Sonic Astronomyis a collection of songs from prog rock act Plastic Overlords, a band that formed in 2000 and released a debut album but broke up before the follow-up could be completed. As history tells it, the recordings the band were working on for their sophomore release were thought lost or destroyed, but in 2010, the Plastic Overlords reformed, found the original masters, enlisted engineer Rodney Mills to help them complete the recording and remaster all the material from both sessions, and now here in 2012 we finally have the finished Sonic Astronomy, which contains all the completed early recordings of Plastic Overlords.
The band today is comprised of guitarist John Eades, David Noel on vocals, bass, and keyboards, and Brad Johnson on drums. Original guitarist Eric Hands has decided not to take part in the reunion, but some of his guitar parts do remain on the album apparently. Plastic Overlords dive into the heavier end of the prog spectrum, but also feature plenty of psychedelic and space rock elements, kind of like a meeting of early Rush with Hawkwind, but you can also hear some Pink Floyd, Genesis, and King Crimson influences as well. There are some bombastic, heavy guitar riffs and scorching solos on the album, that remind a lot of Alex Lifeson's early work on those first few Rush albums, and a tune like "A Moment of Silence for Unsynchronized Watches" contains some arrangements that could have been leftovers from 2112, but the vocals and synth textures are straight out of the prog & space rock camp. Heavy riffs, mellotron, and loads of atmosphere permeate both "Star Avenger vs. the Winged Hippopatomus" and "You Crumble to Bits". Noel's bass lines throughout the album are wonderful, thick and muscular, and alongside Eades the two bring back memories of Lee and Lifeson on all those great early Rush albums.
"The Sunburst Going Sour?" is like a long lost track from the Caress of Steel sessions, with Noel's haunting vocals and spooky keyboards drifting in and out of the mix that includes massive bass and guitar riffs. Dark prog can be heard on the keyboard drenched "Twelve Steps to Seventh Heaven", which also has a scorching wah-wah solo from Eades, and haunting keyboards and yearning lead guitar lead the listener into the ominous "Silver Sparks from the Holy Mountain", a real dramatic prog piece that has many twists and turns. Rumbling King Crimson inspired arrangements and pomp styled vocals make up the guitar heavy "Your Chariot Awaits", and the 17-minute prog epic "Tea and Cake with Another Mad Hatter" closes out the show in fine fashion, complete with vintage '70s sounding keyboards, plenty of scorching guitar riffs & solos, rumbling bass lines, and acrobatic drum fills. If someone told you that this track was recorded in 1975 you would certainly believe it.
Apparently the band has been working on a new album that they hope to release later this year. If it's anything like what is on display here on Sonic Astronomy, the prog world will certainly be in for quite a surprise. Highly recommended!
1.Star Avenger vs. the Winged Hippopatomus
2.You Crumble to Bits
3.A Moment of Silence for Unsynchronized Watches
4.The Sunburst Going Sour?
5.Twelve Steps to Seventh Heaven
6.Silver Sparks from the Holy Mountain
7.Your Chariot Awaits
8.Tea and Cake with Another Mad Hatter