What is it about prog rock that puts people off?
One thing is certain: many artists who identify with the "progressive" pretenses of Dream Theater and Yes are concerned about the technicality and complexity of their music. Toward this end, they employ advanced musical theory to make their songs more difficult to play, more "virtuosic." This is a very pompous means by which to create art, but it can be quite engaging to the right listener.
The all-instrumental Xtreme Measures is such a group, taking a stab at technicality. Over-the-top syncopation from the rhythm section, awkward time changes (and sometimes ridiculous meters), and rapid-paced instrumental breaks dominate the group's debut album.
"Turbulence" is a great example of XM's writing style. Four bars of intense 32nd notes begin the song. After this the guitar introduces a tranquil, soothing melody to which there is literally no transition. The melody is unmemorable and the arrangement seems to be completely soulless, evidenced by an odd bar of transitional music lacking of any kind of rhythm. The song is a good attempt at virtuosity, featuring very keen musicianship and quality electric tone, but it seems to be another product of "prog for the sake of prog" attitudes.
Not all the songs are as (mis)structured as "Turbulence"much of the album is very improvisational. "War Zone" is based on solo guitar work; "Distraction" is a well-structured but melodic composition, more accessible than "Turbulence" while still retaining an air of pomposity. Xtreme Measures has strong fusion leanings, but it is at heart a progressive instrumental album. Traditional jazz aficionados will appreciate the polished improvisation and elaborate rhythms, but the synthesizers and distorted guitar may be distractingly new.
These players set high standards for their work. Nick Carr has a very unique style of guitar improvisation: very clean-toned but also very fast and intricate, evocative of Larry Coryell. Dean Gaudoin adds fretless bass with discretion; his bass lines are tasteful and creative. The keyboards, performed by Gianni D'Ambra, reinforce the music with one foot in electronica and the other in classic fusion. D'Ambra uses modern synths as well as electric piano and organ sounds, and he's partly responsible for the jazz touches throughout the record. Daniel Luttick is probably the most noticeable talent, playing difficult fills in the vein of rock drummers like Mike Portnoy.
Xtreme Measures' instrumental skill far overshadows the group's writing abilities. It seems that these players are more concerned with complexity than cohesiveness.
Personnel: Daniel Luttick: percussion; Dean Gaudoin: bass; Nick Carr: guitar; Gianni D'Ambra: