Houston, Texas is knows for a lot of things (oil, big hats, cowboy boots, mechanical bulls, etc.), but nowhere on the list is progressive rock - it just doesn't fit the mental profile of the city. However, if music industry mavens have any brains in their head at all, a little known Houston band by the name of Deadwood Forest will be on the modern progressive A-list sometime in the near future. While listening to their latest release, Mellodramatic, I couldn't help but wonder why this band isn't the talk of the progressive community - they are THAT good. Deadwood Forest often sounds a lot like Pink Floyd and The Moody Blues with their sweeping mellotron keyboard samples, gentle guitar, and smooth vocals. However, pigeonholing them into the Floyd category does not do these guys proper justice; just when you think your in for a nice relaxing sonic journey with Mellodramatic, guitarist Ryan Guidry and drummer Andy McWilliams will RIP into an aggressive and angular frenzy that will knock the headphones right off your ears. And to top it all off, they'll even throw some delicious techno grooves on occasion to keep you on your toes.
Mellodramatic wastes no time in impressing upon the listener that they're in for a wild ride - the opener "The Pioneer" starts off as a bizarre sounding Mellotron waltz. The mellowness continues for around two and a half minutes when out of nowhere Guidry's angular and super-distorted guitar licks violate the trippy mood while drummer Andy McWilliams rides the cymbals as if his life depended on it. The sonic experience then shifts to some calm Beatles-style keyboards, and ends abruptly with a bizarre "beat box" fade out. With this track, Deadwood Forest accomplishes in six-and-a-half minutes what "superior" prog acts would take 20 minutes to do. Other high points include the sixth track "Dry," which contains some wonderfully subtle guitar playing and vocals that made me look for Roger Waters and Syd Barrett in the album credits. The seven minute "King of the Skies" contains no less than each of the following: Procol Harum style organ, a Jethro Tull influenced madrigal section, some techno-sounding keyboards, surf-style guitar and drums, a heavy metal reggae riff, and an Indian-style bridge complete with Calcutta percussion. And the amazing thing about the piece is the different sections sound like they BELONG together!
Are there any rough spots on Mellodramatic ? Sure, two of the instrumentals - "The City in the Sea" and "The Ultraviolence" are sort of directionless and not very interesting. But other than that, I can't think of anything else negative to say. Even the two tracks that serve as minute-long musical interludes (which are oddly titled not with words, but with a yellow line and a blue line) are interesting, and the closer "Departure" is a very tasty acoustic ballad - that is until a killer electronic groove kicks in halfway through and drops you off at the end of the CD, shaking your head and thanking Deadwood Forest for the wonderful trip.
I can't say enough good things about Deadwood Tree and Mellodramatic. It's refreshing to finally hear a modern progressive band that has the songwriting talent to compose epic-style songs without needing 15 or 20 minutes worth of space to say what they want. The songwriting here is succinct and economical, and the band resists the urge to pointlessly noodle around solely to stretch out the length of their songs. The lyrics are also very poetic - it's obvious that keyboardist Mitch Mignano writes from the heart and not from a thesaurus.
So with all that, I will give Deadwood Forest the highest compliment a reviewer can possibly give: Mellodramatic will spend much time in my CD player even AFTER I've written this review - and that doesn't happen very often.
- Michael Askounes (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Ryan Guidry: Vocals and Guitars Andy McWilliams: Drums Kurt Coburn: Bass Mitch Mignano: Keyboards
1. The Pioneer (6:49) 2. ----------- [Yellow Line] (1:40) 3. OCD (2:48) 4. King of the Skies (7:32) 5. The City in the Sea (6:27) 6. Dry (7:02) 7. Stolen Smile (5:30) 8. ----------- [Blue Line] (0:52) 9. The Ultraviolence (6:29) 10. Departure (2:35)