Remember the first time you heard the debut album from the Chicago Transit Authority? Or King Crimson's Red? How about Hot Rats or The Grand Wazoo from Frank Zappa? Well, strap yourself in and get ready for a ride that will probably move you just like the first time you heard those gems. Afroskull is a New York City based funk/rock/jazz combo (originally from New Orleans), and To Obscurity and Beyond is the follow-up to their debut Monster for the Masses, which was originally released in 2000. These guys, a lean, mean rock machine with a funked up horn section, can really deliver the goods, and from start to finish this CD is a wild ride that will leave you breathless.
Most of the songs here are instrumental, save for two vocal pieces, "Everything" and "Waste Management", the latter which by the way is a kickin' funk-rock-jazz number that could easily be the forgotten offspring of Chicago, Blood Sweat and Tears, and Funkadelic. Otherwise, tracks such as "Spyplane", "Me & My TV", "Dance of the Wild Koba", and "The Curse" sound like Chicago from the late 60's/early 70's if Lamm & Cetera kept their mouths shut and let the horn section soar and Terry Kath wail on the guitar. By the way, the cat here who 'wails' on the guitar is none other than Joe Scatassa, and he is joined by drummer Jason Isaac, keyboard player/singer Matt Iselin, bassist Dan Asher, percussion player Seth Moutal, and the horn section of Ronnie Cuber (from Mingus Big Band & Frank Zappa) on sax & clarinet, Jeff Pierce on trumpet, Justin Flynn on tenor sax, Rafi Malkiel on trombone, Mark Teofilo on orchestral percussion, plus a few guest vocalists.
The combination of crunchy guitar riffs, tight rhythms, and funky horns are a pleasure to listen to, especially on the energetic "Zero Hour", which also has some neat clavinet work from Isellin that screams late 70's Jan Hammer or George Duke. Closing number "Escape From Rome" is a raucous collection of free-jazz, avant-garde, and blues rock, Scatassa delivering a scorching guitar solo amidst plenty of frantic rhythms and a beefy horn arrangement. It's a wild end to an equally wild & groovy CD.
Too bad it seems to take Afroskull so long between releases, as I could easily listen to this kind of stuff on a regular basis. If you like any of the bands mentioned above, and are intrigued by what you've read here, then I urge you to go out and get a hold of this CD at all costs. You won't be disappointed!
- ... the launch 0:19
- Spyplane 6:19
- Waste Management 6:19
- Me & My TV 5:54
- Dance of the Wild Koba 7:26
- The Curse 7:38
- ... could this be the end? 0:40
- Redemption 5:56
- Everything 5:55
- Zero Hour 6:22
- Escape From Rome 8:05