|Musical Style: Progressive Rock||Produced By: Mike Florio|
|Record Label: Independent||Country Of Origin: USA|
|Year Released: 2006||Artist Website: Massdream|
|Tracks: 7||Rating: 85%|
|Running Time: 42:18|
Westchester County New York is the home to a very talented vocalist and keyboardist by the name of Mike Florio. Recognizing that music was his calling when he joined his first band at age 15, Florio went on to study music formally but always considered himself a rock musician at heart. Hence, he went on to spend several years playing in numerous local bands but, as a result of experiencing countless frustrations and disappointments, decided to put together his first solo album. The outcome is his 2006 full length debut Arisen, a very fine effort that is made up of compositions written over a period of time spanning many years.
What Arisen brings to the table is progressive rock with symphonic touches all the while reflecting an occasional classic rock or AOR leaning. The album can best be described as a compelling blend of Kansas and Styx that is certain to appeal to fans of Neal Morse, Tiles, Flagship and AD. While by no means metal, Arisen features enough guitar driven momentum to attract those who are into Shadow Gallery and Dream Theater as well.
The driving force behind the project is Florio who brings a smooth sounding, classic tenor voice that cannot help but invite a comparison to the likes of Steve Walsh (Kansas), Dennis DeYoung (Styx) and Paul Rarick (Tiles). And he demonstrates an equal amount of ability on keyboards, adding just the right amount of texture to the albums compositions without coming across overriding. In guitarist Bill Thomas, bassist Dave Bailey and Steve Golden, Florio has surrounded himself with a trio of very capable musicians. Thomas proves a particularly able guitarist, showcasing his abilities best on “Violent Moods”, “Fractured” and “Paradise Of Stone”.
Production values are of the polished and professional sounding variety, coming across crisp and clean and allowing for a near perfect separation of the instrumentation. The only constructive comment worth adding is that the lead vocals end up slightly forward in the mix but not to the point of being a detraction.
Florio’s lyrics are very well thought out in addressing topics ranging from our technology driven world, the corruption of youth, the news media and the perspective of the natural man.
Please note that while Arisen was released independently, it is available for purchase through CD Baby.
Sweeping and majestic, the epic progressive rock of “Bells For 1827” would not sound out of place on early Kansas albums such as Masque and Leftoverture. The song opens to a lengthy keyboard driven instrumental section that has a nice classical if not orchestral feel to it. Slowing to a piano upon reaching its first verse, “Bells For 1827” picks up in pace for its second prior to repeating the same pattern during its third and fourth verse. As the song builds, it culminates for an infectious chorus that is underlined by a trace of backing vocals. Kerry Livgren (Kansas, Proto-Kaw) is the first name that comes to mind when I hear the piano and keyboard interplay carrying a second extensive instrumental section.
“Binary World” is a good upbeat hard rocker that brings to mind Styx at its very best. A near perfect blend of edgy rhythm guitar and sweeping keyboards helps convey the song through its first minute and a half. Sustaining its guitar driven momentum during its first verse, “Binary World” achieves a hook-laden chorus that takes a close look at the technologically driven world we exist in:
Binary world, techno parasites
Binary world, digital delight
Binary world, electronic might
Binary world, now here’s my paradise
The album maintains its Styx-like feel with “Fractured”. The harpsichord that sets the song in motion gives way to a lengthy stretch of gritty lead guitar work from Bill Thomas. An organ makes its presence felt as “Fractured” smoothly moves through its first and second verse, the trenchant environment sustained as it attains a chorus giving rise to a strong symphonic feel. The harpsichord returns at the start of an instrumental section shored up by a compelling organ and lead guitar trade off. “Fraction” talks about the corruption of youth:
Another mindless passion
Children are the oppressors now
Another moral retraction
Looking for the thrill beyond reason
Celebrate sin with lust and torment
Ignorant child makes his descent
The progressive ballad “Pretending” gives rise to a haunting melody as it is carried forward by an exquisite blend of piano and keyboards. The keyboards continue to lead the way through a sweeping instrumental section until a nice blues flavored guitar solo steps to the forefront of the mix.
“Media Ride”, the albums shortest track at 3:38, brings a polished hard rocking feel that would sound right at home on AD’s Art Of The State. Several seconds of lead guitar initiates the song before it settles down to an even mid-tempo pace for its first verse, an edgy rhythm guitar entering the mix in time to back a chorus with a good groove flavored vibe. Another lead guitar and keyboard trade off highlights the instrumental section of a song dealing with the ubiquitous news media:
The voices and the images are clear
They’re mindless and obscene
Serving their own purpose to be here
Making dreams, Killing dreams
Reinforcing arbitrary views
Teaching to ignore what’s not shown
Determine what you pay attention to
Now your thoughts and fears are not your own
Arisen returns to its progressive rock ways with the excellent “Paradise Of Stone”. The minute long instrumental section introducing the song starts in slowly moving guitar driven fashion before it tapers off to a classical flavored mix of keyboards. Abruptly making a time change as a piano and rhythm guitar trade off during its first verse, “Paradise Of Stone” moves on to a smoothly flowing chorus accentuated by a touch of vocal harmonies. A bass guitar solo opens a three and a half minute long instrumental section in which Florio and company display the abundant strength of their instrumental sound. “Paradise Of Stone” is a lament written from the perspective of the natural man:
Will I ever be where I long to be?
Will I ever behold what I long to see?
Never thought that I would take the long, hard way
Never thought that I would reach my final day
All alone in this paradise of stone
Silent voices in the night
The natural man, he looks through his blindness
To realize the dream in his head
The natural man, he searches in the darkness
To understand where he is led
The album closes with “Violent Moods”, a beautiful seven minute semi-ballad that begins to an orchestral amalgamation of piano and keyboards. Slowly carried through its first verse in a haunting manner by a piano, “Violent Moods” transitions to a poignant chorus with just the right amount of emotional appeal to pull you in and refuse to let go. A sweeping three minute instrumental section opens to a combination of piano and keyboards before a hard rocking rhythm guitar kicks in and helps take the song to its close.
Review by: Andrew Rockwell
Track Listing: “Bells For 1827” (7:24), “Binary World” (5:55), “Fractured” (4:38), “Pretending” (4:33), “Media Ride” (3:38), “Paradise Of Stone” (9:09), “Violent Moods” (6:58)
Mike Florio – Vocals & Keyboards
Bill Thomas – Guitars
Dave Bailey – Bass
Steve Golden - Drums
Also Reviewed: Various Artists - CPR Volume 3