Izz returns with their 6th studio album, “Crush of Night”, and I am here to tell you it is a pleasure to listen to. For those that are not familiar with Izz, they are a New York-based band that plays a real mix of old school Progressive Rock with a lot of modern-sounding elements. So, think Yes and Gentle Giant foundations, move into early Spock’s Beard territory, then sprinkle with occasional Classical and Jazzy overtones (early Steely Dan) and you sort of get the picture.
What separates Izz from a lot of their contemporaries is their wall of sound vocals. The three part harmonies are stunning and add a vitality and warmth to their music that is often missing in other bands. You will not find much in the way of the darker side of Progressive here like Porcupine Tree.
They experiment with rhythm a great deal, much like their Gentle Giant influence. They have two drummers, one electronic and one acoustic. During any given song, you are likely to get a lot of dynamics – soft piano passages that break into frenetic guitar and keyboards and back again. And these guys can play. One of my favourite Progressive Rock guitarists is Paul Bremner, a Scot transplant, who has amazing technique and is a real chameleon with his playing. He can play slow burn melodic runs like Andy Latimer (Camel) or he can blister with the best of them. He doesn’t do Metal crunching which permeates a lot of Progressive these days, and that’s fine, as Izz’s style doesn’t warrant it. (As an aside, I would recommend listening to his eclectic solo album, “Wombsong” (2003) – it is really fine.)
The other members are at the top of their game as well: AnMarie Byrnes – vocals; Brian Coralian – electronic and acoustic drums; Greg DiMiceli – drums and percussion; John Galgano – bass, guitars, keyboards and vocals; and keyboard wizard Tom Galgano, also on vocals. On this album, guitarist and vocalist Gary Green, formally with Gentle Giant and now (last I heard) with Three Friends, guests on two tracks, a welcome rarity and worth the price of admission! And another fine guitarist, Greg Meade, also guests.
I found “Crush of Night” lyrically interesting. I could identify with a lot of what was written (in my own alleged mind) – the words come from the heart and reflect a lot about life – searching and discovery. The CD is over 56 minutes and comprised of 7 tracks. The song, “Crush of Night” is the second part of a two-song suite that is over 25 minutes total and rewarding.
Long tracks can sometimes be a bit much, but Izz create enough interest through their vocals and time changes that I find the album went by too fast. The album is part 2 of a planned trilogy that began with 2009’s “The Darkened Room”. If you like “Crush of Night”, I encourage you to check out that album as well as their back catalogue as all are strong Progressive CDs in their own right.
If I have one criticism of the album, I would have preferred to have it end with “The Crush of Night” instead of the final song. After becoming emotionally invested in the suite, I found “Almost Over”, though a good song, a bit intrusive and not in a style that blended well with the more powerful music that preceded it. They do leave a slightly longer than usual gap between the tracks but I stand by my preference.
A word on the sound of this CD: I find that with “busier” music, the bass is often relegated to a mushy, dark substance somewhere in the distance. But Tom Galgano has done a great job in having all instruments up in the mix, including the great bass lines of John Galgano. The overall production is loud, but that is why you have a volume control on your amp! It is well mixed and has a great soundstage for those that care about these things. I highly recommend Izz and think that if you are not familiar with the band, then Crush of Night is a great place to start.
Also, John Galgano has just released his first solo album, Real Life is Meeting, which I have not listened to yet.
The band can be explored more at their website.
Release Date: May 01, 2012