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The Rick Ray Band: Dark Matter Halo

I've pretty much lost track of all the releases The Rick Ray Band have put out over the years (and we've reviewed a great many of them here), but they seem to be coming with less regularity in recent times, perhaps the band giving themselves more time to develop the songs, and it's instantly apparent here on their latest CD, Dark Matter Halo. Led as always by the stellar musical talents of Rick Ray (guitar, vocals, keyboards), the band is rounded out by Rick Schultz (sax, bass clarinet), Kip Volans (drums), and Dave 'Shaggy' Snodgrass, and the group have put together ten new tracks of their brand of 'psychedelic progressive hard rock fusion'.

Quite a few accessible songs here on Dark Matter Halo that grab you from the initial listen, such as the engaging opening title track, which contains some muscular guitar riffs and stabbing sax, almost like a hard rock version of Van Der Graaf Generator. "Do You Know Who You Are" seems to have dropped straight out of a late '60's time capsule, full of 'flower power' hooks, jazzy sax and jangly guitars, while "Into the Past" again sees some VDGG styled prog rear its head along with a healthy dose of Canterbury influenced quirkiness. However, it's the bruising attack of "On the Take" that's easily one of the albums highlights, featuring a can't miss, herculean Ray riff-fest, the band going full bore heavy rock save for Schultz and his ever snaking sax. Rush meets Soft Machine? Not far from it! The hard rock continues with the lengthy "As the Room Went Dark", the band delivering the kind of complex & heavy prog rock that is a joy to behold, the guitarist putting on a clinic with a barrage of crushing riffs and blazing solos. You also get the spacey, somewhat jazzy "Electroshock", permeated with velvety bass lines, atmospheric guitars, dreamy vocals, and sax, easily another of Dark Matter Halo's highlights. Volans' intricate drum fills and pounding beats drive the metallic fury of "Abandoned Morality", which features another torrid Ray solo, and the album closes with the catchy, proggy anthem "48 Hour Day", a must hear for any fan of the eclectic Max Webster.

I've spent a lot of time listening to many releases from the Rick Ray Band over the years, but I don't think any of them have clicked with me quite like Dark Matter Halo has. Lots of sizzling guitar work, plenty of sax to satisfy your jazz itch, catchy melodies and vocal hooks, and arrangements that mix prog, hard rock, and psychedelia so well, make this latest release from The Rick Ray Band one not to be missed.

Track Listing
1. Dark Matter Halo 6:22
2. Society of Strangers 4:46
3. Do You Know Who You Are 5:40
4. Into the Past 5:53
5. On the Take 5:10
6. As the Room Went Dark 8:10
7. Electroshock 7:37
8. Autumn Wind 3:50
9. Abandoned Morality 6:28
10. 48 Hour Day 4:33

Added: September 14th 2019
Reviewer: Pete Pardo
Related Link: Artist @ CD Baby
Hits: 3790
Language: english

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