Out of nowhere comes this startlingly smokin’ set of instrumental brilliance from California four-piece Avant Garden. Combining the complexity of progressive rock, ripping hard rock guitar, and sax playing that recalls the heyday of fusion, this band lays down an assault on your eardrums that levels you to the ground but brings you back to your feet wanting more.
Many bands have a hard time finding a satisfying balance between raucous riffing and soloing, and quieter, more introspective moments. Not Avant Garden. On the opening track, “Dragon Feed”, guitarist Brian Gould and sax player Flamp Sorvari trade vicious solos that make the main melody line, as complex as it is, seem like a cakewalk. Tucked in the middle of all the mayhem is the slippery bass grooves of Miles Gilster, who despite having amazing technical prowess, shows great restraint and dexterity, even during his brief and tender solo spot that is sandwiched between the onslaught from Gould and Sorvani. “Archemedes Tub” kicks off in almost metal fashion, before giving way to some Jethro Tull inspired flute rave-ups. The contrast between the crunchy guitar, driving rhythm, and lilting flute is astounding. Guitarist Gould has a great tone, thick and menacing, as well as great dexterity. His style is somewhat reminiscent of Martin Barre, Steve Hillage, or Warren Haynes. Flamp Sorvani has that Michael Brecker fire in his sax playing, and his jazzy leads are the perfect compliment to the frenzied wailings of Gould.
All the tracks here exceed eight minutes, and are like mini mystical journeys, but the real kicker is saved for last, the eighteen-minute “Path of the Farwinds.” While the band segues in at an almost Jade Warrior-like entrance featuring lush flutes and acoustic guitars, before long things shift to intense space rock territory with wailing sax and interstellar guitar overdrive. What a way to end a terrific hour’s worth of complex instrumental rock from a highly talented bunch of musicians. I’m ready for another spin in the CD player!