|Musical Style: Progressive Rock||Produced By: Kinetic Element|
|Record Label: Melodic Revolution||Country Of Origin: USA|
|Year Released: 2015||Artist Website: Kinetic Element|
|Tracks: 5||Rating: 75%|
|Running Time: 74|
Here’s yet another album aimed at the ever-creative, artistically minded progressive rock crowd. The Melodic Revolution Records spring of 2015 sophomore release of Richmond, Virginia based Kinetic Element, Travelog finds the group (as taken from its press material) “(continuing to harbor) musical roots in classic artists like Emerson, Lake & Palmer, Yes, Asia and Genesis and blends those influences with philosophical and spiritually powerful and uplifting lyrics”. The album leaves little doubt as to the Kinetic Element progressive basis, with 74 minutes of music broken down over just five songs, which equates to an average track length of 15 minutes and with the longest at over twenty and shortest just below ten.
The independently released Kinetic Element 2009 full-length debut Powered By Light follows similar suit in encompassing seven songs and 69 minutes of music. While the Powered By Light ten minute average track time might not equal its Travelog counterpart, it would be fair to say that Kinetic Element specializes in highly intricate and complex compositions of extreme length. Hence, those with a short attention span when it comes to music - what I like to refer to as ‘musical ADHD - and who prefer songs within the 3 to 5 minute range, might be biting off more than they can chew when it comes to Kinetic Element!
Which leads to the lone potential constructive comment I can levy at Travelog: Perhaps it would have led to a more balanced release if Kinetic Element had cut one of the ten-minute songs in favor of two others coming in at around 5 to 6 minutes each. Do not get me wrong in that I enjoy each of the Travelog tracks individually, but any album in which every song is an ‘epic’ (at least ten minutes or more) can also potentially come across excessive. Consider how Neal Morse is a master at composing material exceeding 20 to 25 minutes, yet he provides an element of variety to each of his solo releases from how he also includes one to two songs within five-minute territory.
Twenty-minute opener “War Song” is certain to meet expectations of progressive music fans in introducing the convoluted (in a positive sense) Kinetic Element sound. A good measure of the song is instrumental, starting with the fusion driven four minute opening that serves to highlight Todd Russell’s jazzy lead guitar abilities but also encompasses the final five, which takes a more atmospheric turn with airy keyboards and earthy organ leading the way. In between, “War Song” slowly but stoutly maneuvers, giving rise to understated emotion as a laid back and relaxed feel prevails over a setting in which Mark Tuplo’s dramatic bass holds sway over the backdrop.
Eighteen-minute “Vision Of A New Dawn” closes the album. This one sets a similar reserved tone but in a more keyboard laced format, with synthesizers and piano play forthright roles (founding member and keyboardist Mike Visaggio highlights his ample abilities accordingly) on a song approaching the ballad like with its poignant and melody driven aura. Instrumental moments are abundant as well, with a similar lengthy opening instrumental stretch in which edgy lead guitar and Spanish guitar contest and another break at the halfway point featuring an ethereal keyboard solo.
Immediate impression from the lengthier material is how Kinetic Element is guitar driven progressive rock as opposed to the keyboard-based variety: Ample guitar imbues the mix (albeit not to the point of hard rock) with tasteful rhythms and flattering leads playing defining roles. Standing out equally on both is the pristine work of guest lead vocalist Dimetrius LaFavors (Odin’s Court), whose smooth and even flavorings align perfectly with the classic to progressive rock leanings at hand. A trio of guest vocalists that also includes Michelle Schrotz and Mike Florio rounds out the Travelog roster in supplanting Visaggio, who handled the Powered By Light vocal duties. Of note is how Kinetic Element formed to perform live the material off Visaggio’s 2006 solo release Starship Universe only to later morph into a full time band.
