The Samurai of Prog: Secrets of Disguise
Progressive rock doesn't have a royalty system in the way jazz does, but Italian maestro Marco Bernard—the initial mastermind behind The Samurai of Prog—might just be on to something with the assertive name to his band. With its newest LP, Secrets of Disguise, The Samurai of Prog, like the jazz musician taking on a genre standard, wields the stylistics and tropes of epic progressive rock whilst simultaneously leaving his own indelible mark on said things. At over two hours, Secret of Disguise mines as many facets of prog as possible, forming an expansive collage that's ideal for fans of Neal Morse and Spock's Beard. This is rock music for the Julliard set.
First things first, the good: Secrets of Disguise is an immaculately composed, highly enjoyable LP. Opener "Three Part Suite" provides a smorgasbord of the Samurai's chops, incorporating gorgeous piano lines, smooth jazz, and some fret-burning riffs into as definitive an overture there could be for this group. It's this type of instrumentation that prevails above all else throughout the LP; when these guys say "prog," they mean prog, the kind that sends Yes fans across the globe reeling. Most of the time, this isn't just noodling for noodling's sake; there are real melodies and phrases here that actually stand out in a memorable way. And even though a lot of Secrets of Disguise could be considered formulaic or familiar in its approach to prog, these samurai take the time to throw in some curveballs while also remaining true to the style they've set out for themselves. "Sweet Iphigenia" in particular stands out with respect to this: beginning in the fashion of a medieval ballade, with harpsichord and flute bringing to mind the image of a court jester telling a tale to a royal court, the song then segues into a cocktail of Moon Safari-esque vocal harmony and jam fare in the vein of the Dixie Dregs. The antiquated theatrics of the song's opening may come off as corny—which, to be honest, they kind of are, but they're absolutely in line with the ethos of The Samurai of Prog. The zaniness of progressive rock can often be too much, but it's nice to see a band embrace all the genre's nerdy reference points with reckless abandon.
For all the jubilant worship of prog that happens on this album, however, there are ways in which The Samurai of Prog guns too much for the genre's mainstay techniques. The biggest offender here is the length: as essential as the double album is to the identity of progressive rock (pick your The Wall reference and place it here), a hard-and-fast rule of that record format is that the music must warrant the length. A significant majority of Secrets of Disguise is engrossing, but there's really no need for this RLP (that's really-long-play) to be as lengthy as it is. The material here could have easily constituted three individual records. Moreover, the track sequencing makes this an even more laborious listen. After beginning with the twelve-and-a-half minute "Three Piece Suite," things go on for ten mid-length cuts; then, when one puts the second CD in, the 23-and-a-half minute "Singring and the Glass Guitar" forces the listener to delve into a mind-numbing amount of music—just after having been immersed in over an hour of music. Then, as if this all weren't enough, the group throws a fourteen-minute bonus track in as icing on the cake.
The Samurai of Prog carries a heavy sword; unfortunately, rather than one, clean, fell stroke, he opts for a hack-and-slash technique that does what could have been done more efficiently. This up-and-coming Italian outfit is one to keep watch for on the radar; one just needs to be sure exactly how formidable the target it is before taking the dive.
1. Three Piece Suite
2. Sweet Iphigenia
3. Descenso en el Maelstrom
4. Before the Dance
5. Dancing with the Moonlit Knight
8. Sameassa Vedessa
9. One More Red Night Nightmare
10. To Take Him Away
1. Singring and the Glass Guitar
3. Jacob's Ladder
4. The Case of Charles Dexter Ward (Bonus Track)
Added: August 3rd 2013
Reviewer: Brice Ezell
Related Link: Band Website
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