Maryland-based Cerebus Effect's new release Acts of Deception has been a challenging album to write
up because it's been a very challenging listen. There's no pop, AOR or Neo here
- this is industrial-strength, hard-core jazzy art-rock.
This may be an odd way to describe music, but let your imagination run for a moment: Once upon a time Mamga invited King Crimson to play a gig
in their back yard. Crimson agreed - but only if they could select a few guest artists to join them on stage.
Everyone agreed, and the gig included an early King Crimson lineup, Dream Theater stood at stage-left, Djam Karet was on stage right, and National Health came on stage after about every 4-or-so songs. And in the audience, Sleepytime Gorilla Museum showed their approval by nodding in time to the music - with their heads bobbing
to some of the oddest meters they'd heard. Can you imagine the sound you'd hear from that gig? No? Well describing Cerebus Effect's sound on these pages is like trying describing color to the blind, but you'll
probably get the idea. This is hard-fusion meets jamming jazz meets RIO meets progressive art rock. It's all played on classic-sounding instruments that you'll rarely hear played this way - they must be literally smoking after each performance.
Unlike their two previous pure fusion
purely instrumental EPs, Acts of Deception is harder-edged, more technical and orchestrated, it is longer than both
EPs put together, and this one has vocals. There are tightly composed passages, there are jazzy jam sessions, it is enormously complex, and there's a lot of controlled chaos; and it's performed by musicians who pull it all off with the panache of a quartet of angry geniuses.
Acts of Deception is primarily instrumental, with keyboardist Dan Britton contributing vocals to just two tracks. Note that I didn't say 'singing'. "Identity Crisis" has Britton doing a sort of hard-rock takeoff of a Gilbert and Sullivan style - it's a fast-paced chattering in a gruff voice, breaking into a strong melodic higher pitch from time to time.
The standout track is the 11+minute "Operation Midnight Climax" - a progressive epic that runs through shifts and changes so quickly and smoothly you'll have difficulty keeping up. It is a heavy piece that features an acoustic guitar solo, tons of '70s-styled electric piano, and those unusual vocals again with some lyrics in a foreign language that sounds east European. A masterful piano section at the end plays against a strong but simple riff and yields the floor to the mournful wails of a Mellotron. Very impressive.
Thankfully, there are 2 laid back, more elegant tracks to give you time to catch your breath, and there were a few tracks that
seemed to be aimless jam sessions whose purpose was to showcase the band's collective musicianship.
In 11 tracks these guys pack more into 53 minutes than many prog outfits do in a lifetime. You'll probably have to spin this one again and again to 'get it'. But you'll probably want to spin it again and again.
1. Y (7:19)
2. Identity Crisis (5:09)
3. Dark at the End of the Tunnel (1:25)
4. Illusions (3:34)
5. Of Mortal Constraints (3:02)
6. Operation Midnight Climax (11:22)
7. Nine Against Ten (6:38)
8. Neutrino Flux (2:50)
9. Fine Lines Between Science & Art (2:58)