellent, and the group feels tight.  My guess is they like each other very much.  I don’t think it would be possible to play like this without a real sense of perfectionism and sympathy with and respect for one another.

My favorite part, though, are the vocals.  The closest comparison I could make–in terms of vocals–is to the best of Spock’s Beard, Gentile Giant, and early Echolyn.  I can’t imagine the vocal arrangements here ever getting boring or rote in any way.  Outstanding.  Truly outstanding.

This leads me, naturally, to the lyrics.  When Carl, Chris, and I started Progarchy, we decided to make music the focus and avoid–wherever possible–the subject of religion and politics.  The three of us already do that fervently elsewhere on the web.  Progarchy is meant to be a music site, open to all.

That said, I don’t think it would be possible to review this cd without at least a mention of the politics presented here.  Never dumbed down (thank you, 3rdegree), the lyrics reflect a real anger at the state of American political culture.  Whether that anger stems from a Left or a Right–a liberal/Democratic or conservative/Republican–position, I just can’t tell, despite my numerous readings of the lyrics.  My guess is that these guys are simply too smart to be either left or right.  Clearly, they’re not fans of corporate welfare.  But, they don’t seem thrilled with eco-freaks either.  Here’s their own statement on their website:

“You’re Fooling Yourselves!”, wails 3RDegree lead singer/keyboardist George Dobbs on the band’s lead-off single from the new CD THE LONG DIVISION-their first since 2008.  This song-as well as a few others on the first half of the album-flesh out the band’s 2012 political treatise: that America’s political parties (and probably those in other countries) have long divided it’s populous on the basis of color, salary, sex, age and much else, have played on their fears, and have used their accumulated powers to build up largesse to keep their supporters in the fold.  Ok, it’s not always that heavy, but the album was penned in the shadow of the 2008 economic collapse that was happening right as 3RDegree were releasing their first album in 12 years:  NARROW-CASTER.  While that third album was a combination of fresh songs and resurrected ideas from the period just before the band’s original breakup in 1997, THE LONG DIVISION is in the shared vintage of Tea Parties, Occupy Movements, shovel-ready jobs and banks and car companies “too big to fail”.

Well, from whatever position, I like it.

I can’t give enough praise to this CD.  It’s the kind of cd that makes you increasingly enthusiastic with each new track.  One track is utterly brilliant, and just when you think there’s no way the band can top track one, track two starts, and you’re blown away.  Then, track three, four, five. . . .  It just keeps being increasingly mind boggling.

Whatever the state of civil liberties, the economy, or government in the U.S., 3rdegree dramatically affirms my belief that American prog is alive and well.

To learn more about 3rdegree, check out their outstanding website (the perfect model of a website for any band–a fan’s dream; lots and lots of information):  http://3rdegreeonline.com/3RDegree/Home.html.  I also want to note that one of our favorite American proggers, Mark Ptak of The Advent, plays on “The Long Division” as well.  Additionally, the band supports good beer.