BRYAN BELLER, Scenes from the Flood (RJPR Music, 2019)
PERSONNEL: Bryan Beller (bass, vocals) and 26 guests
- The Scouring of Three and Seventeen
- Volunteer State
- Everything and Nothing
- A Quickening
- Steiner and Ellipses
- Always Worth It
- Lookout Mountain
- The Storm
- The Flood
- As Advertised
- Army of the Black Rectangles
- The Outer Boundary
- Angels and Exits
- The Inner Boundary
- World Class
- Sweet Water
- Let Go of Everything
Bryan Beller is a virtuoso bassist who has made a career of working for and with other virtuosos. So when the time came for him to create his magnum opus, Beller called in a few favors to help him create Scenes from the Flood, a concept album spanning two discs that run the musical and emotional gamut. Beller recruited the talents of (among many others) guitarists John Petrucci (Dream Theater), Joe Satriani, and Mike Keneally; drummers Ray Hearne (Haken), and Joe Travers (Eric Johnson, Zappa Plays Zappa); and a host of other top-flight musicians from throughout the industry.
As overused as the word may be, it is the correct description of this album. That word is epic. Beller has constructed an album based around the concept of what we as people become after a massive, life-altering moment from which there is no return to prior existence. Over 18 songs and almost 90 minutes, Beller tells musical stories based around concepts like ambition, loss, hope, and disillusionment. It’s a highly ambitious idea, and Beller is more than up to the task.
This is a record designed to be absorbed in one sitting, from beginning to end. Listeners would be well-advised to eliminate all other distractions, and allow the soundscapes to wash over them like … well, like a flood. The mood is set perfectly by the opening track, “The Scouring of Three and Seventeen,” which has a gorgeous, atmospheric soundtrack feel.
Like the best musicians, Beller does not let the fact that this is his solo album cause him to dominate the music. He is more than adept at holding back and letting others bring the music to life. Make no mistake: Beller plays, and plays well. But he only steps to the front when the song demands he do so. It is the work of a pure musician who knows he serves the music, rather than the other way around.
Progressive rock fans will have no trouble taking in and enjoying the many moods and chops this album has to offer. The album is a continuous, steady build, but things can change quickly, like from the quirky electronics of “A Quickening” to the over-the-top stomp metal of “Steiner in Ellipses,” which would fit in nicely on an Aristocrats album (where Beller grooves mightily with guitarist Guthrie Govan and drummer Marco Minnemann). The album is designed for repeated plays, which will allow everything Beller has to say to truly sink in. Not to worry: each play is increasingly satisfying.
Scenes from the Flood is a true labor of love Bryan Beller has worked toward for years. That work has paid off in the form of one of the better albums released this year.
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