|Musical Style: Progressive Rock||Produced By: Jimmy P. Brown II|
|Record Label: Roxx Records||Country Of Origin: USA|
|Year Released: 2014||Artist Website:|
|Tracks: 5||Rating: 90%|
|Running Time: 48:33|
Veteran Christian metal act Deliverance may be on extended (if not permanent) hiatus, but founding member and vocalist/guitarist Jimmy P. Brown II refuses to rest on his laurels, as the Roxx Records fall of 2014 sophomore album, Moveable Walls, of his Jupiter VI project aptly attests. Yes, Deliverance is best known for the melodic speed metal and thrash of its earlier material and at times technical and at others moody and subdued metal and hard rock of that which followed. Brown, however, has also produced several very creditable works when pursuing a musical heading outside the Deliverance framework. One need consider, for instance, his electronica and industrial hard rock side project Fearful Symmetry and its 2003 debut This Said Veil Of Tears. Equally notable is the 2006 Jupiter VI initial offering Back From Mars in which the artist combined aspects of seventies glam rock, pop wave, classic rock, hard rock and even some modern elements.
Moveable Walls finds Brown branching out and pushing his musical boundaries even further in pursuing a progressive rock direction influenced heavily by Pink Floyd. This should not surprise when factoring the understated progressiveness that has imbued Brown’s songwriting over the years, which started to emerge on lengthier tracks such as “Flesh & Blood” and “Solitude” from the acclaimed 1990 Deliverance sophomore effort Weapons Of Our Warfare. Mid-period Deliverance albums had their progressive moments as well, with Stay Of Execution (1992) featuring the complex “Ramming Speed” and Learn (1993) and River Disturbance (1994) the every bit manifold “Time” and “Breathing Still…”, respectively. As Above - So Below (2006) even went so far as to include the first Brown composition in excess of ten minutes, “Thistles”, while Hear What I Say! (2013) stood out with its intricate Iron Maiden cover “Where Eagles Dare”.
Many of you at this point I am sure are asking where the Pink Floyd influences come into play. It starts with the emphasis on lengthy songwriting (Moveable Walls comes in at 48 minutes but features just 5 songs) which finds Brown composing material that is not just over ten minutes but also approaching twenty! It also encompasses complementary ethereal and atmospheric moments interlaced with ambient landscapes in addition to extensive interludes (many instrumental) that go in a different direction than the song but without meandering in the process. It would be all for naught, of course, without the trademark Floydian bluesy sensibilities in that Brown and co-Jupiter VI member Jeff Ceyba combine for guitar work that ranges from ample stretches of bluesy soloing to integral slide guitar (David Gilmour would be proud either way!). The upshot all things considered is a setting in which the normal rules of compositions and song structures do not apply, a particular I say in the most positive sense.
Nothing better exemplifies the Jupiter VI progressive side than masterpiece twenty-minute opener “Sleepless End (Pt. I-IV)”. The group goes the ‘Neal Morse route’ by pasting several different ‘parts’ back-to-back-to-back in order to form a complementary whole.
Part one is mostly instrumental in covering the songs first five minutes. Howling wind and a thunderstorm get things going before acoustic guitars and airy keyboards interspersed with blues guitars take over and establish a laid back if not ethereal environment. Brown’s vocals, meanwhile, end up placed fittingly in the backdrop of the mix (for the lone verse at hand).
Heavyset rhythm guitars kick in at the start of the second prior to a scintillating stretch of blues drenched soloing. A breathing bass line holds sway throughout the subsequent plodding verses, with an emotional mood established as trenchant guitars return to fortify the exalted refrain. Another run of shred lead guitar closes things out.
Third part begins its first two minutes instrumentally to a joining of keyboards, gently done guitars, feedback and piano. Brown’s poignant vocals stand out as things move forward (those that describe his melancholic delivery as a joining of Eric Clayton meets David Bowie with a touch of Geoff Tate have the right idea) in melody driven fashion with a reserved momentum defining the moving scene. Forthright rhythm guitars satisfyingly kick in for the driving instrumental moments.
