|Musical Style: Progressive Rock||Produced By: Doug Bowers|
|Record Label: Independent||Country Of Origin: USA|
|Year Released: 2009||Artist Website:|
|Tracks: 8||Rating: 75%|
|Running Time: 54:10|
KDB3 is the studio side project of a vocalist and multi instrumental virtuoso out of Northwest Florida by the name of Doug Bowers. Best known for his work in Ad Astra, an acoustic based progressive rock group that placed the track “Angle Of Repose” on the CPR 3 compilation in 2008, Bowers has also released Autobiograph, the 2000 full length debut of KDB3 in which he outlines his testimony in both music and words. The artist returns nine years later with the sophomore outing of KDB3, Verite.
What we have in Verite is keyboard driven progressive rock with a heavy 70’s slant. Yes, keyboards play a heavy role here but, for the most part, not to the point of distraction or turning the album into a one dimensional release (as can often happen with keyboards based progressive music). The artist, to his credit, laces up the keyboard driven environment with acoustic and rhythm guitar, piano, Hammond-organ and other instrumentation (such as congas, viola and flute).
The end result is a work certain to appeal to fans of Kansas, Yes, Neal Morse, AD, Glass Hammer, Mike Florio, Torman Maxt, Flagship and Vertical Alignment. If your musical tastes stray towards the heavier side of things, think Shadow Gallery, Darkwater and Tiles, then you should find a lot to like here as well. No, this is not metal but the rhythm guitar makes its presence felt enough that I do not anticipate progressive metal enthusiasts to feel alienated.
The artist stands out with his ability to compose a song with a notable melody or hook. This is best found on up-tempo numbers “New Life” (a track with a chorus that just won’t quit) and “Rock & Roll Ghetto” and “Not The One” (the albums two heaviest pieces). A mid-paced heading is taken on the ballad “One” and polished “If Anybody Asks” while the fifteen minute “Truth Suite” moves in a more technical direction. A symphonic instrumental in “Interlude” is delivered as well.
Bowers showcases a pure and refined vocal style suited for the music at hand. While I would hesitate to invite a direct comparison, he reminds me somewhat – and this might be a stretch – of AD vocalists Warren Ham and Michael Gleason. Either way, the quality is every bit as high and represents one of the albums strengths.
In terms of the remaining instrumentation, I might describe Verite as a solo project but almost to a fault in that Bowers plays a “jack of all trades role”. With the exception of one guitar solo (on “Rock & Roll Ghetto”) and congas, he played or programmed all instruments (similar to what Matt Smith did on the first Theocracy album).
Now, while this is not necessarily a bad thing, I cannot help but think it would have made for the more well rounded album if a few more guest musicians had been brought in: Many of the artists colleagues in the Christian progressive rock scene are the first that come to mind, including Randy George (bass), Mike Florio (keyboards & vocals), Ted Leonard (guitars & vocals) and Neal Morse (keyboards & vocals). And while we are at it, several songs - most notably “One”, “Not The One” and “If Anybody Asks” – are literally crying out for lead guitar work (that is not delivered).
Another area deserving constructive focus is packaging, which is a bit plain for my taste. The black and white album cover comes across simplistic while lyrics, printed in a tiny font horizontally across the inside of the CD insert, are next to unreadable.
Production values, quite solid for an independent release, fail to disappoint.
“New Life” borders on the quirkily infectious with its walls of keyboards and hook of the non-stop variety. Keyboards play a leading role throughout the instrumental introduction to the song, giving way slightly as a rhythm guitar steps forward during its verses but regaining control for a chorus on the deep and resounding side of things. A Hammond-organ sustains a rollicking instrumental section. “New Life” talks about making a change for the better:
Wearied by the ways I’ve coveted for so long
Ways that leave me empty, guilty and tired
Longing for the music and a lyric
Of a new song holy and divinely inspired
“One” trends towards ballad territory with its relaxed and laid back sound. Acoustically driven but touched up with traces of piano and flute, the song moves its distance to a punchy bass line in giving rise to quite the pronounced melody. At just past the halfway point “One” transitions to a sublime passage in which choir-like backing vocals play a leading role- an effect taken from the Kerry Livgren textbook of symphonic progressive rock. “One” presents with a faith based message:
There’s a feeling that comes over me in the stillness of the night
The feeling that I’m loved and not alone
And when the pressure gets too much for me and nothing can go right
A peaceful feeling tells me I’m His own
“Rock & Roll Ghetto” features some of the albums heavier moments. With a hard rocking rhythm guitar leading the way, the song puts in place a driving environs as it rolls through its strapping verse portions on the way to a chorus carried at a spirited upbeat tempo. Steve Spayde steps forward with a spicy guitar solo. The notion of the glorified rock & roll lifestyle is dispelled here:
Living your rock & roll fantasies
Things you only saw in your dreams
You lived for a song
And then watched it go wrong
And became a nightmare or so it seems
In the rock & roll ghetto
Fifteen minutes of quintessential progressive rock, “Truth Suite” presents with too many time changes to go into adequate detail so I will just touch upon the basics:
The song begins its first four minutes vocally in up-tempo fashion as keyboards play a prominent role- with the end result being an environs that brings to mind the old AD song “Slow Motion Suicide” (off Time Line from 1984).