Sandwiched between the two epics are the albums remaining three ten minute tracks. “Travelog”, also LaFavors fronted, delicately moves its length acoustically in taking a Patriotic rock heading (the songs prose draws upon “America The Beautiful”) but without coming across overdone in the process- the impassioned to the point of climatic milieu ultimately puts things over the top (at least in comparison to some Patriotic rock songs I have heard). I particularly enjoy how airy bass invigorates the low end while keyboards dance in the backdrop. Kinetic Element does not forsake its instrumental ways either, as the songs final four minutes features a daunting acoustic guitar solo interwoven with woodwinds.
“Into The Lair” represents the albums heaviest. The song establishes a portent effect as it romps out of the gate to an aligning of trenchant bass and dire rhythm guitars, only evening out upon procuring its verses as the lighter female vocals of Michelle Schrotz take over. A mirthful and flowing impetus established itself the rest of the way, with a friendly and inviting presence aligning with the insightful instrumental moments upheld by a tasteful organ solo. This one has Neal Morse written all over it.
“Her” features my favorite of the guest vocalists in Mike Florio, with whom I am acquainted from having reviewed his classy progressive rock solo albums Arisen (2006) and Reconcile (2014). He lends his expansive and crystalline delivery to a track that hearkens back to classic Kansas with its instrumental piano-based opening, flowing exquisitely its remaining distance in trading off between moments both relaxed and those taking a more pointed heading. Again, organ takes center stage throughout the songs instrumental passage (I cannot say enough good things about Visaggio’s keyboard work).
Production delivers the goods for an independent release, with no muddiness preventing the individual instrumentation to rise above the mix. Bass particularly stands out as does the cleanly placed guitar leads. Lyrics might not be included as part of the CD packaging but can be found at the groups website (in the Discography section). Again, the Kinetic Element prose is spiritual and philosophical in nature with primary songwriting Visaggio described as a ‘spiritual Christian’ in the groups press material.
“Vision Of A New Dawn” touches upon that spiritual to philosophical aspect:
In celebration, in celebration
Of the realized individual I shall live
From your derision comes my decision,
A collective hope is not my debt to give
So I will stand here, yes I will stand here,
And proclaim the truth that you don't want to hear
Just in my passing, say I was lasting
One must take the reins of life to conquer fear
“War Song”, as its title implies, is about a soldier returning home from war:
The tide turned with critical victories
And the enemy had to give in
Their surrender gave hope to all free men
Whose free spirit comes from within
So the honorable discharge was written
And the ship took me home to my town
Had the brilliant and bonnie lass waited?
No, she hadn't, she did not stick around
See, I hadn't come back from the war
And I never did see her no more
Now I still love my God and my country
But I fear I shall never have love that's forever
In love I may fall, but war kept true love outside the door
A patriotic theme manifests itself on the albums title track:
O beautiful, O beautiful for spacious skies,
For amber waves of grain,
O beautiful, O beautiful for purple mountain majesties
Above the enameled plain!
O beautiful, O beautiful! God shed His grace on thee,
Till souls wax fair
O beautiful, O beautiful as earth and air
And music-hearted sea!
Progressive music aficionados will take great pleasure in the quality work that is Travelog. I appreciate the detail and depth to the Kinetic Element songwriting, with the group capable of putting together elongated material that is engrossing and engaging at the same time. That said, I hope I am not unfair in suggesting it would have added to the albums variety if a couple of tracks in the five-minute range had replaced one of the ten-minute epics. If an album exclusive to ten-minute material (and longer) is your cup of tea then add ten percentage points to the final score- the quality at hand being of such a high level. Progressive music fans as a result would be well served to check Kinetic Element out, both Travelog and Powered By Light.
Review by Andrew Rockwell
Track Listing: “War Song” (20:30), “Travelog” (9:51), “Into The Lair” (10:14), “Her” (11:31), “Visions Of A New Dawn” (18:27)
Mike Visaggio - Keyboards
Todd Russell - Guitars & Triangle
Mark Tupko - Bass
Michael Murray - Drums, Percussion & Whistling
Dimetrious LaFavors - Lead Vocals
Michelle Schrotz - Lead Vocals
Mike Florio - Lead Vocals