Ok, so this one might be a bit of a hard sell, but bear with me, this is such a unique record, I need to fully explain just what the hell it is that Thank You Scientist do musically. Basically, without getting too wordy about this, this band play really theatrical progressive post-hardcore jazz fusion metal, and even that label doesn’t fully encompass the range of sound this band play around in across this albums seventy minutes. The band consists of seven members, each of whom play a variety of instruments, from the usual guitars, drums, bass, and horn section, to more exotic stuff like violins, marimbas, sitars, and even a bit of theremin. As you can probably guess, this album is totally bananas. But it’s SO good. I haven’t been this excited about a prog-rock band since I first discovered The Mars Volta.
There’s so much life bristling throughout this record and it’s so energetic in its enthusiasm for musical exploration. I sort of get the same sense of adventure out of this that I do with Dream Theater’s classic material (especially Scenes From A Memory), but this is much more eclectic than even that. And these guys can REALLY PLAY. Just for example, there’s a track here called “Rube Goldberg Variations”, a track that starts off with a vaguely Arabic sounding jazz fusion piece, before going off in about seven other directions in it’s nine minute runtime, including a pacey post-punk backbeat over a frenzied sax solo, a latin samba complete with violin and bass solo trade off, a seventies jungle boogie funk jam, and a modern metalcore breakdown, before ending with a rocking jam with choral backing. It’s pretty mind-blowing how well Thank You Scientist are able to get this gargantuan piece to stay cohesive, but all the parts fit together like puzzle pieces.
That track particular track is the album’s lone instrumental piece, but don’t discredit singer Salvator Marrano for the rest of the album. On first listen he may seem like your typical high-pitched post-hardcore singer, but actually think about the amount of versatility he actually has. This guy’s a powerhouse. He’s able to hold his own in every single whacky stylistic tangent the band takes, from powerful rock belting to smooth, Michael Jackson-esque R&B singing on the funky opus “Mr. Invisible”. This is definitely a standout track here. In addition to its tightly wound horn lines and brutally tight rhythm section, this song also boasts the record’s biggest chorus and a really fun instrumental section to boot.
And that’s a key word, this album is really fun. A lot of prog bands take themselves quite a bit too seriously, not having enough self awareness when it comes to the inherently ridiculous music they play. These guys sound like they’re having a blast through the entire recording. Nowhere is this more important than album opener “Prologue… A Faint Applause”, I kid you not, before any of the uber-technical fusion bits, before any heavy metal riffs, you’re slapped with a slice of early twentieth century swing music. It sounds like friggin’ Cabaret or something. And the crazy part is that it works! It sets up the tone of the album perfectly; a sort of theatrical, maybe slightly tongue-in-cheek romp through a bunch of music styles. I know this type of mathy rock isn’t really going to appeal to everybody, but this has me hooked more than really any other of these types of modern bands, and I’m already a fan of this type of music, so take that for what it’s worth. Stranger Heads Prevail might take you a couple of listens to really take it all in because it is packed to the brim with so many conflicting musical ideas bouncing off of each other, but give it some time and it’ll take on a journey, that’s for sure.
-Rube Goldberg Variations
-Prologue… A Faint Applause
Released on July 29th, 2016 by Evil Ink Records.