The three minutes of the fourth approach the ballad like as crashing waves intersperse with acoustic guitar and organ. Despite the relaxed milieu, uplifting is the feel overall as things come to their emotional conclusion following twenty magnanimous minutes.
“Wasting Away” highlights another seven minutes of progressive brilliance. The song delivers its share of variances, including generous acoustic guitar doses as initiative slows to a near crawl (for the heartfelt verses) only to pick up decisively as guitars step to the forefront with bass churning in the low end (upon obtaining the immaculate chorus). Final two minutes are instrumental in sustaining the heavier rocking proclivity.
Slightly abbreviated at five and a half minutes, “Running” smoothes things out with its melding of slide guitar, moving background vocals and organ to lend an almost Gospel effect- all the while the Jupiter VI penchant for melody holds sway. Even further condenses at less than four minutes, single “A Face In The Sky” takes an upbeat heading with its melodic hard rock stance (do I dare say commercial?) intertwined with slight modern elements. While very good, this is also the least Floydian of the material here; the song actually has more in common with the musical direction taken on Back From Mars (by no means a fault).
Twelve-minute closing piece “A Message From Home Pt. I” represents a return to an epic progressive heading. A bluesy guitar presence plays a defining role (perhaps even more so in comparison to any of the material here), with the song maneuvering to an analogous big bass presence (down low) and Brown’s emotive vocal performance (serving to tie everything together). Some of the albums finer instrumental moments stand out along the way, with several minutes of keyed up soloing at the halfway point soon followed by another extended instrumental stretch with a keyboard-jazzy-fusion feel. Along with “Sleepless End” and “Wasting Away”, this one ranks alongside many of my favorite songs in which Brown has composed.
Production comes across immaculate in allowing for a forthright guitar presence (mercifully Jupiter VI is not keyboard based progressive rock) that should not disappoint long-term Deliverance aficionados. Low end is thick and weighty in allowing bass to assert itself, while keyboards accent but not to a fault. Also, credit Ty Tabor of King’s X fame for the choice mastering job.
Lyrically, Moveable Walls bases itself upon a storyline about (as taken from the Jupiter VI press material) ”being drawn into the corporate world, the gratification, the loneliness, the depression and the will of one man to claw his way out to find love, happiness and redemption once again. It’s a psychological metaphor for the walls we put up emotionally that fortify over years of ignoring what a human being can become if they allow themselves to be overcome by the lust for money, power and greed.” More specifically, it is “a story of desperation, decent into darkness and madness and ultimately redemption.”
Moveable Walls adds up to one of the bigger musical surprises of 2014, and not just in terms of the Floydian progressive based sounds but also for the return of a band in Jupiter VI I had all but given up for dead. Songwriting stands out in that compositions of the length at hand can potentially be mundane, but the Jupiter VI penchant for melody, creativity and the unexpected allows each track to shine. The album, as a result, presents with a musically fresh change of pace in allowing Brown to stretch and explore musical territory that contrasts a bit from what we expect from Deliverance. Keeping in mind if you like mid to late period Deliverance then Jupiter VI (in my opinion) should be of interest. As for occasional naysayer who might turn up their noses at Moveable Walls due to it “not being Weapons II”, I say get over it and embrace an album that while taking a different musical stance makes every bit the artistic statement.
Review by Andrew Rockwell
Track Listing: “Sleepless End Pt. I-IV” (19:54), “Wasting Away” (06:53), “Running” (05:40), “Face in the Sky” (03:42), “A Message from Home Pt. I” (12:16)
Jimmy P. Brown II - Lead Vocals, Guitars, Drums, Bass & Keyboards
Jeff Ceyba - Electric Lead, Slide, Baritone and Clean Guitars