It's taken a few years for Metal Church mainman Kurdt Vanderhoof to unleash the second CD from his prog-rock alter ego Presto Ballet, but here it is, titled The Lost Art of Time Travel (soon to be released on ProgRock Records). If you dug 2005's excellent debut Peace Among the Ruins, with its 70's prog meets pomp bombast & melody, then this sophomore release will certainly scratch that itch you might have for some vintage sounds. Though it's safe to say that those Kansas, Styx, Yes, Genesis, Spock's Beard, Deep Purple, Aviary, and Ambrosia influences run amok throughout The Lost Art of Time Travel, that's by no means a bad thing, as Presto Ballet make no bones about recreating their version of classic hard driving prog, complete with soaring vocals, vintage keys, catchy melodies, and blistering guitar work.
As far as keyboards go, there's even more Hammond organ, Mellotron, and synths this time around, as the songs seem less based on guitar riffs and more on the keys. Opening cut "The Mind Machine" is a rampaging near 11-minute gem, Vanderhoof's guitar riffs laying the groundwork for some splendid Hammond & synth melodies, the arrangement complex yet highly melodic, Scott Albright's vocals soaring over the top. Ryan McPherson, along with Vanderhoof, provide a wide assortment of keyboard textures throughout this piece, making it one hell of a symphonic prog opener to this CD. "Thieves" has a distinct Yes-meets-Dream Theater feel, Kurdt's guitars having a heavier punch here, complemented by Hammond and Israel Rehaume's sinewy bass grooves. Albright's high pitched yet poignant vocals really shine on this one, sounding like a cross between Todd Rundgren, Jon Anderson, and James LaBrie. The short acoustic pop of "You're Alive" provides a quick break from the bombast, but shows the band's ability to write a quick & catchy tune (too bad Styx can't write tunes like this these days!). The guys lurch back into hard-edged symphonic prog on the album's epic 14-minute extravaganza "One Tragedy at a Time", which kicks off with some bouncy grooves, Mellotron washes, fluttering synths, majestic Hammond, and melodic riffs. Over the course of this one, Presto Ballet takes you on a wild journey, with plenty of time and meter changes, as they go from quirky prog, to aggressive hard rock, to all out orchestral bombast. McPherson's Hammond work is pure gold on this one, and let's not forget the tricky drum work of Bill Raymond, who really shows his skills on this lengthy piece. Progressive metal meshes with majestic Yes styled prog on the excellent "I'm Not Blind" (again, that Hammond Ryan, that Hammond!), and the band throws in a fanstastic, complex rocker with "Easy Tomorrow", featuring wild interplay from all the members, McPherson's nimble piano and husky Hammond providing the perfect foil to Kurdt's crunchy riffs and Rehaume's thick bass grooves. Albright also impresses here, as he handles the heavier parts as well as the softer sections, showing great versatily and range. Final track "Haze" is a dreamy, lush piece, Mellotron's and acoustic guitars providing the landscape for Scott's intoxicating vocals. Rehaume's elastic, Chris Squire-ish lead bass lines and some Moog synth melodies are just the icing on the cake on this prog masterpiece, a must hear for lovers of the early 70's scene.
No offense to Metal Church, as I know it's the band that brings in much of Venderhoof's earnings, but Presto Ballet is where it's at. The Lost Art of Time Travel is killer prog rock from start to finish, a perfect homage to the great sounds of the 70's, yet with a modern twist. Now, if we can only get this band at some of the US Prog Festivals the world will be a better place!
1. The Mind Machine (10:50)
2. Thieves (9:04)
3. You're Alive (4:24)
4. One Tragedy at a Time (14:00)
5. I'm Not Blind (6:16)
6. Easy Tomorrow (6:30)
7. Haze (9:28)