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CD Reviews – February 2013

By: Jim Price

SYNESTHESIA – SYNNERS & SAINTS (SteelTown Records) When guitarist/mastermind Tony Mollick first conceived the idea of bringing new song ideas to life with his latest Pittsburgh-based studio band project, Synesthesia, he envisioned a heavy metal version of Steely Dan, with the purpose of assembling the best metal-savvy musicians he could find to bring his music to life. The resulting CD,Synners & Saints, realizes Mollick’s vision, as he and his collaborators craft eight powerful, leviathan compositions that blend elements of classic, thrash, technical/prog and power metal. The instrumental execution is tight, forceful and aggressive; as Mollick on guitars and bass, guitarists Kurt Brown and Dillon Smith, drummer Shawn King, keyboardist Ryan O’Neill and lyricist/bassist John “Fuzz” McGirk craft busy and thundering walls of sound to power the compositions forward. These players take the spotlight on the action-packed instrumental assault “Effigy of the Forgotten.” Three different vocalists bring their distinctive singing styles to the forefront throughout the album. Especially impressive is former Control Denied singer Tim Aymar, whose broad vocal power, dramatic presence and soaring howl immediately command attention on the three songs he performs on; the Sabbathy opener “Lake of Fire,” the rampaging “True Believers” and the towering closer “Sweet Rhapsody.” Rob Guzik’s rabid bark adds viciousness to the pummeling thrasher “My Enemy Mine,” and Joe Murphy’s siren-like quality lifts the melodies of the title track “Synners and Saints,” “Solace of Shadows” and “Deceiver.” The song arrangements are busy, with pummeling drums, mean and fast guitar riffs and solo work, and mood-shaping/altering keyboard passages combining and juxtaposing with one another to keep the musical action dynamic and nonstop. Engineered by Mollick, and mixed and produced by Lee Caruso, Synners & Saints sounds clean, full and thunderous. The instruments and voices all sound clear and concise, and the full force of the presentation is felt on each number. Synesthesia’s Synners and Saints presents no-nonsense, forceful heavy metal that should appeal to fans across the genre’s broad spectrum of subdivisions; there is something here for everybody. (The CD can be obtained through Synesthesia’s Facebook page, www.facebook.com/synesthesiaus.)

LOOK LEFT – BITE THE GREEN APPLE (no label) Since converging and forming at Indiana University of Pennsylvania in 2008, Look Left has forged a unique niche and sound over the course of four CDs. Their latest, Bite the Green Apple, offers a catchy, clever and witty blend of acoustic instrumentation, crisp two- and three-part harmonies, and a knack for the quirky and unexpected. Lead singer/guitarist Jared Clark, bassist Derek Wilber, electric guitarist Andrew Cotts and drummer Matt Royek forge inventive, playful acoustic folk-rock melodies, topped with amusing, often nerdy lyrics. Look Left throws out the rulebook throughout this album, referencing the melody of “When Johnny Comes Marching Home” before diverting into a Spanish guitar flavor on the opening number “But Then I Fell in Love.” Clark psychoanalyzes his affections on the lighthearted “You Make Me Nothing But Better,” and the group caps another Spanish-toned song, “Riddance,” with a sudden surprise ending dedicated to the album’s listeners (I won’t play the spoiler here). Look Left showcases their harmonies through two a cappella offerings, “Guide You Home” and the humorous Irish folk sendup “Frank Jaggerty,” and they get jiggy with the rap-laced number “You Bored?” The melodies and harmonies shine, and the group brings them forward with a casual, lighthearted vibe, never taking themselves too seriously. Produced, recorded, engineered, mixed and mastered by Clark, Bite the Green Apple sounds sharp and crisp, balanced and cohesive. Look Left delivers a catchy, fresh-sounding, fun and frivolous set with Bite the Green Apple, as they take acoustic folk-rock on an upbeat, rollicking adventure. (The CD can be obtained through the group’s website, www.lookleft.us.)

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