Praised by many members of the progressive community, comprised of highly skilled players, Maryland-based Chaos Code spring some engaging new music, some of it marred by a cliché or three. The instrumental opener, "Unity” employs a buildup which has been actualized many times by many bands, and the final half-minute evokes Pink Floyd to an embarrassing degree. “Another Hand” is heavier and would have made a better opening track, as far as the first 3-½ minutes go. The nice flute line almost makes up for the vocals—this is not to say the vocals are bad, but they are not a strong point. The vocal line also sounds partially improvised, which makes the instrumental sections sound better than usual. Recorded at Orion Studios in Baltimore, Orion’s Mike Potter plays tenor sax (and very well) and flute.
”Spacesuits and Sunglasses" represents a patchwork of sorts when it comes to pieces over seven minutes long (this one is 8:52): it opens with a wonderful guitar melody, which sounds overly-familiar, succeeded by a major sound effect cliché—the breaking of glass—two minutes later; the next part is capped by a Gentle Giant-inspired vocal. The ending reprises the intro, but not before an exquisite section from 6:50 to 8:20 or thereabouts—it just sizzles.
In a twist, ”From Cradle To Grave” (Cradle 2 The Grave?) opens with Stone Gossardesque guitar riffing; the vocal part is horribly trite, not far removed from Trent Gardner’s meanderings. A very nice analog synth solo by keyboardist Tom Langan nearly saves this track from being the album’s low point. The Langan-penned instrumental, “Balance” is weighed down by plastic-sounding synth tones—from the clunky, wooden bass and toy-piano lead—which sound like presets. The playing isn’t bad, at all, and Langan and Phelps dual (as opposed to duel) some lines; if this had been recorded with sounds a tad more choice, it would be a cool cut. Phelps’ guitar licks in the latter half bite deep, too.
”A Reason To Kill” sounds very odd. For reasons not easily unearthed, it doesn’t sound very original, and yet might be the best track with vocals. Minor keys abound, the vocals don’t bore and even slant toward spoken word. Langan whips out the analog sound from “Cradle” and it sounds wonderful against the BOC guitar chords. At 6:45 the tempo suddenly jumps, and Langan lays down a much longer, steamier solo. Blue Oyster Cult with Patrick Moraz! “The Creature Self” isn’t exactly an exciting song title, but it’s the music that matters, right? The intro is stellar, more in the '70s hard rock vein; Tom Langan's electronic goodness would make this at home in a Dario Argento film—yes, it is very much like Goblin (and no vox!). Phelps’ guitar solo still evokes Buck Dharma more than Massimo Morante.
”Distance” (very unoriginal title, along with “Balance”) is a thirteen-minute mini-epic:
it opens with Chopinesque piano (well done—check), a 4/4 pattern on ride cymbal, plus sax (check), and a guitar lead in the grey area between Santana and Gilmour (check). By now, the details should be clear; detractors aside, there is plenty to attract, just ignore some of the vocals (unless you like Magellan). Parts of TToL&B merit 2 or 2-½ stars, the rest between 4-½ or 5 stars. I’ll meet the band halfway.