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3RDegree: Ones & Zeros Vol. 0

Since their 2008 return, American melodic progressive outfit 3RDegree have managed to build up a serious head of steam. Narrow Castor, their first album in some 12 years, proved that this band were still sharp of wit, cutting with their observations and remarkably engaging with their music. Since then The Long Division confirmed it was no one off, while Ones & Zeros Volume 1 landed with such force in 2015 that most observers had no doubt in declaring it the best 3RDegree yet. So, three years down the line and the follow up seems to have come from before, Volume 1 of Ones & Zeros, rather oddly, followed by Vol. 0. The theme of Vol1 was how technology will not only integrate into our everyday lives, but will even begin to integrate with our very bodies. Upgrades and implants the order of the day as the line between organic and machine blurs to oblivion (very Ghost In The Shell). It’s a scary thought, and one worth revisiting in a world where it does seem possible that things will begin to head in that direction. Here, however the question seems to be, do we know who we are, or even, what we are. Are we so reliant on technology that it has replaced relationships and personal contact and have we even noticed it happening. It’s poignant and futuristic while still somehow being amazingly current and topical. So far, so 3RDegree!

Musically things are also exactly as you might expect, which is exactly how you’d want them to be. Bright, bold, brash, intricate and crafted, the moods moving from buoyant prog with melody at its heart to technical workouts that allow the band to truly stretch out. In truth, that latter aspect is an urge mainly kept under control, with the song always coming first. There’s a poppy aspect which appears more in the brightness and accessibility of the guitars, rather than through a host of catchy choruses and dance along moments. Although both of those do appear on occasion. However, in a genre that’s usually fixated on lengthy passages where virtuosity comes to the fore, 3RDegree have the confidence to believe that everyone already knows that they can handle their instruments with more skill than you care mention and instead they get on with crafting memorable music that grabs you from the off and then insists you delve further down the rabbit hole.

Right off the bat “Re1nstall_Overture” slaps you about the chops, sharp, jagged but playful riffs stutter stopping their way into being, before the snare drum takes up the call. It’s a march, but one that takes you on a merry dance, a playful guitar line swooping down to lead you by the hand, and just about dragging you off your feet. It’s an instrumental opening blast, the more plaintive “Connecting” introducing the engagingly honest vocal tones of George Dobbs as he begins to regale us with his future now tale. “Olympia” is maybe most bullish in its willingness to remind of Yes, although its breakdown into clicks, clacks and tick-tocks raises a smile mid-song.

As with all 3RDegree pieces, brevity is often the key and by prog standards we dart through the likes of the deceptively varied “The Future Doesn’t Need You”, slightly more challenging “Perfect Babies” and keyboard drippings of “Logical Conclusion” at quite a lick. However as we “Click Away!”, so it becomes clear that the whole album has been building towards this fifteen minute amalgam of everything that makes this band the joyously mighty force they have become. Guitars thrash and soothe, bass boldly booms and drums pitter patter and clatter and pop. With the vocals weaving their magic in layered ladles of backing voice and leading from the front, it’s quite an undertaking and one that takes a while to unravel, but if ever the effort was worth it, it’s right here. The seven minutes of “Ones & Zeros” ends proceedings with the clever mix of melody and technicality that’s evident throughout, as it happily leaves you satisfied yet immediately craving for more.

Is Vol.0 better than Volume 1? That’s a hard question to answer, so maybe best just buy both and listen to them back to back ��" no matter which is meant to come first!


Track Listing
1. Re1nstall_0verture
2. Connecting
3. Olympia
4. The Future Doesn't Need You
5. Unintended Consequence
6. Perfect Babies
7. Logical Conclusion
8. Click Away!
9. Ones & Zeros

Added: May 3rd 2018
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Score:
Related Link: 3RDegree on bandcamp
Hits: 1270
Language: english

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