The next three are carried by a blend of narration and instrumental proclivity featuring a weighty rhythm guitar and stylish keyboard solo. An occasional organ and pumping bass line make their presence felt as well.
Upon reaching its halfway point, “Truth Suite” literally stops dead in its tracks before moving on to a slower passage upheld by more narration and scripture quotes in various dialects.
Abruptly picking up in pace, the song changes over to a fusion-based-jam-band style instrumental section only to close its final minutes energetically as Bowers returns on lead vocals.
Lyrically, “Truth Suite” presents with exactly that:
What is truth?
Is it something found in the innocent eyes of a child?
Is it measured, weighed and compared to the whims of the age
Seek the highest truth
Turn your back on the lies of the world
Seek the highest truth
Lead the way with His banner unfurled
“Interlude”, a three and a half minute instrumental, lightens up the mood with its symphonic based keyboards and forwardly placed bass line.
Keyboards carry the extent of “A Time For Renewal”, a calm and leisurely piece that rates with the albums mellowest. Actually, this is the only song in which I feel the artist might have gone a bit “overboard” in the keyboard department in that, with the exception of a viola, he adds no other accenting instrumentation. An acoustic guitar, rhythm guitar or guitar solo would have gone a low way towards putting this over the top (I tend to pass). Also, the keyboard instrumental opening almost mirrors the riff to Theocracy’s “Prelude” (off the self-titled debut from 2003).
“Not The One” presents with some interesting changes in tempo. The song quickly jumps out of the gate before making a keyboard based deceleration upon reaching its first verse. Immediately picking up in pace as the rhythm guitar kicks in, “Not The One” moves ahead in hard hitting fashion only to again taper as keyboards highlight the backdrop for its smoothly flowing chorus. “Not The One” talks about not giving up:
My road was well traveled
The journey was long
So don’t give up, seek out the Son
You can’t give up, don’t jump the gun
“If Anybody Asks” opens to a news broadcast detailing “mass disappearances of people throughout the Southeast”. Excuse me, but using a news broadcast to introduce a song about the rapture has been done before several times- almost too the point of getting old (and such is the case here). Check out Barren Cross’ “Out Of Time” (from State Of Control) to understand my point.
Musically, the song brings a refined mid-paced progressive rock approach with a well balanced blend of keyboards and guitar. Uniform in approach but profound in delivery, “If Anybody Asks” almost comes across majestic with its lofty touches and hints of the sublime. The only thing holding it back from perfection is its lack of a guitar solo. The second coming is the subject matter at hand:
A might trumpet sounded
From the heavens came a shout
In the brilliance an archangel spoke to guide us on our route
It came without a warning as promised from before
An appointed hour known but to God in His just and holy war
Verite is a good progressive rock album. No, not outstanding or groundbreaking but musically solid nonetheless. Give the artist credit for strengths in the areas of songwriting and lead vocals. That said, I wish a few more guest musicians had been brought in to help round things out in that a lack of lead guitar work is the albums only glaring omission.
Track Listing: “New Life” (6:56), “One” (4:32), “Rock & Roll Ghetto” (6:04), “Truth Suite” (14:43), “Interlude” (3:33), “A Time For Renewal” (6:30), “Not The One” (4:34), “If Anybody Asks” (7:20)
Doug Bowers – Lead Vocals & All Instrumentation
Steve Spayde – Guitars
Mitch Rall - Congas