Unlike many symphonic progressive-rock bands, Baltimore's Chaos Code isn't afraid to venture outside of that realm. Indeed, the trio's third album, Propaganda, is reportedly heavier than its previous two releases (or so I'm told, as I have not had the privilege of hearing A Tapestry of Afterthoughts and The Tragedy of Leaps and Bounds), delivering a bountiful sonic bushel of jazz, jam-band, experimental and Southern rock. Much of this record is instrumental, and it's characterized by organic, often ominous, degrees of light and shade.
Some of the vocals sound slightly strained on opening track "The Chameleon" but warm up by the time Chaos Code gets to the 13-minute epic "The Last Assignment," with verses that could pass for a long-lost Steely Dan tune. The second half of Propaganda is packed with the six-song "Failure System One" suite, which introduces elements of space rock and more fully incorporates the band's melodies that are shared between guitar, flute, saxophone and synths. Some of the album's best guitar and sax work happens on "Fortune Cookie Leaflet," and "Saturated" finds the band engaging in a bit of classic-Kansas musicality. The soaring "Emergence" makes wise use of the group's harmony vocals, ending the album on a promising note.
Propaganda leaves listeners with the feeling that they've just heard a pure progressive rock album — not in the sense that this is "only" prog, but rather because this is real music that reaches beyond conventional boundaries, with arrangements and melodies that only get more potent with repeat listenings.
1) The Chameleon
2) Calling to Shadows
3) A New Domination
4) The Last Assignment
Failure System One
5) Revising History
7) Bacon For Swine
8) Fortune Cookie Leaflet
9) In the Revealing Light of Betrayal