A few months ago, I discovered the music of Greg Rapaport, a multi-instrumentalist do-it-yourselfer from Westchester County, N.Y., who recorded one of the best instrumental rock albums I've ever heard in 2001's Wyrd. That disc combines metal, funk and fusion into a supremely appealing amalgam. Now comes Azrael Block, a darker record that takes its name from a method of memory control that involves brainwashing through drugs and hypnosis.
Unlike some instrumental albums, the song titles on Azrael Block appear to be strategically chosen for their attempt to "visually" capture the essence of the music. For example, the solid and aggressive rocker "Tech Support" conveys the rage and frustration commonly associated with that job position, while "Skitzophraniac" comes off as a foreboding piece with many bizarre twists and passages that represent various multiple personalities and the conflicts existing between them. "Dinner and Dancing" benefits from inspiration by the character Hannibal Lector, and closer "No Solace" is easily the album's heaviest and most eclectic tune, mixing progressive thrash with ambient folk music. "Interlude - A" is one of the prettiest songs on the album and boasts an acoustic guitar with New Age synths, while "Interlude – B" grooves with pleasant retro fusion complete with a wah-wah bass solo. Both "Interlude" tracks are longer than their names imply. In fact, most of the dozen tracks on Azrael Block clock in at five minutes or longer, with the moody "Flatline" — intended to aurally capture the final moments in a fading life — pushing 10 minutes. But this doesn't feel like an overly long album, even at 75 minutes. As with Wyrd, Azrael Block pours forth from your speakers at just the right pace, allowing the opportunity to explore and savor each of these tracks.
Add intriguing artwork and insightful liner notes to the package, and you've got another fine release from a guy who deserves wider recognition. I've said it before — for proof, click here — and I'll say it again: Intelligent music? Check. Intelligent player? Check. One last question: Why the hell, after self-releasing four albums, does Rapaport still not have the support of a label?